For the longest time, the De Beers diamond company was the largest diamond exploration, mining, and retail company, but it lost its monopoly at the start of the 21st century.
De Beers is also the company that coined the phrase A Diamond is Forever, a slogan that made diamonds among the common man, not just the wealthy, and also the reason for the company’s success.
The company also controlled the diamonds market for decades. But do you know everything about the De Beers diamonds company?
This article shares some insights into the De Beers Diamond company.
De Beers Diamonds History
De Beers was the most prominent diamond company for many decades boasting stockpiles of rough diamonds worldwide.
The company ran the most indelible marketing schemes and was a massive part of negotiations with many other multinational corporates and foreign governments.
De Beers was founded late in the 1800s as De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, later renamed just De Beers. The formation of the De Beers diamonds company was influenced by the discovery of diamonds in most parts of South Africa back in the 1860s.
The first diamond discovery was on a farm that belonged to Diederick and Nicolaas de Beer. This farm was located in modern-day Kimberly city.
The first mines on the farm were the Kimberly and De Beers mines, which, at some point, were two of the most productive diamond mines in South Africa. But these mines aren’t operational anymore.
In 1871, however, an English called Cecil Rhodes purchased ownership of the mine owned by De Beers, and because of the huge financial base it had then, he was able to buy the rest of diamonds in mines, across Southern Africa.
Then in 1888, Cecil Rhodes incorporated the diamond company now best known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. From the beginning, Cecil made one thing clear; he controlled the market – in a bid to keep the price of diamonds high at all times and to ensure a steady demand, Rhodes put into place measures that allowed him to control the distribution of diamonds worldwide.
And so, by the mid-1890s, Rhodes had formed what can only be described as a Diamond Syndicate, and the syndicate was created after the CSO (Central Selling Organization).
CSO formed a part of the modern financial/ marketing organization groups which controlled the world’s diamond trade – the CSO was now called DTO (Diamond Trading Company).
Notably, Cecil Rhodes played an important role in the diamond industry as he started by renting water pumps to the miners, even before he bought his diamond fields.
De Beers controlled the diamond trades worldwide for a really long time, but later, when the diamond was discovered in Namibia and Pretoria between 1902 and 1908, their control weakened.
By 1917, the Anglo-American Corporation was formed by Ernest Oppenheimer, and they soon formed a new syndicate. By 1926, he’d received, on the De Beers board and became chair of the board 3 years later.
In this position, he further strengthened the monopoly created by Rhodes. This went on for years, enhancing De Beers. In the 1920s, Oppenheimer sold their company to the Anglo-American company, which now owns De Beers and is a billion-dollar company.
To boost sales during the world’s Great Depression in the 1930s and 1940s, when the demand for diamonds was at its lowest, De Beers invested heavily in marketing and advertising and hired N.W. Ayer and Son, a marketing agency that, later on, came up with the now infamous phrase, A Diamond Is Forever, in 1947.
This phrase has since been an inspiration to jewelry lovers all over the world, and it also made the diamond the standard gemstone for engagements, weddings, and other celebrations.
De Beers introduced eternity rings in the 1960s, and in the 1980s, they introduced the tennis bracelet (diamond line bracelet).
Note, however, that by the start of the 21st century, the De Beers company has lost its dominance over the market, and they no longer had an 85% but less than 35% stake in the diamonds industry.
Notably, the huge changes resulted from the discovery of diamonds in Russia, India, Brazil, and Australia, and these mines were owned by more prominent companies Argyle, De Beers, which had mines in South Africa, Canada, Botswana, and Namibia, faced very steep competition, and they lost control over the distribution of diamonds, and this meant that they lost monopoly.
In 1969, Debswana was formed – this was a joint venture between the nation of Botswana and De Beers, a partnership that meant a bigger shareholding by the country.
By early in the 21st century, the diamond-producing companies decided that they had had enough of the De Beers monopoly, so they forced a change in the company’s structure, and De Beers lost control over the monopoly on diamond distribution.
Where do De Beers diamonds come from?
Although they were first discovered in Southern Africa, De Beers diamonds are mined from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Canada.
A list of De Beers diamonds mines
De Beers operates 4 main mines – Jwaneng, Orapa, Damtshaa, and Letlhakane; but Damtshaa was placed under care/maintenance in 2015.
1. Botswana – Jwaneng
De Beers has one of the biggest diamond mines located in Bostwana, and the mine is called Jwateng. This is the world’s richest diamond mine by value of diamonds.
It is located 160 miles southwest of Gaborone, and it is described as the True Prince of the Mines, which, in 2019, produced at least 12.5million carats of diamonds.
2. Canada – Gahcho Kué
This mine is considered the world’s largest diamond mine, which was opened in 2016. It is located 280kms north of Yellowknife.
The other mine by De Beers is Snap Lake, which is located about 220km North East Yellowknife, which is the capital of the Canadian Northern territories.
There’s also Victor Mine, which was closed in 2019 from 2008.
3. South Africa – Venetia
The largest De Beers mine in South Africa is Venetia. It was opened in 1992, and the mine is believed to contribute to at least 40% of the country’s annual diamond production.
The mine is located 32KM south of South Africa’s Limpopo River in the Northern Transvaal. In 2018, the mine produced at least 4.2M carats of diamonds.
The other mine in South Africa is Voorspoed, which is located in the Free State Province, 30km northeast of Kroonstad. All the diamond processing takes place in this mine at an on-site mining facility.
In 2017, it produced at least 606,000 carats of diamonds. The mine officially opened in 2008.
4. Namibia – Land
The largest diamond mines in Namibia are located on land and in the ocean in the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, De Beers no longer has control over the diamond market, but they still have ownership of a large chunk of diamonds in the industry.
As of 2017, De Beers mined diamonds weighing at least 33.5Million carats.
De Beers might no longer hold a monopoly over diamond distribution, but they still are a powerful and successful diamond company today.
They also have an increasing number of stores across the world, and they keep expanding.
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