South Africa is one of the top producers of diamonds, providing us with some of the largest diamonds worldwide. Long before the Cullinan, also known as the Star of Africa weighting in at 530.20 carats and adorning the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom got credited for jump starting the diamond industry, the Eureka was the first authentic diamond discovered in South Africa. “Eureka” in Greek translates to “I found it!” a fitting name to a diamond discovered by chance in child’s play.
In 1866, a young 15 year old farmers son, Erasmus Jacobs was playing outside when a stone caught his eye. Unaware of the value and rarity of the gem, he gave the pretty pebble to his sister.
During a fellow farmers’ visit with the Jacobs, the mysterious sparkle caught Schalk Van Niekerks eye as well. Offering to purchase the gem, he was instead given the stone in good faith. Van Niekerk made several attempts to discover the pebbles’ true identity. Unsuccessful, he finally passed the gem on in trust to a local hunter and trader John O’Reilly.
It was in O’Reilly’s hands that the suspected the “pebble” was given the long overdue praise of a diamond by a physician of minerals who deemed the stone a Diamond weighing in at 21.25cts with a projected value of £500.
The Eureka made its way to London, where to detract thieves; a crystal replica was proudly displayed at the Paris Exposition 1867. Soon after its showcase, the rough piece was passed on to a diamond specialist where it was professionally planed and cut into a 10.73ct oval brilliant cut, then valued at £800.
Rising in value over time, in 1947, The Eureka came into Christies Auction House set in a bracelet and sold for £5,700. A hundred years after its discovery, in 1966, DeBeers purchased The Eureka and took it back to its home, where the diamond is displayed at the Open Mine Museum in Kimberley, South Africa, also going by the name of O’Reilly, after the man who gave a pebble the true claim to fame a diamond deserved.