A History of Diamonds in South Africa
In the 1800’s a young boy named Erasmus Jacobs lived with his family on a farm near the Orange River in South Africa. Erasmus and his sister used to pick up pretty stones along the banks of the river and play with them. In 1866 they found a small white pebble which Erasmus showed to his father, and he in turn showed it to a neighbouring farmer named Schalk van Niekerk. Van Niekerk found the stone intriguing, and offered to buy it from the Jacobs’ family, who simply gave it to him without payment. They never believed it was a diamond or that it was valuable.
Van Niekerk sent the stone via ordinary mail to Grahamstown where Dr. William Guybon Atherstone confirmed that it was in fact a diamond. The diamond found in Kimberly was indeed a 21.24 carat diamond and was named the Eureka.
The Eureka diamond is the single most important diamond in the history of South Africa. After the discovery of the Eureka diamond, Kimberly was overwhelmed with people from all over the country and the world who wanted to make money mining diamonds in South Africa. The diamond rush that followed played an integral part in transforming South Africa into a leading industrial nation.
More than 22 million tons of earth was removed from what is now known as “The Big Hole” in Kimberly, and roughly three tons of diamonds were removed. In 1888 the various mining groups decided to join forces and one of the world’s leading diamond mining groups was formed known as De Beers Consolidated Mines.
The Eureka diamond exchanged many hands before it was finally purchased by De Beers who donated the Eureka to the people of South Africa. This magnificent diamond can now be found on display at the Kimberly Mine Museum in South Africa for all to enjoy its brilliance.