The Eureka Diamond

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The Eureka Diamond

The first diamond of South Africa was a Child’s Toy !

In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs, a 15-year-old boy and the son of a Cape Colony farmer in South Africa’s Cape Province found a nice looking pebble…….

he liked the stone so much that he took it home and gave it as a present to his little sister so she could play with it. In South Africa children used to play a game called “five stones “.


One day their neighbouring farmer Mr. Schalk van Niekerk visited the Jacobs family. He saw the children playing with the stones and noticed the pretty pebble found by Erasmus. He offered to purchase it but the mother of the children gave it to him as a present. Van Niekerk showed the stone to John O’Reilly, a local trader. O’Reilly, like van Niekerk had the feeling that the stone was a diamond but its true identity still had to be confirmed.

The stone was taken to the Civil Commissioner in Colesberg who advised O’Reilly to send the stone to a mineralogist in Grahamstown. The mineralogist finally confirmed that the stone was indeed a diamond with a weight of about 21.25 ct. in its rough state. The stone founds its way to London where other experts confirmed its identity and also its value of £ 500,=.

The diamond was named Eureka which means “ I have found it ! “ in the Greek language. 

In 1867, a replica of the rough Eureka was proudly displayed in the stand of the Cape Colony officials at the Paris Exposition. The Eureka was finally cut into an oval brilliant of 10.73 ct. with an estimated value of £ 800,=.

The Eureka showed up at the auction house of Christie’s in 1947, as a centre diamond in a bracelet which was sold for £ 5.700,=.

In 1966 hundred years after its discovery, De Beers purchased the diamond that started the diamond industry of South Africa and brought it back home. It is now also known as the O’Reilly diamond and is on permanent display at the Open Mine Museum in the town of Kimberley.


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