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South Africa

It  seems  hard  to  believe  that  the  initial  discovery of Diamonds in South Africa was  made in December 1866 by fifteen year old  Erasmus  Jacobs,  who  was  out  playing  on  his  family’s  farm,  550  miles  north-east  of  Capetown. The  discovery  was  the  catalyst  for  the  “Great  South  African  Diamond  Rush”,  which  turned  a  tiny  little  village  known as Kimberley into a town of 50,000  people within a period of less than five years.  Over the next ten years, South Africa became  responsible for 95% of the world’s Diamond  supply. What was once regarded as the rarest  gem on the planet was suddenly more widely  available. 

Although  Diamonds  were  first  discovered  in India some 3000 to 4000 years ago, more  Diamonds have been extracted from South  Africa  in  20  years  than  the  entire  amount  ever recovered from Indian deposits! 

The knowledge gained in South Africa led  gem hunters to realise that Diamonds were  likely  to  be  discovered  wherever  distinct  volcanic pipes could be found, leading them  to explore other countries for the gemstone.  These  volcanic  pipes  are  now  known  worldwide  as  Kimberlite  pipes,  after  the  small village in South Africa. 

For twenty years after the initial discovery,    there  was  continual,  fierce  rivalry  for  the  control  of  the  mines.  In  1888,  two  of  the  largest  mining  companies  owned  by  a  Mr  Rhodes  and  a  Mr  Barnato  joined  together  and  formed  the  De  Beers  Consolidated  Mines Ltd, who remain the largest supplier  of Diamonds in the world until this day.

Outside of Diamond mining, South Africa is one of the world’s largest producers of Tiger’s  Eye.  Other  than  these  two  gemstones,  very  little  else  is  mined  in  commercial  quantities,  other than a handful of small mines producing a  limited amount of Emerald and Amethyst.

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As well as Diamonds, South Africa is also a huge producer of Tigers Eye.