As last-minute preparations for King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday are underway, some South Africans are demanding that the Star of Africa, which is set in the Sovereign’s Scepter and is the world’s largest cut diamond, be returned to South Africa where it was unearthed over 100 years ago, according to a report by Reuters.
Also known as Cullinan I, the Star of Africa is a 530-carat white diamond cut from the Cullinan diamond, a 3,100-carat stone that was mined near Pretoria. A smaller, sister stone was also cut from the massive Cullinan diamond and is set in the Imperial State Crown. Both the scepter and the crown are traditionally used by British monarchs during ceremonial occasions.
A Change.org petition calling for the stone to be returned to South Africa has already garnered over 8,200 signatures by Friday afternoon.
“The diamond needs to come to South Africa. It needs to be a sign of our pride, our heritage, and our culture,” Mothusi Kamanga, a lawyer and activist in Johannesburg, told Reuters. “I think generally the African people are starting to realize that to decolonize is not just to let people have certain freedoms, but it’s also to take back what has been expropriated from us.”
Not everyone agrees, however, that the stone should be returned.
“I don’t think it matters anymore. Things have changed, we’re evolving,” Johannesburg resident Dieketseng Nzhadzhaba told Reuters. “What mattered for them in the olden days about being superior… it doesn’t matter to us anymore.”
The scepter is one of more than 100 objects collectively known as “The Crown Jewels,” which date back to the 17th century, and, per a Town and Country report, “are traditionally a major part of the coronation ceremony when a new monarch officially takes the throne, because each has a special meaning connected to the monarch’s reign.”
The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross, in which the Star of Africa is set, is “meant to represent the crown’s power and governance” and has been an integral part of coronations since it was created in 1661 for King Charles II’s coronation. It has been used in every coronation ceremony since and was last publicly seen last September when it was placed on the Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin during her state funeral.
The discourse around once great colonial powers repatriating works that they were given—or took with force—has been become increasingly heated. These calls for repatriation, however, have typically focused on artifacts like the Parthenon Marbles and the Benin Bronzes.