This day in London history: on 25 January 1905 the world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan, which weighed in at 3106 carats, was found in South Africa. The largest polished gem from the stone is the Great Star of Africa, which is mounted in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross. The sceptre is one of the British Crown Jewels, originally created for the coronation of Charles II in 1661 and redesigned to accommodate the Cullinan diamond.
There is a Diamond Street in Peckham, South London, which could be so named because it forms one side of a small ‘square’ that could be considered roughly diamond-shaped.
There was once another Diamond Street, built in 1890; this was, intriguingly, given its name because the plumber who built it was able to do so because of a diamond – however, any details of the plumber and his diamond have been lost in the mists of time.
Diamonds themselves, however, we know about. The word ‘diamond’ derives from the Greek ‘adamas’ or invincible and references to them date back to the Old Testament. In Exodus, Aaron’s garments include a breastplate with, in the second row, “an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond”; in Jeremiah the “sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond”.
Still on the biblical theme, an American minister , Russell H Conwell (1843-1925), who founded Philadelphia’s Temple University, delivered an ‘Acres of Diamonds’ lecture a reputed 6,000-plus times at various times and places from 1900 to 1925. Conwell based his lecture on the legend about a prosperous Persian farmer, Ali Hafed, who was visited by an ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East.
The priest told Ali Hafed that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if he had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth. Ali Hafed went to bed discontented and longing for diamonds. The following day, he sold his farm, left his family in charge of a neighbour, and went in search of the jewels. His search took him across the globe, but he was unsuccessful in his quest. Finally, as he stood in the bay of Barcelona in rags, poverty-stricken and wretched, he threw himself into the sea.
In the meantime, the man who had bought Ali Hafed’s farm found a strange rock in the garden brook. He placed it on the mantelpiece and thought no more of it until the old Buddhist priest came to visit and said, “A diamond! Is Ali Hafed back?” The man replied, ”No, that is merely a strange rock I found outside.” He and the priest went outside and found a multitude of diamonds, which formed the site of the Golconda mines.
Conwell used this lecture first to urge people to acquire wealth as part of their social and religious duties (“the foundation of godliness and the foundation principle of success in business are both the same precisely”), as well as to heed the moral of digging in your own back garden, and not looking to find riches in far-flung places. The term ‘Acres of Diamonds’ is now commonly used as a slogan for a multitude of organizations.
In any case, as we all know, diamond’s are a girl’s best friend, and the most famous of all, even if smaller than the Cullinan, are the Hope (44.5 carats), housed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and the Koh-I-Noor (108.9 carats), which is set in the Crown Jewels.