Not long after the incorporation of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, In March 1888, a huge, light-yellow octahedron was found in the De Beers Mine.
The stone weighed 428 1/2 (old) carats - equivalent to 439.86 metric carats - and measured 47.6mm (1 7/8 inches) through its longest axis and 38.1mm (1 1/2 inches) square. Not taking into account the 'Victoria' or 'Great White', the source of which remains unlikely, the 'De Beers' was the largest diamond at the time to have been recovered from the four mines at Kimberley.
The Annual Report and Accounts of De Beers for the year ending 31st of March 1890 recorded that:
A 428 1/2 carat rough, 1.78 inches long, was found in the De Beers mine by a native whose 'brother' gave information which led to its recovery while being taken from the mine. It was cut and exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Its weight after cutting 228.5 carats, having lost 200 carats in the cutting.
Expressed in metric carats, i.e. 234.50 the weight of the 'De Beers' places it as the fourth largest polished diamond if one leaves out the 'Nizam' which is reputed to be only partially cut. It is not known where the 'De Beers' was cut into its shape as a cushion-cut, but because of its pre-eminence as a cutting centre at the time it may be assumed that the work was done in Amsterdam.
Following its display in Paris the Maharajah of Patiala bought the 'De Beers': in 1925 Cartier's set it as the centrepiece of a ceremonial necklace. Sometime during the 1930s the diamond was acquired by its present owners who loaned it in 1973 for an exhibition held in Israel.
On the 6th May 1982, the 'De Beers' came up for auction by Sotheby's in Geneva. It was generally thought that bidding might reach as much as 4.5 million dollars. In the event the stone was bought in when the highest bid of 3.16 million dollars (£1,750,000) remained below its undisclosed reserve.
In his book 'Precious Stones and Gems' Edwin Streeter has unwittingly been the cause of some confusion concerning this diamond. He stated firmly that it was shown at the Paris Exhibition as the 'Victoria'; this has led to the listing in some publications of a diamond called the 'Victora I', weighing 228.5 old carats, also found in 1888 and afterwards sold to an Indian prince. A mathematical calculation will show that this is precisely the same stone as the 'De Beers' and not to be confused with the even larger diamond variously referred to as the 'Imperial', 'Great White' or 'Victoria' which had been found in somewhat mysterious circumstances four years before.
(The 'De Beers', the fourth largest cut diamond in the world).
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