The Star of Africa: Cullinan Mine Diamonds

Shopping Essentials

Where: Cullinan Mine, Pretoria, South Africa
What’s in Store: 
Take a tour of glittering gems
Watch out for: 
Fakes or ‘slenter’. Always buy from a regulated trader.

Diamonds are Forever

People immediately think of diamonds when they think of South Africa. The Cullinan Mine, which lies 25 miles outside Pretoria must be the most famous mine in the world. It has produced three of the biggest diamonds ever found in the world, the biggest of which was named after the mine – the Cullinan or Star of Africa – which was presented to King Edward VII of England. It is now part of the Crown Jewels which are housed in the Tower of London.

You can take a guided tour of the Cullinan Mine from the city, which costs about $10 US per person. It is still possible to buy diamonds at certain mines, however, the quality of cutting and stones has become so high that it is just as economical to buy them in shops throughout the rest of the world.

Bag a Bargain

Illegal diamond buying (or ‘IDB’) is an aspect of life in the diamond trade. It is illegal in South Africa to sell diamonds to individuals or companies other that the De Beers Consolidated Mines Company. It is also highly illegal to buy black market diamonds and you may well get prosecuted for it due to the number of undercover police clamping down on the trade. Also you are likely to end up with what is called a slenter, basically a fake. These are made from lead crystal and practically impossible to detect. The safest bet is to buy from a regulated De Beers Diamond Trader.

More Information

Cullinan Excursion
A totally comprehensive guide which includes everything you need to know about the mine and its diamonds. It offers great tours of the mine and other related attractions.

South African Diamonds
Gives a good introduction to myth and discovery of diamonds in Africa. It also produces beautiful diamonds in traditional Zulu designs for those of you who can’t make it to South Africa to buy them.

By Electra Giles