Royal gift or ‘stolen’ gem? Calls for UK to return 500 carat Great Star of Africa diamond to Zimbabwe – report
This article was taken from the May 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.
The US government has decided to return a 4.5g fine-cut diamond from the Great Star of Africa to Zimbabwe, after claims it was found in a US-funded effort to promote trade in gems. Photo: AP
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has called the return of a 4.5g black diamond from the Great Star of Africa to his country “stolen” under US law.
The government has denied that it is an artefact returned under the country’s cultural heritage law, but critics say it was stolen. The US, which funded the project in partnership with the government of Zimbabwe, said the diamond was not a stolen artefact as claimed, but returned because it was deemed a cultural item, and not a legitimate artefact seized under a US law.
The US embassy in Harare has said the diamond was given to the government for display in a museum, not for its value – and even though its value is in dispute, a decision to take it back under US law was made purely for heritage purposes: to ensure the country’s cultural heritage was preserved.
A US congressman said the decision to return the diamond had nothing to do with the alleged theft.
However another government minister said the US had no jurisdiction to take the diamond back under US law. The International Gemological Institute (IGI), which is responsible for all gem and jewellery trade, said it is unclear if the diamond is even an artefact.
The diamond is just below the 4.5g cut – which gives the stone its iconic shape – and weighs 14.6g. The diamond is one of thousands on exhibit at the National Museum of Zimbabwe, which houses some of the world’s greatest ancient pre-Columbian artefacts, including one of the earliest statues in the world.