Stones of South Africa-Part 2

Stones of South Africa-Part 2

Sammy Chris


Most gemstones are minerals or rocks and occur in favored sites in the earth’s crust or in the gravels that result from the weathering of rocks. Of the beautifully crystallized minerals that seem useful for gems, only a very few meet the standards and are sufficiently beautiful, durable, rare, and large enough to be cut into saleable stones. As a class of natural objects gemstones is exceedingly rare.

In gemstones, they are major ingredients in amethyst, aquamarine, emerald, garnet, peridot, topaz, tourmaline, and zircon. Oxygen is a major ingredient in ruby, sapphire, chrysoberyl, and spinel.

Mankind has long been fascinated by gemstones. Not only to be used as investments by the rich, who used to show off the red rubies, shiny diamonds, or the enormous emeralds to display wealth, status, and power owned only by the royalty. People have treasured gems for many reasons throughout history. 

History of Diamonds

The discovery of diamonds in South Africa played a pivotal role in the world’s diamond history. Before diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, they were extremely rare and were only found in small quantities in India and Brazil. 

In 1867 South Africa’s first diamond, later called the “Eureka”, was discovered on the banks of the Orange River near Hope-town by 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs. He was playing around on his father’s Northern Cape farm at the time and a pretty transparent rock caught his eye. It was a neighbor, Schalk van Niekerk, who identified this ‘rock’ as a diamond.

Eureka- The First Diamond of South Africa

(Eureka- The First Diamond of South Africa)

A few years later, Johannes Nicolaas de Beer and his brother Diederik Arnoldus De Beer, two Dutch settlers, discovered diamonds on their farm. The discovery led to a diamond rush, with people from various parts of South Africa intruding on their land in the hope of finding their very own diamonds. Unable to protect their land from the masses, they decided to sell their property. Though the brothers did not become the owners of diamond mines, their name, De Beers, was given to one of the mines, and today, the De Beers name is still synonymous with the diamond industry worldwide. 

More than 22 million tonnes of earth were removed from what is now known as “The Big Hole” in Kimberley, and approximately three tonnes of diamonds were removed. The Big Hole is considered the world’s deepest man-made hole. Today, The Big Hole is a well-known tourist attraction. 

The Big Hole - in Kimberley

(The Big Hole - in Kimberley)

The most expensive gemstone ever sold was the Pink Star diamond that was sold for $83 million. Also known as the ‘Fancy Vivid Pink’ diamond, this stunning gemstone was mined in 1999 in South Africa, with a weight of 59.6 carats. Because of the selling price of $83 million, this diamond became the most expensive gem ever sold.

That Queen Elizabeth crown that she has worn for 63 years also has a diamond from South Africa. Weighing a breath-taking 3 106 carats, this diamond was discovered in 1905 by Pretoria’s Premier Mine inspector, Thomas Wells, who initially mistook it as a piece of glass placed by the miners to prank him. When its identity was revealed, the diamond was named “The Cullinan” after the owner of the mine and purchased by the Transvaal government as a gift for King Edward VII. The Cullinan - Largest Diamond of The World

(The Cullinan - The Largest Diamond of The World)

There is a widespread misconception that Africa is only home to diamonds, copper, and gold reserves. However, in reality, the continent possesses a diverse range of precious gemstones inside its vast geological planes.

In fact, many gems and stones come from South Africa and this is the reason the gemstone industry here remains sturdy. 

Here are some of the most sought after gemstones of South Africa other than Diamond; 

Chatoyant Quartz, Enstatite, Rhodonite, Grossular Garnet, Rhodochrosite, Petalite, Platinum, Plasma Chalcedony, Chrysoprase, Microcline, Uvarovite, Gold, Zoisite, Chrysoprase, Diopside, Chrysoberyl, Pyrope, Phosphophyllite, Labradorite, Dravite, Taaffeite, Rutile, Tugtupite, Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise, Sillimanite, Oligoclase, Spodumene, Gypsum, Tektites and Shell