Trisakti Diamond-Famous Diamonds

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Origin of name

"Trisakti" was one of the largest diamonds discovered in the island of Borneo (Kalimantan), in Indonesia, in 1965. The named "Trisakti" was given to the diamond by officials of the Indonesian government, which in the Indonesian language Bahasa Indonesia means "three principles," which obviously refers to the motto of the Indonesian Republic, Nationalism, Religion and Unity. The word trisakti can also have a different connotation. It could also mean "three times sacred."

Characteristics of the diamond

The rough diamond that weighed 166.75 carats was cut by J. I. Asscher & Co. Amsterdam. The diamond was cleaved into several parts and the largest part was fashioned into an 50.53-carat emerald-cut pink diamond. The exact color and clarity grades of the diamond are not known.

The diamond being pink is most probably a plastically deformed Type IIa diamond. It is Type II, because it is nitrogen-free or contain undetectable quantities of nitrogen. Diamonds that contain nitrogen  are called Type I, and nitrogen imparts a yellow color to diamonds. The diamond is Type IIa, because it is free of all chemical impurities. Diamonds that contain boron as impurities are known as Type IIb.

Type IIa diamonds can be either structurally perfect, structurally imperfect, or naturally irradiated.

Structurally perfect Type IIa diamonds are absolutely colorless, as factors that cause colors are totally absent. They constitute about 1-2 % of all naturally occurring diamonds.

Structurally imperfect Type IIa diamonds contain plastic distortions caused by the twisting and bending of the crystal units, either during the formation of the crystal in the earth's mantle or subsequent rise to he earth's surface. Such plastically distorted areas change the absorption spectrum of the diamond, imparting rare fancy colors to the diamond such as pink, red, purple, brown etc. The Trisakti diamond belongs to this group. However they constitute less than 0.1 % of all naturally occurring diamonds.

Naturally irradiated  Type II diamonds have been exposed to natural radiation such as alpha, beta, and gamma rays over a long period of time after their formation, while still deep inside the earth's crust. Such exposure causes changes in the crystal structure that impart a green color to the diamonds. Their occurrence is much less than 0.1 % of all naturally occurring diamonds.


The "Trisakti" diamond was discovered on 26th August 1965 in the alluvial diamond deposits of Cempaka district of Martapura, the  capital of Banjar Regency,  which is 36 km south-east of Banjamarsin, the capital of South Kalimantan (Borneo) Province. Martapura is also known as the "City of Diamonds."

Diamonds of South Kalimantan are classified into four groups 1) black diamonds. 2) colorless diamonds. 3) petrous diamonds - low quality yellow diamonds. 4) pink diamonds of high brilliance. The Trisakti diamond was a pink diamond.

The diamond was discovered by a diamond digger by the name of Haji Shukri, who was one of a team of several diggers who were working at the bottom of a 12 meter deep trench. Such deep trenches usually get flooded with water and needs continuous draining using motorized water pumps. Shukri picked up the stone at the bottom of the trench, and put it in his pocket. He didn't have the slightest idea that the stone was indeed a diamond. He thought probably it was one of the semi-precious stones, which were also quite common in these deposits.

Haji Shukri then came out of the trench as he was feeling thirsty, and went to the nearby boutique for a cup of tea. At the boutique he showed the stone to a friend who was also a member of his team, and he too was of the opinion that it might be a semi-precious stone. Later Haji Samlan another friend and team mate saw the stone and positively identified it as a diamond. Haji Samlan grabbed the stone and ran towards his house shouting diamond! diamond! followed by Haji Shukri and others. When a diamond is discovered every member of a team of diggers get an equal share from its sale, after a percentage is deducted for the pump owner and the supplier of the tools.

The news of the discovery spread like wildfire in the surrounding villages, and people flocked in to have a look at the enormous diamond. Traders who saw the diamond were genuinely shocked by its size, for it was much bigger than any thing they had seen before. Villagers poured in to see the miracle with their own eyes and at times the queue extended beyond a kilometer. That night Haji Samlan was restless and could hardly sleep. He could not still reconcile himself to what transpired during the day. He was still in a state of shock and lay awake in bed till dawn.

The next day in the afternoon a delegation from Cempaka which included Haji Samlan carried the stone to the city of Martapura the capital of Banjar regency to show it to their regional leader the Bupati, who was very pleased by the discovery of the enormous diamond in his area. The police chief of the area suggested, that the rare diamond should be taken to Jakarta, to be examined by the chief executive of the country himself, the President of Indonesia. This suggestion was accepted and the very next day a delegation of eight prominent persons from the area together with two miners flew to Jakarta with the diamond. Haji Samlan who was also invited could not make the trip that day, because as a villager who had never flown before, he fainted at the airport due to fear of flying. However the next day he was able to overcome this fear and flew to the capital city, accompanied by four other persons.

It so happened that on 26th August 1965, the day the enormous diamond was discovered a coup plot against the government was uncovered and the President and his cabinet of ministers were too busy in the attempts to suppress the coup. As such the delegation was not able to see the President. However, they were able to see other officials who accepted the stone on behalf of the government, and part payment was made for the diamond, with the promise of full payment after the stone was processed in Amsterdam. The money was divided equally between the miners and Haji Samlan was just able to build a new house  with his share of the money. After six months the government also paid Haji Samlan and his family the passage to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and also took care of their expenses in the holy land.

The Trisakti was sent to the famous diamond cutting firm of Amsterdam J. I. Asscher & Co. for processing, who had a reputation for cutting the world's first and second largest rough diamonds, the 3,106-carat Cullinan and the 995-carat Excelsior. Joseph Isaac Asscher undertook  the job of cleaving the diamond into several pieces before faceting and polishing. The largest piece was eventually transformed into a 50.53-carat emerald-cut diamond and carries the name "Trisakti".

History of diamond discovery in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Diamonds were first discovered in Kalimantan in the 14th century. Thus the diamond mining industry in Indonesia is the second oldest  in the world after the most ancient diamond mining industry of India, which dates back to 4th century B.C. By the 17th century when the Dutch had colonized the country the industry was already well established. The Dutch East India Company was also involved in the diamond trade and large quantities of diamonds were exported to the Netherlands by them, which laid the foundation for the development of Amsterdam as an international diamond cutting and trading center. The output of diamonds in the 18th century was more than 50,000 carats annually, and the Kalimantan diamonds were well known for their clarity and brilliancy.

However, all diamonds discovered in Kalimantan, Indonesia are from alluvial deposits, in the Landak/Kapuas drainage basin and the Banjarmasin drainage basin, in western Kalimantan, and the Barito, Murung, and Negara river basins, in southern Kalimantan. The diamonds had been washed down from the hills over millions of years ago and deposited in these basins. But, no Kimberlite or Lamproite pipes have ever been discovered in Borneo, possibly because of their continuous erosion over millions of years. Thus all diamond production in Kalimantan is from secondary alluvial deposits.

Some of the more important findings from the Cempaka district  over the years are as follows :-

1) Three diamonds weighing 12.0, 13.3, and 20.0 carats discovered in 1846.

2) Two diamonds weighing 106.67 and 77.0 carats discovered in 1850.

3) The 166.75-carat Trishakti diamond and a 29.0-carat diamond discovered in 1965

4) A 13.0 carat diamond discovered in 1970.

5) Three diamonds weighing 14.0, 33.0, and 50.0 carats discovered in 1987.

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Dr Shihaan Larif
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