Royal gift or ‘stolen’ gem? Calls for UK to return 500 carat Great Star of Africa diamond to its rightful owner
The UK government says it wants to return a 500-carat diamond, the largest in the world, to its rightful owner. But the stone is now in possession of its owner’s brother. Ian Robertson, the man who willed it to his brother, says he was pressured into handing it over.
“When we sold it at the auction, I told everyone it was mine to hold forever,” he said. “The value of the diamond was never proven.”
The diamond first came to light in the early 1990s when a prospector found a piece of white granite bearing a unique white star-like pattern and weighed it at 13 carats.
Its size and value was estimated by the diamond dealers at between 200 and 300 million pounds — and it eventually sold for more than 750 million pounds.
The diamond was valued at nearly 1.5 billion pounds in 2012 after having been passed onto the brother of the British owner of the stone.
When the stone was sold at auction last year, it was appraised at 650 million pounds.
The owner of the stone has been in contact with the South African government since the auction, but refuses to hand over the stone.
“I just want it back,” said Ian Robertson. “My brother, if he gives it back, I’ll take it from him. I can live with that.
“I didn’t do anything to deserve it — [the diamond] is the star of the South African diamond country, the size of a human head. I just don’t want it.
“I’m not an emotional man and I can’t take someone’s emotionalism to heart. But I can’t take someone having it and not sharing it with my family or friends.”
Robertson was a civil engineer before he died in 2008 at the age of 75. His brother says the diamond was given to him by one of his friends when they were both studying at the University of Cape Town.
“What’s happening here is I’m being blackmailed.”
Ian Robertson at home in England in 2009.
‘My brother has the stone’
Ian Robertson has refused to hand over the stone to the South African government. ( Supplied