Back in 1866 a young boy called Erasmus Jacobs was playing with his friends by the Orange River and picked up some smooth stones to play with, since they didn't have any real toys. He took it home and a few days later a family visited, liked one of them and was given it free as a gift. One hundred years later in 1966 England won the World Cup and Eric Cantona were born!
It turned out to be a 23 carat diamond and the RUSH was on. It took four weeks from the Cape by ox cart. You walked alongside the cart which was filled with your possesions and off into the wilderness. Farmer De Beers leased out 6 metre square plots on his VOORUITZIGT farm to the thousands that came to look for these hard, mainly white stones. Two wise men arrived as well. One was Barney Barnata and the other a sickly young business genius by the name of Cecil Rhodes.
Digging into the granite rock to the crumbly rock called kimberlite, was both backbreaking and dangerous. Prospectors dug at different speeds and there were cave-ins and flooding. Rhodes imported water pumps and charged a daily rate and soon had taken over many sites. He realised that consolidation and cooperation were the keys to success. Barney had done the same but sold out to Rhodes for $6 million, who formed the De Beers Consolidated Mining Co. and became famous and very, very rich.
On the second day of my luxurious ROVOS RAIL journey from the Cape to Pretoria we stopped at Kimberley for a quick tour. From 1871 until 1914 this pipe which is now a gigantic hole with a viewing platform, prouduced fourteen and a half million carats, or 3 tons of diamonds. We went 800 metres to the bottom of the mine shaft to a museum and VERY secure diamond exhibition.There is THE EUREKA, the diamond found by Erasmus Jacobs. Diamond mines are not very deep or as dangerous to work as gold mines and coal mines.
Carats?? well the seed from the carab is found in the other continents were diamonds are found and since there were no sophisticated methods these seeds, called carat when translated from Arabic were used world wide. Vooruitzigt was difficult to pronounce and New Rush too crude so Kimberley, after Lord Kimberley, English Secretary of State for the Colonies was used and sounds nice.
In it's day Kimberley was one of the richest cities on earth. The first electric street lights, first electric tram, first hotel, first stock exchange and more. The preserved streets of old Kimberley were empty as fans were waiting for the kick-off of South Africa v France. We stopped in the old Occidental Bar, with its heritage of old photos and watched on the two large TV screens.
Dancing and cheering as Bafana Bafana scored two goals and France were reduced to 10 men, and Les Miserables self-destructed both on and off the field. Irish Eyes were Smiling and the Rainbow Nation lived in hope. It was not to be and South Africa exited the cup with honour.