The Great Star of Africa, also known as Cullinan I, is considered the world’s largest known clear-cut diamond and was mined in South Africa in 1905 before being “gifted” to the British royal family two years later by South Africa’s colonial authorities.
The 500-carat diamond is currently mounted on a royal scepter that belonged to Queen Elizabeth before her death, although many South Africans are now demanding it be returned and placed in a museum.
"The Cullinan Diamond must be returned to South Africa with immediate effect," Thanduxolo Sabelo, an activist from South Africa, said after Queen Elizabeth passed away on September 8.
"The minerals of our country and other countries continue to benefit Britain at the expense of our people,” he added.
More than 7,000 individuals have signed a petition demanding the diamond’s return, while members of South Africa’s parliament – such as Vuyolwethu Zungula – have urged their nation to not only "demand reparations for all the harm done by Britain" but also "demand the return of all the gold, diamonds stolen by Britain."
But while many South Africans claim the diamond was “stolen” from their country more than 100 years ago, the Royal Collection Trust – who oversee the royal family’s royal collection – have since argued the Great Star of Africa was gifted to King Edward VII in 1907.
The Royal Asscher Diamond Company further argued the diamond – which initially weighed more than 3,000 carats and was “the size of a human heart” – was purchased by South Africa's Transvaal government and gifted to King Edward VII for his birthday.
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King Edward sent the original diamond to the Royal Asscher in in 1908 to be “cleft,” at which point it was cut into “nine large stones and 96 smaller pieces.”
"The late Queen of England has flaunted these [diamonds] for over half a century," Leigh-Ann Mathys, a national spokeswoman for the Economic Freedom Fighters, told CNN. "Our call is for repatriations for all colonial theft, which the theft of the Great Star of Africa is a part of.”
"We don't call for its return, as this implies that there was a valid agreement in terms of which the British royal family was borrowed the diamond,” Mathys added. “It is in their possession purely as a result of colonial tenacities that suffocated natives in this country and elsewhere.”
Another diamond, dubbed the Kohinoor and worth an estimated $400 million, was also asked to be returned in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death.
Four former British colonies — namely India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran — have now renewed their claims that the 109-carat diamond was “looted” from them in 1850.
“Britain owes us,” Shashi Tharoor, a member of India’s parliament, said one day after the Queen’s death. “But, instead of returning the evidence of their rapacity to their rightful owners, the British are flaunting the Kohinoor on the Queen Mother’s crown in the Tower of London.”
“It is a stark reminder of what colonialism truly was: shameless subjugation, coercion, and misappropriation,” Tharoor added.