Rissik Street, Johannesburg
Early Discoveries of Diamonds. By David Draper
To me Saturday, Nov. 6, 1869, is a redletter day in the history of South Africa, for I happened to be present when Cornelis du Plooy, then owner of the farm Bultfontein, walked into the store of Mr. E. E. Hurley, now of Johannesburg, carrying in his hand a small bottle filled with stones, which he had collected on his homestead. Among these worthless pebbles there was one small diamond. When du Plooy was informed, his surprise found expression in the remark that there were so many of those things lying around on his place he did not consider them worth picking up. Lilienveld, Hurley and Hond purchased Bultfontein from du Plooy, and thus became possessors of the first true diamond mine in South Africa.
Prospecting operations on the adjoining farms, Dutoitspan and Vooruitzicht, resulted in the discovery of the Dutoitspan, Old De Beers and Kimberley mines. Jagersfontein was found after Dutoitspan and before Old De Beers. Twenty-four years later the Wesselton mine was discovered. Previous to the ‘dry diggings’ diamonds were found in the alluvial gravels of the Vaal and Riet rivers, and in the year 1873, in the small creek below the Lace mine, on the farm Driekopjes, Kroonstad District. Orange River Colony.
The following cutting from the Queenstown Representative, dated March 3, 1871, shows that diamonds were found in the Transvaal at a very early date:
“Great excitement was caused here a few days ago by young Joubert bringing in a diamond of 4Â½ carats, which he found on the farm of Mrs. Hennessy, 2Â½ miles from here (Pretoria). at once took steps, sent out a commission, Broderick, Lys, Skinner (the two former lately from the diamond fields), and their report is of such a nature that I have no doubt that in a week there will be quite a crowd at the new diggings. Piet Marais and H. Struben have taken a lease of part of the farm, and will commence operations at once. Several farmers have found diamonds on the banks of the Elands river. Two diamonds have been found at Zoutpansberg; the government has sent for them to be tested here-expected next week."
In 1870 a diamond had been found at Rustenburg. It was valued at Â£150. These finds were not considered as of much account. The diamonds were looked upon as emigrants, most likely lost by natives returning from the diamond fields.
In April, 1897, Mr. W. C. Schuller, watchmaker and jeweler, Rissik street, Johannesburg, brought a small bag containing minerals for me to inspect. He asked my opinion on the specimens, stating that his eldest son had pronounced them to be ‘Dwyka conglomerate.’ Upon my assuring him that they were ‘hard-bank’ from a diamond mine, he was greatly surprised, and became much excited. He told me that the specimens were from a farm held by him near Pretoria, and that if I was certain that they were from a diamond mine he would institute a search for diamonds, and he promised me a handsome reward.
Mr. Schuller informed me that he had taken up the property on the advice of a Mr. Van Diggelen, who assured him that the red specks in the rock (actually garnets) were cinnabar. Schuller told me that, as he knew nothing about diamonds and had no one to advise him, if I would assist him he would give me an interest in the property. In August, 1897, Mr. Schuller came again to see me, and he brought a small diamond which he stated had been found by Van der Merwe, the owner of the farm, near the spot where the ‘hard-bank’ cropped out. I agreed to visit the property the next day (Sunday) together with Mr. Schuller and Mr. F. W. Bawden. We found Mr. Schuller’s younger son at the mine, where he had dug a few shallow pits, all in diamondbearing mineral. I measured the circumference of the mine and investigated it generally, confirming my previous opinion that it was a true diamond-bearing pipe. Mr. Schuller requested me to instruct him in the method of searching for diamonds, stating that neither himself nor any one connected with the venture knew anything about the business. On my return to Johannesburg I requested Mr. M. E. Frames to go out to the property and teach Mr. Schuller, Jr., how to wash and sieve the diamond-bearing rock. This he did, returning on the following Saturday with one small diamond. Mr. Schuller, Jr., continued washing operations for some time, finding a quantity of diamonds. Later on Dr. Molengraal'f visited the spot and confirmed my opinion that a true diamond-bearing pipe had been discovered in the Transvaal. In company with Me Schuller I interviewed the Second Volksraad, then in session in Pretoria, and showed the diamonds to the chairman and members. On Sept. 13, 1897, I read the following paper at a meeting of the Geological Society:
‘I wish to notify the members of this society that a most interesting discovery of a diamondiferous pipe has been made lately in the vicinity of Pretoria. I have the permission of the owners to make public the fact that diamonds have been found in what appears to be a small volcanic pipe, containing minerals closely resembling those in older known diamond mines. Garnets, ‘carbon,’ olivine and other minerals associated with the diamond are there in abundance, and, up to date, eleven diamonds, one weighing 16 carats, and several smaller ones, have been found in washing the blue. The interesting feature regarding this find of diamonds is that it is the first undoubted diamond mine found in the Transvaal, and as it is situated in the quartzites of the Magaliesberg, it is in a geological horizon much older than the Karroo shales of Kimberley, and also than the cave sandstones wherein the Monastery diamond mine is situated. As there is every likelihood of other diamond mines occurring in the neighborhood of the new discovery, I have obtained the owners’ permission to state the above particulars in order to stimulate research in that part of the country."
The statement in the last paragraph has been amply verified, and the discovery of true diamond-bearing pipes of exceptional richness in the Transvaal is now an established fact. The late find at the Premier diamond mine is unprecedented in the history of diamond mining in the world. In other ways the discovery of true diamondbearing pipes in the Transvaal has had farÂ»reaching effects. The old theory that diamonds were derived from the carbon extracted by heat from the carbonaceous shales which surrounded the old craters near Kimberley has been exploded, and the contention which every Kimberley man maintained so stoutly, “that there were no mines outside of the Kimberley and Jagersfontein areas," has been completely dispelled. Kimberley men held that no ‘hardbank’ could exist as a surface rock, and that consequently the Schuller could not possibly be a diamond mine, but they found out that they had a good deal to learn about diamond mines. Most probably neither the largest nor the richest diamond mine has been discovered in South Africa, and the fabulous yield of the Premier should be a stimulant for further research. Great things grow from insignificant beginnings. Du Plooy’s visit to Hurley's store was the first stage in the development of the greatest diamond industry in the world, and Schuller’s interview with myself was the initial step in the diamond industry of the Transvaal.
Source: Engineering and Mining Journal - 1905