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[Tidbits] Eureka


There was a time–it is said–that the bushmen in South Africa used
to weight their hunting sticks with diamonds. Ergo: Who truly
discovered the first diamond in Africa. Ah… but these diamonds did
not bring to the forefront the attraction of world attention to South
Africa’s diamond potential.

Enter the Cape Colony of De Kalk. Prospectors scoured the land only
to find the pickings meager. 1868. Mineralogist Professor James R.
Gregory makes a thorough inspection of the Cape. Are there diamonds
there? The report was damning. There was no indication in the area to
even remotely suggest there were diamond bearing deposits in any of
the surrounding localities. For the few diamonds that were found
there… the answer was truly quite simple: They were brought there
Ostriches… or the area had been “seeded” in order to improve land
values. I tend to be shocked… shocked I say… to even intimate
that man would stoop to such lowly tactics.

Let us backtrack to the cause of these investigations. The year:
1867. We introduce a Mr. John O’Reilly. He’s a traveling trader. He
deals in ostrich feathers and elephant tusks. He calls at a lonely
farmstead in the Cape. It’s the De Kalk farm. A place to rest for the
night. Living on the farm was Van Niekerk… a luckless chap and a
collector of apparently worthless colored stones. Why not? The
countryside was bleak. Amusements were few. What else was there do
to? Van Niekerk showed O’Reilly his collection. One stone drew
particular attention. It was unusual. It was heavier than the others.
It had been discovered by a fifteen year old boy: Erasmus Jacobs. Van
Niekerk saw it… liked it… tried to scratch glass with it. Was
it… could it be… a diamond? He offered to buy it but was laughed
at. That piece of junk. Take it. It’s yours.

And so Van Niekerk gave O’Reilly the stone and asked him to see what
he could do with it. O’Reilly showed it around. They all laughed.
That? A diamond? A worthless nothing. A topaz at best. If I’m wrong
I’ll buy you a new hat. The value was ultimately uncovered by a
nearby geologist. Yes sir. It is indeed a diamond. Ruined every
jeweler’s file it was tested on. 21 1/4 carats… later recut to
10.73 carats. O’Reilly got his new hat. And the diamond became known
as the “Eureka” and its story told and retold many times.

And this is what started prospectors rummaging about the area …
looking for The Big One. The Eureka was valued at 500 pounds. It was
exhibited in Paris at the “Exposition Universelle”. I have a picture
of this diamond before and after cutting.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and you will all step back into the 1800’s and see
what started this whole thing.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark