The Heritageof De Beers

Since our origins in Kimberley, South Africa, more than 120 years ago, the search for diamonds has taken us from African deserts to the Canadian arctic and the depths of the ocean floor. Along the way we have connected generations of people with one of the Earth's natural treasures, playing our part in countless memorable moments.

Start the journey
Gahcho Kue

Gahcho Kué joint venture and Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation sign Impact Benefit Agreement

De Beers Canada, Mountain Province Diamonds and Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation are pleased to announce that an Impact Benefit Agreement has been entered into with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation for the proposed Gahcho Kué diamond mine, a joint venture of De Beers (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%).

18 July, 2014

More news

Report to Society

The De Beers Group of Companies publishes the 2012 Report to Society.

Download or view

Forevermark

Forevermark inscription

The diamond brand from The De Beers Group of Companies provides diamonds that are beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced.

Learn more

Diamonds are discoveredin South Africa

1860 - 1879

1866
Eureka! Erasmus Jacobs, a 15-year-old farmer's son, finds Africa's first authenticated diamond near the Orange River.
1869
The Star of South Africa, an 83.5 carat rough diamond, is discovered by a Griqua herdsman. It triggers the first diamond rush.
1870
Cecil Rhodes, 17, arrives in South Africa. He sells ice to miners in the hot African sun and saves his money.
1871
The De Beers Mine is discovered in May, and the Kimberley Mine in July. The latter would become the world’s richest mine for nearly a century.
1873
Barney Barnato, 18, joins his brother at the Kimberley digs. Meanwhile, Cecil Rhodes buys a claim.
1874
"Barnato Brothers Dealers in Diamonds and Brokers in Mining Property" opens for business.
The Star of South Africa sold for 500 sheep, ten head of cattle and a horse. Cut in Amsterdam to a 47.69 carat gem, it now resides in London's Natural History Museum.
The De Beers brothers’ farm, Vooruitzigt, quickly vanished under the thousands of claims at the Kimberley Mine. When sold for £6,300, diamond-bearing kimberlite had not yet been confirmed there.
Erasmus Jacobs gave the shiny pebble he'd found to his sisters as a plaything. Later his mother gave away the Eureka, a 21.25 carat rough diamond, to a neighbour.
The Eureka Diamond is now a 10.73 carat polished gem. Exactly 100 years after its discovery, we acquired it for the people of South Africa. It is exhibited at the Kimberley Mine Museum.

De Beersestablished

1880 - 1899

1887
Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato, each buying claims and shares in nearby mines, vie for commercial pre-eminence at the Kimberley diamond fields. To out produce each other, they flood the market causing diamond prices to plummet. A merger is the only solution..
1888
De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited is established on 12 March. Rhodes is named founding chairman.
1890
Ten merchants form the London Diamond Syndicate, and agree to buy De Beers' entire production.
1897
Barney Barnato dies tragically when he falls from the SS Scot en route to England.
1899
Within days of the outbreak of the second Boer War, the town of Kimberley is besieged. It remains under siege, its mines closed, for 124 days.
The First De Beers Report and Accounts shows company assets of the whole De Beers mine, three quarters of Kimberley mine, and a controlling interest in Bultfontein and Dutoitspan mines. When Board meets for the first time, Cecil Rhodes as founding chairman takes centre stage.
Barney Barnato, one-time music hall turn, becomes a diamond millionaire within 10 years of arriving in South Africa. Some speculate that his mysterious death, at age 44, may be connected to a sinister, anti-Boer plot.
This cheque for £5,338,650 finally ends shareholder disputes and puts the Kimberley mine firmly in De Beers’ ownership in 1889.

The turnof the DiamondCentury

1900 - 1919

1902
Cecil Rhodes dies at his cottage at Muizenberg, aged 48. Before his death, he's heard to say, "So little done, too much to do." The same year, Ernest Oppenheimer arrives in Kimberley to work as a diamond buying agent. He and Rhodes never meet. The Premier Mine, near Pretoria, is discovered. It will ultimately produce a higher number of large gem diamonds than any other mine.
1905
The Cullinan diamond is discovered at the Premier Mine. At 3,106.75 carats it is the largest rough diamond ever found.
1914
The outbreak of war causes the suspension of all mining at De Beers’ properties. The Kimberley mine never re-opens.
1917
Ernest Oppenheimer founds the Anglo American Corporation to develop gold mining in South Africa.
Cecil Rhodes, a man who some say changed the destiny of southern Africa, died quietly of a heart ailment at home.
Frederick Wells, the mine manager when the Cullinan was discovered, and William McHardy proudly present the Cullinan diamond (3,106.75 in the rough)
The Premier Mine, later renamed The Cullinan Mine after its most famous diamond, is also the only known source of rare semi-conductor diamonds that are sensitive to temperature change.
The Cullinan diamond as presented to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday. The rough diamond is later cut into nine major gems including two that form part of the British Crown Jewels.

The GreatDepression

1920 - 1939

1926
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, knighted for his wartime efforts, is elected to the De Beers Board after Anglo American, the company he founded, becomes a major De Beers shareholder. Sir Ernest would become chairman in 1929.
1928
Diamond cutting comes to South Africa when we open our first African cutting factory in Kimberley.
1932
As the Great Depression deepens, demand for diamonds dries up. De Beers closes all its mines.
1934
Harry Oppenheimer, son of Sir Ernest, joins the De Beers Board.
1939
Harry heads for New York to kick-start De Beers’ pioneering diamond advertising campaign.
We pave the way for this, the first ever diamond advertisement, with research. People buy diamonds, we discover, for romance and occasion rather than for fashion.
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, De Beers Chairman from 1929 to 1957, led the company to modern advertising, marketing and channel selling concepts.
Sorters in De Beers' new London diamond sorting facility - later to become the Diamond Trading Company - focus on the 4Cs: cut, carat, clarity and colour.

A Diamond isForever

1940 - 1959

1940
World War II engulfs Europe. All De Beers’ mines close for the duration. In Tanzania, Dr John Williamson, a Canadian geologist, establishes The Williamson Diamond Mine, later famous for its fine pink diamonds.
1941
Diamond Trading Company offices in London are destroyed in the Blitz. The operation temporarily moves to Berkshire.
1947
Frances Gerety, a young copywriter at the N W Ayer advertising agency, creates the timeless slogan, “A diamond is forever”. Fifty years later, it's recognized by Ad Age as the greatest advertising slogan of the 20th century. That same year, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, visit Kimberley.
1957
Following the death of his father, Harry Oppenheimer succeeds Sir Ernest as Chairman.
De Beers advertising slogan, "A diamond is forever”, quickly captures the public's imagination and becomes a cultural icon.
Harry Oppenheimer is credited with introducing modern research techniques to help understand what consumers want.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth tour Kimberley.
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer shows diamonds to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth in Kimberley

Botswana:The birth ofa partnership

1960 - 1979

1966
Kimberlite, the tell-tale diamond-bearing ore, is discovered by De Beers’ prospectors in Northern Botswana.
1967
A year after Botswana gains its independence from Britain, the Orapa kimberlite pipe is discovered. The second largest pipe in the world, it covers 262 acres at the surface.
1969
We join with Botswana to establish Debswana, a 50:50 partnership to develop Orapa. Production begins in 1971.
1972
The Botswana desert gives up more riches when De Beers’ geologists discover the Jwaneng pipe, hidden 150 metres below the surface. It is the world’s richest diamond mine, producing an average of 11 million carats per year.
De Beers’ geologists call upon experience and advanced technology to find and assess kimberlite deposits.
Jwaneng mine in the 1970s, quickly becoming the world’s richest diamond mine.
At Orapa Mine, giant vehicles carry up to 250 tonnes of ore for processing at a time.
Botswana's diamonds, prudently managed by successive governments, help this sparsely populated, landlocked country claim one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

De Beers celebratesits centenary

1980 - 1999

1982
Production begins at Jwaneng Mine in Botswana.
1988
In our centenary year, we unveil the Centenary diamond.
1992
Venetia Mine opens in South Africa. It will become South Africa’s largest diamond mine.
1994
De Beers joins with the newly independent Republic of Namibia to form Namdeb - a 50/50 joint venture partnership to mine the country’s diamonds.
1995
Highlighting the role of diamonds in marking life’s occasions, our iconic "Shadows" campaign is launched in America.
1998
Nicky Oppenheimer becomes chairman of De Beers. That same year, we begin the development of diamond inscribing technology that would end up being the forebear of Forevermark.
1999
Nelson Mandela meets Harry Oppenheimer in London. After Harry's death, in 2000, Mr. Mandela will eulogize him for his strong voice against apartheid, praising him for helping to build and develop South Africa while fighting for justice and freedom.
Venetia, South Africa's largest producer of diamonds, sits amid a 36,000 hectare nature reserve.
Nelson Mandela meets Harry Oppenheimer in 1999. After Harry's death, in 2000, Mr. Mandela eulogized him for his voice against apartheid, praising him for helping to build and develop South Africa while fighting for justice and freedom
The ‘Aquarium’ at Jwaneng is a high tech facility for final diamond recovery and sorting that's named for its component parts - the Completely Automated Recovery Plant (CARP) and the Fully Integrated Sort House (FISH).
The breath-taking De Beers Centenary Diamond, unveiled for our anniversary, is a flawless 273.85 carat jewel, cut and polished from a 599 carat rough diamond.
Creating Namdeb, our partnership with Namibia, then-chairman Julian Ogilvie Thompson signs the historic documents, ensuring the newly independent nation profits from its diamond resources.

A newmillennium

2000 - Present

2000
With the 203.04 carat De Beers Millennium Star, we welcome the new millennium.
2001
We partner with luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in a new company, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, to provide the world’s most discerning customers with the world’s most beautiful diamonds.
2003
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is established to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. 100% of De Beers’ diamonds are certified conflict free.
2006
With the Government of Botswana we establish DTC Botswana, a company to sort and value all Debswana production and support local diamond manufacturing. By 2013 all our diamond sales will be based in Botswana.
2008
Rare, beautiful and responsibly sourced, Forevermark is launched in select countries.
2011
Anglo American, shareholders in De Beers since 1926, and the Oppenheimer family announce an agreement for Anglo American to acquire the family’s share in De Beers.
2012
De Beers becomes a member of the Anglo American plc group.
A Forevermark diamond is beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced. Only 1 per cent of the world's diamonds are eligible to become Forevermark.
The De Beers Millennium Star is so flawless and so large that experts cannot price it. It took cutters three years to create the 203.04 carat pear shaped diamond from the original rough diamond.
Invisible to the naked eye, the Forevermark inscription is proof of the Forevermark promise.
Nicky Oppenheimer, Chairman of De Beers, is the third generation of his family to hold the post.
Debswana's diamonds are sorted and valued in Botswana with a proportion sold to local manufacturers.
Upon announcing Anglo American's acquisition of his family's shares, Nicky Oppenheimer calls Anglo American "the natural home of De Beers".