The largest trader in the global diamond industry: Who are the De Beers brothers?

Global dominance in diamond mining and trade is largely in the hands of the De Beers company. The history of De Beers, whose only rival is the Russian Alrosa, dates back to the 1860s. The unconditional boss of the world jewelry industry is De Beers company.

By William James Published on 16 Mayıs 2024 : 14:34.
The largest trader in the global diamond industry: Who are the De Beers brothers?

Dutch brothers Diederik Arnoldus de Beer and Johannes Nicolaas de Beer, who immigrated to South Africa, found diamonds on their lands where they were farming in those years. After dealing with mining for a few years, the British government put a damper on their business. They are forced to sell their mines to the British merchant Alfred Johnson Ebden for 6 thousand 600 pounds sterling (six thousand six hundred in writing)!

The name 'De Beers' was derived from the two Dutch settlers, brothers Diederik Arnoldus de Beer (1825–1878) and Johannes Nicolaas de Beer (1830–1883), who owned a South African farm named Vooruitzicht (Dutch for "prospect" or "outlook") near Zandfontein in the Boshof District of Orange Free State.

In the same years, Cecil Rhodes, who had a company that rented water pumps to mines in South Africa, entered the diamond mining business by purchasing small mines in the region after an 83.5-carat diamond was found in a little-known region. During those years, De Beers changed hands several times, its last owner being British Barney Barnato.

Kimberley is famous for the Big Hole, which is often referred to as the worlds deepest man made hole. The Big Hole is a huge pit, almost circular and 215m deep, right in the middle of the town. Two Dutch settlers bought the farm in 1871. The two brothers called Johannes Nicolaas De Beer and Diederik Arnoldus De Beer soon discovered diamonds on their ground. This lead to a diamond rush, which made it impossible for them to keep the land. They were not able to protect it from the growing tide of intruders, so they sold it. Although they did not become the owners of the mines, one of the mines inherited their name and until today the diamond trade is connected with their name De Beers. De Beers is the company which today controls virtually all diamonds on Earth.

With the financial support of the Rothschild Family, Cecil Rhodes merges with Barnato's De Beers. Until his death in 1902, Rhodes turned De Beers into a global diamond monopoly with a 90 percent market share.

In 1929, control of De Beers passed into the hands of Bernard and Ernest Oppenheimer brothers of German origin, owners of the Anglo-American mining company. The activities of Anglo-American and De Beers, whose management was consolidated in 1955, reached 10 percent of the national income of the Republic of South Africa and 30 percent of its annual exports in 1973.

Cecil John Rhodes (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902) was an English mining magnate and politician in southern Africa who served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. He and his British South Africa Company founded the southern African territory of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), which the company named after him in 1895. He also devoted much effort to realising his vision of a Cape to Cairo Railway through British territory. Rhodes set up the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate.

In the early 2000s, due to the influence of the "Blood Diamond" movie, Canada and Australia stopped using De Beers' trade channels. In 2011, the Oppenheimer Family sold its 40 percent stake in De Beers to Anglo American for $5.1 billion. While Anglo American's share increased to 85 percent, 15 percent is in the state of Botswana. By 2020, De Beers' production share in the raw stone market decreased to 30 percent. De Beers, headquartered in Antwerp, the capital of the world diamond trade, is currently the largest trader in the global diamond industry. It has been the industry's biggest promoter for decades with campaigns such as "A Diamond is Forever", "Eternity Ring" and "Forevermark".

The De Beers Group is a South African- British corporation that specializes in diamond mining, diamond exploitation, diamond retail, diamond inscription and grading services, diamond trading and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors. The company is active in open-pit, underground, large-scale alluvial and coastal mining. It operates in 35 countries with mining taking place in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Canada. It also has an artisanal mining business, Gemfair, which operates in Sierra Leone.


The diamond era began when Ernest Oppenheimer, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, was sent to South Africa by a London diamond broker. Oppenheimer became mayor of the diamond-producing city of Kemberly before World War I and founded the Anglo-American gold mining company with the support of American banker JP Morgan. Ernest Oppenheimer's greatest achievement was taking control of the global diamond trade in the late 1920s, as the world was heading towards the Great Depression. Oppenheimer acquired membership on the board of directors of De Beers, founded by British adventurer Cecil Rhodes, and became chairman. Over time, De Beers not only provided diamonds to the whole world but also ensured that diamonds were adopted as a symbol of love with a very successful marketing strategy.