Kimberley, South Africa



In the few years after Diamonds were discovered in 1868, there were already hundreds of Jewish diggers and nearly half of Kimberley’s diamond buyers in the 1870s were Jews.


It was a tough life and not all were successful. Jews were however represented in nearly all of the great Diamond firms. Rhodes relied on Alfred Beit and on Rothschild money; Barney Barnato, his brother Harry, and his cousin David (later Sir David) Harris and nephews, Wolf and Solly Joel came from the East End of London and were very successful; and many regarded JB Robinson’s Jewish Lieutenant Maurice Marcus to be his strongest asset. 


When gold and other minerals were later discovered to the north, there were already Kimberley men of vision and enterprise with the capital and technology to develop the new resources. 


Until the founding of Johannesburg in 1886, Kimberley was home to the second largest Jewish community in South Africa, numbering over 2,000 souls at its peak. By 1970, the Jewish population of Kimberley had dropped to about 600 and by 2005, fewer than 50 Jews remained.


Six Jews have served as mayors of Kimberley: William Sagar (1906–08), Ernest (later Sir Ernest) Oppenheimer (1913–15), Bernard Cohen (1931–32), Gustave Haberfeld (1953–55, 1966–67), Lionel Jawno (1959–61), and Cecil Sussman (1964–65).


To read about some of the pioneers who developed the diamond industry in Kimberley click on the names below.

Gustav BonasGustav_Bonas.html
Barney BarnatoBarney_Barnato.html
Alfred BeitPioneers_files/Alfred%20Beit%20Part%201%20Kimberley.pdf
David Harris Pioneers_files/Colonel%20Sir%20David%20Harris%20pioneer%20page.pdfDavid_Harris.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0
Gustav ImrothGustav_Imroth.html
Solomon JoelSolomon_Joel.html
Ernest OppenheimerErnest_O.html
Harry OppenheimerHarry_O.html
Sarah MillinSarah_Millin.html