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Calls are growing in South Africa for Britain’s royal family to return the world’s largest known polished diamond in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

Known as the Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the diamond is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905 and handed over to the British royal family by South Africa’s colonial authorities. It is currently mounted on a royal scepter belonging to the Queen.

Demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds – along with calls for repatriation – have intensified since the Queen’s death. Many South Africans consider Britain’s acquisition of the jewels illegitimate.

According to the Royal Collection Trust, which oversees the British royal family’s royal collection, Cullinan I was presented to King Edward VII in 1907, two years after its discovery in a private mine in South Africa’s old Transvaal province.

“It was sent to Asscher in Amsterdam to be cleaved in 1908,” it added.

Weighing around 3106 carats in its natural form, the original diamond was “about the size of a human heart”, says Royal Asscher.

In support of the British Monarchy’s claim to the gem, Royal Asscher explains that the gem was purchased by South Africa’s Transvaal Government (run by British rule) and presented to King Edward VII as a birthday present.

A professor of African politics from the University of South Africa, Everisto Benyera, rejects this narrative. He told CNN that “colonial transactions are illegitimate and immoral”.

“Our narrative is that the entire governments of the Transvaal and the Union of South Africa and the accompanying mining syndicates were illegal,” Benyera said, arguing that: “Receiving a stolen diamond does not absolve the recipient. The Great Star is a blood diamond… The private (mining) company, the Transvaal government and the British Empire were part of a larger network of coloniality.”



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