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F17 - Dudley Diamond (Star of South Africa)

Diamond’s Story

The Star of South Africa, also known as the Dudley Diamond, is a 47.69-carat (9.538 g) white diamond found by a Griqua shepherd boy in 1869 on the banks of the Orange River. The original stone, before cutting, weighed 83.5 carats (16.70 g). The finding of this large diamond spurred the rush by many prospectors to this new diamond field, known as New Rush but later to be known as Kimberley.

The shepherd sold the stone for the hefty price of 500 sheep, 10 oxen and a horse to Schalk van Niekerk, a neighboring farmer locally famous for having discovered a 21-and-a-quarter carat diamond in 1866 which he had sold for a good price

Van Niekerk sold the stone on to the Lilienfield Brothers in Hopetown for £11,200. The Lilienfield Brothers sent it to England where it changed hands twice before finally being bought by the Countess of Dudley for £25,000. William Ward, the Earl of Dudley, had it mounted with 95 smaller diamonds in a head ornament.

The diamond stayed in the Wards' possession until 2 May 1974 when it was sold on auction in Geneva for 1.6 million Swiss Francs, equivalent to around £225,300 (£2,048,630 in 2015), at the time.

It was last seen in public at the vault of the Natural History Museum London, 8 July 2005 – 26 February 2006. A reproduction of the uncut and cut diamond is still on show there.

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