Dec 6th, 2012
The Eureka Diamond was the first diamond discovered in South Africa. It weighed 21.25 carat, and was found near Hopetown on the Orange River in 1867. The diamond, cut to a 10.73 carat cushion-shaped brilliant, is currently on display at the Mine Museum in Kimberley.
The diamond was discovered by Erasmus Jacobs, the 15 year old son of Daniel Jacobs, who owned a farm on the river. He found it when Daniel Jacobs had his water pipe clogged, so he asked Erasmus Jacobs to get a long stick. He found that stick shortly and decided to sit under a tree to rest. He saw something shining in the sun, so he picked up the stone and put it in his pocket.
Erasmus used the stone in a game called “5 Stones”, although his mother noticed its shine and mentioned it to a neighbour, Schalk van Niekerk. Intrigued by the stone, Van Niekerk offered to buy it from Mrs. Jacobs, who instead gave it to him saying, “You can keep the stone, if you want it”.
The stone was then sent by mail in an ordinary paper envelope to Dr. William Guybon Atherstone, the colony’s foremost mineralogist, in Grahamstown. Atherstone confirmed that it was a 21.25 carat diamond although some sources put the weight at 24 carat.
The Eureka was put on display at the 1867 Paris Exhibition, although some sources claim that this was a glass replica, and that the real diamond was sent on to Windsor for inspection by Queen Victoria.
On its return to South Africa, the Eureka was bought for £500 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Philip Wodehouse. Sir Philip took it with him to the United Kingdom, where it remained for 100 years, during which time it was cut.
On 16 April 1946, the Eureka was sold in London at a Christie’s public auction as part of a bangle for £5,700. In 1967, 100 years after the diamond’s discovery, De Beers purchased the diamond and donated it to the South African people. The diamond was placed in the Kimberley Mine Museum, where it is currently on display.