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Chips from British crown jewels set in Israeli engagement ring — report

Journalist says fragments from Cullinan diamond passed down by her ancestor, who was commissioned by King Edward VII to polish huge African gemstone

The Imperial State Crown is seen on the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, adorned with a Royal Standard and the Imperial State Crown and pulled by a Gun Carriage of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, during a procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, in London on September 14, 2022. (PETER NICHOLLS / POOL / AFP)
The Imperial State Crown is seen on the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, adorned with a Royal Standard and the Imperial State Crown and pulled by a Gun Carriage of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, during a procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, in London on September 14, 2022. (PETER NICHOLLS / POOL / AFP)

An Israeli journalist and descendant of a Dutch Jewish diamond cutter has claimed that gems belonging to her family were cut from the same stone as those that sit on the British Imperial State Crown and Royal Scepter.

Shakked Auerbach said that her great, great, great grandfather Joseph Asscher — who was tasked with polishing a huge African diamond for the royal family — was given the chips that fell from the gem during the process as salary for his work.

“The Asschers decided that the diamonds would be passed from generation to generation when men would give them on an engagement ring to women that would join the family,” Auerbach wrote in an article published Wednesday on the Israeli National Library website.

The jewels were cut from the Cullinan, a 3,106-carat diamond found in South Africa in 1907. At the time, it was the largest diamond ever found. South Africa, then a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, decided to gift the humungous gemstone to the British monarch, King Edward VII.

“A good diamond needs a fine polisher, and therefore King Edward searched for someone for the job. He found a Dutch family that was known for its diamond-cutting skills — the Asscher family. That was my grandmother’s family,” Auerbach explained.

According to Auerbach, the diamond was transported to Amsterdam in the pocket of Abraham Asscher, a member of the family, while a British warship carried a fake as part of a ruse to prevent the theft of the prized object.

Auerbach’s ancestor struggled for two years to cut the large diamond and needed to patent a new cut before successfully polishing it.

“After two years the Asschers returned the diamond to King Edward, after cutting it into nine polished diamonds and 96 smaller stones,” Auerbach said.

For his work on the Cullinan, Joseph Asscher received a knighthood from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in 1909.

The jewels still sit on the crown and scepter that were recently passed on to King Charles III, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, after his mother and former queen Elizabeth II passed away last week.

The largest piece, the 530-carat Great Star of Africa, sits on the Royal Scepter, while the lesser 317-carat Second Star of Africa sits on the Imperial State Crown.

Auerbach said that her grandmother, who survived the Holocaust, managed to hide two of the jewels that remained in the family. One of the diamonds was passed on to her brother.

“As was the tradition, one of the diamonds was passed to my brother, who, with the help of a jeweler on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv put it on a ring that he gave to his beloved, Nynx, who by chance is both cute and Dutch,” Aurbach tweeted.

The Royal Asscher Diamond Company was established by Joseph Asscher in 1854, and became known for its sought-after patented cut — the Asscher Cut — and the many variations of the method that the firm developed over the years.

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