In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs found a small white
pebble on the banks of the Orange River, on the De
Kalk farm near Hopetown in the former Cape Colony.
The pebble turned out to be a 21.25 carat diamond.
Five years later and 122km further north, the De
Beers brothers gave Dutch diamond-prospectors
permission to dig on their small Vooruitzicht farm.
An even larger 83.50 carat diamond was found on the
slopes of a small hill called Colesberg Kopje, which
led to the first diamond rush into the area.
Besieged by fortune-hunters, the De Beers brothers
sold their farm and moved elsewhere.
miners arrived in their thousands a frontier town,
New Rush, was formed in the area. Spacious homes
began to rise from the dust and, in June 1873, New
Rush was renamed Kimberley after John Wodehouse,
Earl of Kimberley and British Secretary of State for
Birth of the
the most ambitious prospectors were two Englishmen,
Cecil J. Rhodes and
Barney Barnato. Ambitious and enterprising, they
bought one holding after another and became the
biggest miner owners in the area.
In 1888 they
merged their companies, and so was born
De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, the
forerunner of the firm that still plays a leading
role on the diamond stage today, and still has its
headquarters in Kimberley.
Kimberley's complex, higgledy-piggledy web of roads is a
topographic reminder of a chaotic past. And not one,
but five big holes, and a number of smaller mines,
had been gouged out of the earth, reaching ever
deeper into its bluish, diamond-bearing Kimberlite
The largest, the Kimberley Mine or "Big Hole"
covered 170,000 m�, reached a depth of 240m and
yielded 3 tons of diamonds. The mine was closed in
1914, although three of the holes � Du Toitspan,
Wesselton and Bultfontein continued operating until
Big Hole Mine Museum
Today the Big Hole is part of a larger museum.
This is a unique
open-air museum with viewing platforms and a wide
selection of original houses, offices and shops.
museum boasts Kimberley�s oldest house (imported
from England in 1877), �The Digger�s Rest� pub,
Barney Barnato�s boxing academy, a tobacconist shop,
a reconstruction of the De Beers� homestead, and mock diamond diggings.
reconstruction of this fantastic bit of history took
place during 2006, funded by the De Beers Group, and
opened for new visitors in 2007.