Diamond-Surplus Weblog

September 16, 2008

Famous Diamonds #4: Eureka

Filed under: Educational Facts — diamondsurplus @ 9:12 pm
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Continuing from where I left off, here is another “sparkling” story which places South Africa as “diamond haven”

Enjoy! 🙂

The Eureka Diamond is perhaps the single most important diamond in the history of South African mining.

Discovered in 1866 by children digging amongst the shrubbery of their father’s land, it remained for some time “undiscovered”  – a mere plaything for the children of Dutch farmer Daniel Johannes Jacobus Jacobs.

No one in the farmer’s home took it to be anything more than an attractive rock, and it was not until a neighbour farmer, Schalk van Niekerk, who possessed a smattering of geological knowledge noticed the stone whilst visiting the Jacobs’ farmhouse.

Whilst van Niekerk did not imagine it could be a diamond he thought it interesting enough to offer to buy the Eureka from the children.  However, Mrs Jacobs refused to accept any payment and simply gave the stone to her neighbour.  (how I wish I was the neighbor! hahaha)

The Eureka then passed to John Robert O’Reilly who van Niekerk took the stone to in order to confirm his suspicions that it might be a rare mineral.  O’Reilly determined that it had to be a diamond and it was sent to Dr. William Guybon Atherstone in Grahamstown for authentication.

In 1867 Atherstone confirmed the “first” diamond to be discovered in South Africa, stating it was a “veritable diamond weighing 24 carats worth £800”, he suggested that the Eureka be exhibited at the Cape Colony’s stand at the Paris exhibition.

However it was felt that Queen Victoria should be given the opportunity of inspecting the diamond firsthand so a replica was exhibited and the Eureka was sent on its long journey to Windsor.

The stone was then sold to Sir Philip Wodehouse, Governor of the Cape Colony for £500; O’Reilly and van Niekerk sharing the proceeds.  Whilst an agreement had been made that van Niekerk would give some of his share to the Jacobs family, it seems they never received a penny for their great discovery.

In 1870 Sir Philip returned to the UK, and there the Eureka was to remain for almost 100 years. It was cut and, over the course of almost a century, changed hands a number of times.

In 1946 the Times reported that £5,700 had been paid at a Christie’s public auction for a diamond bangle of 20 large stones with the Eureka as its centrepiece.

It remained in a private collection until, in 1967, exactly 100 years after its discovery, De Beers purchased the Eureka, gifting it to the people of South Africa.

The Eureka was placed on permanent loan by the South African government at the Mine Museum, Kimberley – a fitting venue to display the gemstone that established South Africa as one of the world’s richest resources of diamonds.

Don’t you wish you found a diamond in your backyard now?…..I DO! *grins*

Source: De Beers

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