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I am fascinated by history and how it shaped mankind. Listening to Struart Ross from SFM yesterday using the analogy of the digital economy comparing it to the gold rush, made me think about the diamond rush and more so the focal point of the diamond rush of the late 1800’s in a town called Kimberley, South Africa.

Kimberley hosts the largest man-made hole in the world

Kimberley, South Africa

Kimberley hosts the largest man-made hole in the world. Considering how it was made is even more impressive. The hole was created by use of manual labour around 1872. The hole was dug with pixel and spade, a spider network of pulleys and wood stellations. The total quantity of carats of diamonds mined in the Kimberley-hole was 14,504,566 carats. Converting it to monetory value today amounts to: $200,489,363,535. That's a lot of money coming from a hole only a few square miles in diameter. This number equates to 3 years of the total GDP of South Africa currently. We are working on average numbers so the total could be much more.  

In the late 1800's diamond mining was like playing the Lotto


People sold their farms and possessions to buy a piece of land called a 'claim' and join the diamond rush. Then the digging started and you could not dig on your neighbour’s claim resulting in the only way to go is down, in the hope of finding that big layer of diamonds.

Diamond mining in Kimberley

In those days mining was playing lotto, the only difference was that it was much more expensive. Husbands left wives and children on the farm in the hope of finding a piece of diamond. The few who did find it was delivered a life of comfort beyond imagination. No more toiling in the soil, growing vegetables and other activities involving substance farming. In Kimberley a few dreams was made. Most was shattered and a generation of families was lost as the husband never returned home, or when he returned home, he was either extremely reach or a broken-man. Some men could never recover from the despair of failure, with only two things left:

  • His live and
  • massive debt to settle.

Suicide was very common, as nobody could comprehend the harsh lives the men endured on the diamond mining fields.

From the "blue-ground" a giant rose

Initially the diamond mining was relatively easy, however the rewards were fragmented as diamonds were scattered in the upper layer . The upper portion of the volcanic pipes consists of a light yellow, soft, sandy or friable material known to the diamond miners as "yellow ground" or "yellow stuff". This upper portion, which has a thickness of between 50 to 60 feet has been in the Kimberley mine, completely removed in the course of mining operations. Then the infamous “blue ground” was hit. At this stage most men were in dispair as their toiling in the soil did not bear fruit. Debt was made to buy food for themsleves and their oxen to survive just another day on the diamond field.  

The "blue ground" was the final nail in the coffin for most of the prospectors because it was much harder to mine than the “yellow ground”. What most of these men did not know was that the real diamonds, their dreams and fortune was buried in and beyond this blue ground. Massive loads and layers of diamond fragments were buried within and beyond this blue ground. The "blue ground" has the appearance of dried mud and consists of a green, or dark bluish-green ground-mass, which gives its colour to the whole rock. It binds together numerous fragments, larger or smaller in size, and with sharp, or in some cases rounded corners, of a green or bluish-black serpentine rock. Although the groundmass is not very hard, it has a certain amount of toughness, which renders it difficult to work with a pick-axe. It readily yielded, however to a chisel. It can be scratched with the fingernail and is somewhat greasy to the touch. Many a miners axe was broken on the blue ground or they were just physical too tired to brake it and discover the beauty contained within.

From the “blue ground” a giant rose. Somehow he knew that the real riches were hidden in the “blue ground”. This man, Cecil John Rhodes, co-founder of the De Beers Mining Group the biggest daimond conglomerate in the world still in existance today, bought the land claims from the prospectors that had hit the "blue ground" and were too dispondent, exhausted and broke to continue. Most men only asking enough money for the return trip to the farm or town they came from. 


Cecil John Rhodes-1888 - De Beers was established from the merger of Cecil Rhodes' and Barney Barnato's mining companies, concentrating all South Africa's diamond mining operations under one owner. The De Beers name comes from the brothers who owned the farmland where some of the most productive mines were found.

Maybe you have reached the "blue-ground"

Maybe you have reached the “blue ground” of your dreams. Do not give up! Your diamonds might be layered in abundance within that “blue ground” and beyond. Today with online technology you can easily obtain the required knowledge to take your destiny in your own hands, like Cecil John Rhodes did. 

Please let me know if you enjoy articles with historical background. Your feedback will be appreciated. 


Louis Munro 

Chartered Accountant (SA)

SFM: Elite+member

> Founder: Munro Accountancy Inc, YourMoment Your Life

>Co-founder: The Fun Accountant 

Make South Africa your next destination for your holiday, you will be able to visit fascinating places such as Kimberley. 


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