The Eureka Stone




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In the summer of 1866, farmer Daniel Jacobs asked his son to find a thin branch so that he could make a hole through a blocked pipe.  While searching for a branch Erasmus noticed a stone blinking at him in the sun-light.  He picked it up and slipped it into his pocket to take home to his sister  who collected pebbles for a game named "Five Stones."

Erasmus Jacobs in later life

A few weeks later the children were playing this game when the previous owner of the farm came to visit.  Schalk van Niekerk noticed the stone, picking it up he tried to scratch a window pane with it.  He asked Mrs Jacobs if he could buy it from her but she said he could have it for nothing.  A few days later Schalk van Niekerk sold it to John O'Reilly who was an Irish peddler and hunter.

Schalk van Niekerk

It is not known if van Niekerk new he was selling a diamond, but O'Reilly certainly knew he was buying one.  He showed the stone to several gem-dealers in Hopetown who said it was not a diamond but a 'topaz' and had no value.  O'Reilly took the stone to Grahamstown where he showed it to geologist Dr. William Guybon Atherstone for his expert opinion.  It was Dr. Atherstone who identified this as the first diamond to be found in South Africa and told O'Reilly it was worth 500.  O'Reilly then sold it to the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Philip Wodehouse for just that amount.

Clean, blue-white and about the size of a sparrow's egg, it weighed 21.50 carats.  The diamond was put on display at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, it was called the "Eureka" - Greek for "I've found it" - it is not know who named it.

The area where the Eureka stone was found was called Colesberg Kopje.  The identification of this diamond  helped start the diamond rush, miners arrived in their thousands.  Slowly Colesberg Kopje became to disappear, and was replaced by a gigantic open-pit mine that became knows as the "Big Hole".  A town formed which was called "New Rush" but on 5th June 1873 it was renamed Kimberley after the British Secretary of State of the Colonies, John Wodehouse - 1st Earl of Kimberley.

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Copyright Margaret C Manning 2007

 Last updated 16 September 2007
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