In 1951 the Premier Mine in the Transvaal, South Africa, one of the most prolific diamond mines in the world, yielded a very large stone, subsequently named the Transvaal Diamond. This is a Type 11a diamond, the colour coming from distorted areas within the crystal formed by twisted and bent crystal units during the stone’s formation. These distorted areas change the absorption spectrum of the stone imparting the brown colour to the diamond.
The original owners of this stone, which weighed 240 carats, are unknown, as are the people involved in the cutting. At first it was cut to 75 carats with 116 facets in a pear shape, with a huge loss of 165 carats, but in order to improve the cut stone’s brilliance and proportions by reducing its depth, but not its length and width, it was recut to 67.89 carats.
It is said that this Transvaal Diamond travelled around the United States for many years, perhaps as a part of exhibitions. It was graded by the Gemological Institute of America as a natural fancy brown-yellow diamond with a clarity grade of VS-2. It is the 6th largest famous brown diamond in the world.
In 1976 Leonard E. Wilkinson, a timber baron in the North Western United States, paid $430 000 for the diamond at the Desert Auction Galleries of Palm Springs, California. Wilkinson assigned Baumgold Brothers, Inc. to design a magnificent necklace with this unique stone as its centre pendant: the gold chain was set with 66 round brilliant-cut diamonds, fringed with 10 drop motifs, each set with two marquise-cut diamonds, a pear-shaped diamond and a small round brilliant cut diamond completing this stunning piece of art. The total weight of the included 106 diamonds is 45 carats. Leonard Wilkinson presented this exquisite piece of jewellery to his wife, Victoria and renamed the stone, The Victoria Transvaal Diamond.
Prior to being bought by Leonard Wilkinson, the owners marketed this diamond by featuring it in the 1952 movie, Tarzan’s Savage Fury, starring Lex Barker as Tarzan and Dorothy Hart as Jane. It was worn by Jane towards the end of the film. It was also featured in other US films and has been shown in many high profile exhibitions in the United States and Canada.
In 1977 Leonard E. Wilkinson made the magnanimous gesture of bequeathing the necklace to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., together with many other valuable pieces of jewellery.
Seen in the Smithsonian Institute are the Victoria Transvaal Diamond, the Portuguese Diamond, the Pearson Diamond (colourless), the De Young Pink Pear, the Eugenie Blue Heart Diamond, an unnamed oval-shaped diamond, and the yellow Oppenheimer Diamond Crystal at the back. Photo by Chip Clark.