The Big Hole

Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017 at 10:38 am by LaLonde Jewelers

The Big Hole

 

 In 1867, diamonds were found in South Africa. Although diamonds had been around for a long time, this was the start of the largest production diamond mine to date. This started the Kimberley Mine, or, “The Big Hole” as it came to be known in 1871. The mine is so large it can be seen from space. It measures a staggering 215 meters (705 feet) deep, 460 meters (1,519 feet) wide and is filled with 40 meters (130 feet) of turquoise water. Although sometimes disputed, the Big Hole claims to be the largest hole excavated by hand.

In 1914 the mine was closed because the amount of diamonds it was producing was not profitable enough to sustain it. A man named Cecil Rhodes, who was 17 years old, went to Africa in 1870 and began selling ice to the miners in the hot sun. Later as the mine got deeper, water started to fill the hole. He brought in hydraulic pumps and charged miners to pump water so they could mine. Before long, he eventually owned most of the richest diamond mine in the world. Rhodesia was named after him, which is known today as the country of Zimbabwe.

In 1652 Jan Van Riebeeck, a Dutch exploring ship captain, built a fort at the cape of Good Hope. This was the halfway point enroute to the East Indies for the spice trade…the same place Marco Polo had been 350 years earlier. The cape of Good Hope would be named Cape Town. The Dutch explorers then brought in the persecuted French Huguenots and German grape growers and deposited them at the cape. Their purpose was to make wine to supply the Dutch trading ships. This was crucial to the sailors to help prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a victim C deficiency .

These French and German settlers spread out across South Africa and they became known as Afrikaners. These people were new to the region and had a written history instead of an oral history, which was what the tribes of Africa had. Thus they wrote that they had “found” the region, very similar to the Americas. 

In 1795 the Cape Colony became an English Colony. These Afrikaners and British knew a lot about precious metals and Gems and their importance to the world, but the natives… not so much. So when diamonds were found, along with precious metals, the newcomers didn’t miss the opportunity. 

In the later 1800’s, the Afrikaners wanted their independence from Britain, again very similar to the Americans wanting their independence. Long after the landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620, it took the Americans until 1776 and we all know how that turned out.

Back to the Afrikaners, in 1880 the Boer wars began. There were 2 Boer wars, and they ended in 1902 with a British victory. In 1910 South Africa won independence from Britain.

The funny thing is that diamonds and minerals were found all over South Africa, but the natives didn’t realize their importance. This is very similar to the native people in America with the gold and minerals found here. 

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Thanks,
Daniel Joseph LaLonde 
The Gem Expert
Graduate Gemologist, G.G., G.I.A.

 

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