Victoria Transvaal Diamond

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Origin of name

The name Victoria Transvaal seems to reflect both the place of origin of the stone as well as the name of its owner. The diamond was discovered in the Transvaal area of South Africa in 1951, and originally came to be known as the Transvaal diamond. The diamond was subsequently purchased by Leonard Wilkinson, the timber baron of northwestern United States, who presented it to his wife Victoria Wilkinson, set in a special necklace designed by Baumgold Brothers Inc. The name Victoria was added to the diamond, just before it was presented to the Smithsonian Institution in 1977, by Leonard and Victoria Wilkinson, still attached as a dazzling pendant to the same diamond and gold necklace.

Characteristics of the diamond 

The Victoria Transvaal diamond is a champagne colored, pear-shaped stone, weighing 67.89 carats. The term champagne refers to a light to medium brown color.

In  the list of famous brown diamonds given below the Victoria Transvaal diamond occupies the 6th position.

List of some famous brown diamonds


Name Carat Weight Shape/Cut


1 Golden Jubilee 545.67 cushion fancy yellow brown
2 Star of the South 128.48 cushion fancy light pinkish brown
3 Earth Star 111.59 pear brown
4 Cross of Asia 109.26 radiant light brown
5 Great Chrysanthemum 104.16 pear fancy brown
6 Victoria Transvaal 67.89 pear champagne-light brown
7 Golden Maharajah 65.57 pear fancy dark orange brown
8 Kimberley 55.09 emerald light brown

Being a brown diamond the Victoria Transvaal diamond is a Type IIa diamond, in which the color is caused not by impurities but by plastically distorted areas in the crystal, which were formed by the twisting and bending of the crystal units during its formation in the earth's mantle, or subsequent rise to the surface of the earth along Kimberlite and Lamproite pipes. The plastically distorted areas change the absorption spectrum of the stone that imparts the brown color to the diamond.


The rough diamond was discovered in 1951 in the Transvaal area of South Africa, the same area where one of the most prolific diamond producing mines in the world, the Premier diamond mines are situated. The rough diamond is believed to have weighed 240 carats. Besides this, other aspects of the early history of the diamond such as the circumstances of the discovery, the original owners of the diamond, the identity of the cutters of the stone, etc. are not known. In all probability the diamond must have been an alluvial diamond, discovered by one of the many diamond diggers who were active in the area at the time.

The 240-carat rough diamond was initially cut into a 75-carat pear-shaped diamond with a drastic loss of 165 carats, but the pavilion of this stone was a little deeper resulting in a loss of brilliance. The stone was again re-cut making the pavilion a little shallower and the brilliance of the diamond improved tremendously. The final weight of the stone was 67.89 carats. No information is available as to the person or company that owned the diamond and the persons involved in the cutting. But it is said that the diamond traveled around the United States for a number of years, as the Transvaal diamond, perhaps as part of an exhibition.

The diamond was then purchased by Leonard Wilkinson, a timber baron in the northwestern part of the United States, who assigned the jewelry firm Baumgold Brothers Inc. to set it in a necklace of appropriate design. The company turned out an exquisitely designed necklace consisting of a gold chain, set with 66 round brilliant-cut diamonds, with the dazzling Victoria Transvaal diamond hanging as a pendant. On either side of the pendant five drop motifs were also included, each consisting of four diamonds with a pear-shaped diamond below, surmounted by two marquise-cut diamonds on either side, and a small round brilliant-cut at the top. Thus the ten drop motifs consisted of 40 diamonds, which together with the 66 round brilliants made a total of 106 diamonds, having a total weight of 45 carats. Leonard Wilkinson presented the necklace to his wife Victoria Wilkinson, from whom the diamond derives part of its name.

An interesting fact about this diamond is that the owners of the diamond adopted a novel strategy in 1952, in the marketing of the diamond. The diamond was featured in a popular Tarzan movie of 1952, starring Lex Barker as Tarzan, and Dorothy Hart as Jane. Dorothy Hart appears in a scene towards the end of the film wearing the Victoria Transvaal diamond. The title of the Tarzan episode was "Tarzan's Savage Fury."

Finally in 1977, Leonard and Victoria Wilkinson decided to donate the Victoria Transvaal diamond, together with the exquisitely crafted necklace to the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, at Washington DC. Today the Victoria Transvaal necklace is one of the prized possessions of the Institution.

Other notable diamonds in the Smithsonian Gem and Mineral collection

1) Smithsonian canary diamond mounted in a ring.

2) The 44.5-carat, famous and historic Hope diamond of Indian origin, the largest blue diamond in the world.

3) The 127.01-carat, colorless Portuguese diamond of South African origin, the largest faceted diamond in the collection.

4) The 5.03-carat de Young red diamond, the 3rd largest red diamond in the world.

5) The 3.0-carat de Young pink diamond, exhibited side by side with the de Young red diamond.

6) The 37-carat cognac-colored diamond donated by Libbie Moody Thompson.

7) The 254-carat Oppenheimer diamond, of South African origin, preserved in its natural Octahedral crystalline shape.

8) The 30.62-carat Blue Heart diamond of South African origin, the 5th largest blue diamond in the world, and donated to the Institution by Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Among the famous diamond-studded jewelry in the Smithsonian collection are :-

1) Empress Marie Louise's crown - This was the crown given by Napoleon I to his consort Empress Marie Louise. It is set with 950 diamonds weighing 700 carats. However the 79 original emeralds have been replaced with Persian turquoise cabochons.

2) Marie Antoinette earrings - A pair of earrings set with large diamond drops, that belonged to Marie Antoinette, consort of King Louis XVI, seized from her when she was arrested fleeing the French revolution.

3) Napoleon I diamond necklace - A 275-carat diamond necklace presented to Empress Marie Louise by Napoleon I in 1811, to celebrate the birth of their son, the future King of Rome Napoleon Francois Charles Joseph.

4) The Spanish Inquisition necklace - A diamond and emerald necklace belonging to the Spanish Inquisition period.

5) The Hooker diamonds - A suite of beautiful yellow diamonds consisting of a necklace, a pair of earrings and a ring. The necklace has 240 carats of yellow diamonds. Each earring has a 25-carat yellow diamond. and the ring has a 61-carat yellow diamond.

Back to Famous Diamonds of the World- 2

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