Details of De Beers Group of Companies History

Details of De Beers Group of Companies History

2024 – 2000


In September, De Beers Group announces a three-year partnership with UN Women to accelerate the advancement of women across its organisation, in its diamond producing countries and in its marketing.


In June, Debmarine Namibia officially inaugurates the mv SS Nujoma, the world’s largest and most advanced diamond exploration and sampling vessel.


In March, De Beers Group takes full ownership of De Beers Diamond Jewellers.


In March, Gahcho Kué, the world’s largest new diamond mine in the last 13 years, officially begins commercial production.


In May, De Beers signs a 10-year sales agreement with the Government of the Republic of Namibia for the sorting, valuing and sales of Namdeb Holdings’ diamonds.
It is the longest agreement ever signed between the two parties.


In January, De Beers Consolidated Mines completes the sale of Kimberley Mines to Ekapa Minerals (Pty) Limited.


Forevermark announces plans to bring into effect again the historic slogan, ‘A Diamond is Forever’.


ALROSA, De Beers, Rio Tinto, Dominion Diamond Corporation, Lucara Diamond Corporation, Petra Diamonds Ltd, and Gem Diamonds Ltd form the Diamond Producers Association (DPA).


De Beers acquires a 33.4% equity stake in Synova SA (Synova), a Swiss-based owner and supplier of a patent protected laser micro jet technology.


De Beers launches The Diamond Insight Report 2014, giving an expert perspective on the global diamond industry.


Global Sightholder Sales moves from London to Botswana.

De Beers, Botswana
Anglo American logo


De Beers becomes a member of the Anglo American plc group.


Anglo American, shareholders in De Beers since 1926, and the Oppenheimer family announce an agreement for Anglo American to acquire the family’s share in De Beers.

Nicky Oppenheimer


De Beers opens its first mines outside Africa: Snap Lake mine and Victor mine in Canada. Snap Lake mine was placed into care and maintenance on 4 December 2024.


The Forevermark brand is launched.



De Beers Auction Sales pioneers the industry’s first successful sales of rough diamonds using online auctions.


With the Government of the Republic of Botswana, we establish DTC Botswana, a company to sort and value all Debswana production and support local diamond manufacturing.

Employees inspecting at diamonds
The Kimberley Process Certificate


The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is established to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. One hundred per cent of De Beers’ diamonds are certified conflict free.


We set up a new company, De Beers Diamond Jewellers (DBDJ). DBDJ provides the world’s most discerning customers with the world’s most beautiful diamonds.

De Beers Diamond Jewellers
203.04 carat De Beers Millennium Star Diamond


We welcome in the new millennium with the 203.04 carat De Beers Millennium Star Diamond.

1999 – 1980


Nelson Mandela meets Harry Oppenheimer in London. After Harry’s death, in 2000, Mr Mandela praised him for his strong voice against apartheid, commending him for helping to build and develop South Africa while fighting for justice and freedom.

Nelson Mandela with Harry Oppenheimer
Nicky Oppenheimer in a mine


Nicky Oppenheimer becomes Chairman of De Beers.
We begin the development of diamond inscribing technology that ends up giving birth to Forevermark.


Highlighting the role of diamonds in marking life’s occasions, our iconic ‘Shadows’ campaign is launched in America.

De Beers iconic Shadows campaign


De Beers joins with the newly independent Republic of Namibia to form Namdeb, a 50/50 joint venture partnership, to mine the country’s diamonds.


Venetia mine opens in South Africa. It will become South Africa’s largest diamond mine.

Venetia Mine
273.85 carat Centenary Diamond


Our centenary year. We unveil the 273.85 carat Centenary Diamond.


De Beers Exploration discovers Kimberlite in Northern Ontario, which will eventually become Victor mine.

Haul truck in Jwaneng Mine


Production begins at Jwaneng mine in Botswana.

1979 – 1960


The Botswana desert gives up more riches when De Beers’ geologists discover the Jwaneng kimberlite pipe, hidden 150 metres below the surface. It becomes the world’s richest diamond mine, producing an average of 11 million carats per year.

Jwaneng Mine
Debswana mine


We join with the Government of the Republic of Botswana in establishing Debswana, a 50/50 partnership, to develop the Orapa mine. Production begins in 1971.


A year after Botswana gains its independence from Britain, the Orapa kimberlite pipe is discovered. The second largest pipe in the world, it covers 262 acres at the surface.

Orapa kimberlite pipe
Kimberlite diamond-bearing ore


Kimberlite, the tell-tale diamond-bearing ore, is discovered by De Beers’ prospectors in northern Botswana.


De Beers Auction Sales, trading as Diamdel, began supporting non-Sightholder businesses with rough diamond supplies.

Kimberlite diamond-bearing ore


De Beers begins an exploration programme in Canada.

1959 – 1940


Following the death of his father, Sir Ernest, Harry Oppenheimer succeeds him as Chairman.

Harry Oppenheimer
A diamond is forever slogan


Frances Gerety, a young copywriter at the N W Ayer advertising agency, creates the timeless slogan, ‘A diamond is forever’. Fifty years later, it’s recognised by Ad Age as the greatest advertising slogan of the 20th century. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, visit Kimberley.


Diamond Trading Company offices in London are destroyed in the Blitz. The operation temporarily moves to Berkshire.

Diamond Trading Company offices in London destroyed by the Blitz
Dr John Williamson


World War II engulfs Europe. All De Beers’ mines close for the duration. In Tanzania, Dr John Williamson, a Canadian geologist, establishes the Williamson mine, later famous for its fine pink diamonds.

1939 – 1920


Harry Oppenheimer heads for New York to kick-start De Beers’ pioneering diamond advertising campaign.

New York
Harry Oppenheimer


Harry Oppenheimer, son of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, joins the De Beers Board.


As the Great Depression deepens, demand for diamonds dries up. De Beers closes all its mines.

Kimberley Mine
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer


Sir Ernest Oppenheimer becomes Chairman of De Beers.


Diamond cutting comes to South Africa when we open our first African cutting factory in Kimberley.

Rough diamonds in Kimberley
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer


Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, knighted for his wartime efforts, is elected to the De Beers Board after Anglo American, the company he founded, becomes a major De Beers shareholder.

1919 – 1900


Ernest Oppenheimer founds the Anglo American Corporation to develop gold mining in South Africa.

Ernest Oppenheimer
The Cullinan Diamond


The Cullinan Diamond is discovered at the Premier mine. At 3,106.75 carats, it is the largest rough diamond ever found. The Premier mine is later renamed the Cullinan mine. The Cullinan Diamond is cut into nine gems. The two biggest are presented to King Edward VII in 1908 and now form part of the British Crown Jewels.


Cecil Rhodes dies at his cottage at Muizenberg, aged 48. Ernest Oppenheimer arrives in Kimberley to work as a diamond buying agent. He and Rhodes never meet.
The Premier mine, near Pretoria, is discovered. It will ultimately produce a higher number of large gem diamonds than any other mine.

Cecil John Rhodes tomb stone

1899 – 1880

Kimberley is besieged by the second Boer War


Within days of the outbreak of the second Boer War, the town of Kimberley is besieged. It remains under siege, its mines closed, for 124 days.


Ten merchants form the London Diamond Syndicate and agree to buy De Beers’ entire production.

Diamond mine
De Beers Consolidated Mine Limited


De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited is established on 12 March. Cecil Rhodes is named as founding Chairman.


Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato, each buying claims and shares in nearby mines, vie for commercial pre-eminence in the Kimberley diamond fields. To outproduce each other, they flood the market causing diamond prices to plummet. A merger is the only solution.

Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato

1879 – 1860

Barnato Brother


‘Barnato Brothers Dealers in Diamonds and Brokers in Mining Property’ opens for business.


Barney Barnato, 18, a one-time music hall turn, joins his brother in Kimberley. Meanwhile, Cecil Rhodes buys a claim. Barney becomes a diamond millionaire within 10 years of arriving in South Africa.

Barney Barnato
De Beers mine


The De Beers Mine is discovered in May, and the Kimberley Mine in July. The latter will become the world’s richest mine for nearly a century.


Cecil Rhodes, 17, arrives in South Africa. He sells ice to miners in the hot African sun and saves his money.

Cecil Rhodes aged 17
The Star of South Africa, an 83.5 carat rough diamond


The Star of South Africa, an 83.5 carat rough diamond, is discovered by a Griqua herdsman. It triggers the first diamond rush. The diamond was sold for 500 sheep, 10 head of cattle and a horse. It is now in London’s Natural History Museum.


The Eureka Diamond, a 21.25 carat rough diamond, is found. Erasmus Jacobs, a 15-year-old farmer’s son, finds Africa’s first authenticated diamond near the Orange River. Erasmus gave the shiny pebble to his sisters as a plaything. Later, his mother gave it away to a neighbour. The Eureka Diamond is now exhibited at the Kimberley Mine Museum.

The Eureka Diamond, a 21.25 carat rough diamond