Modern Africa is known for its huge mineral wealth, which overshadows all its other resources. In 1886 diamonds were discovered. The name De Beer became associated with the diamond find. De Beer was a Boer farmer whose barren farm had suddenly revealed that diamonds were beneath it. He soon sold his land and the diamond rush was on. H.V. Morton described it as the strangest looking trek in South African history. "Sailors deserted their ships, soldiers their regiments, merchants their shops, clerks their offices, farmers their land, and the weirdest crowd ever seen in South Africa, good and bad, came over the mountains on horseback, on foot, in Cape carts, ox wagons, stage-coaches anything that would take them to the biggest lucky dip in history." Kimberley became the world 's diamond capital. The place was named after the first earl of Kimberley (1826-1902), who was a British statesman and colonial secretary. The early years at Kimberley were a chaos of individual miners. The thousands of men who had rushed there from all parts of the world each bought little claims and began to sink shafts. Not God, the “Rock of Ages’, but the new source of hope became the rock "diamond." When the newly discovered 83 carat diamond, which would subsequently be known as the 2 "Star of Africa," was held up before the House of Assembly in Cape Town, the colonial secretary declared, "Gentlemen, this is the rock upon which the future success of South Africa will be built." But the diamond industry didn 't bring peace and happiness. Instead, it established the future pattern of white employment in South Africa as surely as it was done for the blacks. Poor whites would always be protected from the competition of even poorer blacks by formal job discrimination. • In 1859 the first diamond discovery was made in South Africa; however South Africa's diamond heritage stems from a pretty little pebble picked up on the bank of the Orange River in 1867, not far from Hopetown. Erasmus Jacobs, fifteen years old and the son of a poor labourer, took it home as a plaything. The stone was then given to a neighbouring farmer, Schalk van Niekerk, a casual collector of unusual stones. He in turn entrusted it to the trader John O'Reilly, who sent it (in an unsealed envelope!) to Dr. G. W. Atherstone, a Grahamstown physician and one of the few people in the Cape Colony who knew anything about minerals. The stone was judged a 'veritable diamond' of 21.25 carats and valued at
£500. Once cut, the stone weighing 10.73 carats, was called The Eureka and is now kept at the Library of Parliament in Cape Town. • The news triggered a flurry of excitement in the Hopetown area, but eager prospectors found only a few small stones to reward their efforts and drifted away disillusioned. The discovery must have been a hoax, it was suggested: everyone knew diamonds came only from India and Brazil! Almost three years later in March 1869, a Griqua shepherd named Booi, from the farm Zandfontein, picked up a pebble that caught his eye, he first tried to barter the stone for a place to sleep, then for breakfast – everyone turned him down. He ultimately found his way to Schalk van Niekerk. By now Schalk had learned something of precious stones and bought it for virtually all that he possessed: 10 oxen, a horse and 500 sheep. The discovery of this stone set off the diamond rush that transformed South Africa from a struggling agricultural state to a leading industrial nation. Van Niekerk, in turn, sold it to a firm of local jewellers for £11200. The 83.50 carat diamond, to be named 'The Star of Africa' found its way to England, where it was bought by the Earl of Dudley for the then princely sum of £25000. Said Colonel Secretary Sir Richard Southey to his political colleagues, "Gentleman, this is the rock on which the future success of South Africa will be built." How right he was, without the diamond finds there would be no Kimberley; without Kimberley there would have been no...
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