Kimberley Diamond Mine

  • 01 of 12

    Entrance to Kimberley

    kimberley south africa
    ••• "The Big Hole" says it all. Heinrich van den Berg/Getty.

    Kimberley, South Africa, is home to the world’s largest diamond mine, also known as the “Big Hole.” Dug by humans and so large it is visible from space, the pit has yielded some of the world’s largest diamonds and made the De Beers name famous world wide.

    At Kimberley visitors can view a 17-minute movie about the location and the history of diamond mining in Africa. They also get to walk out on a high platform to view The Big Hole, take a ride down a faux mining shaft, enter a locked vault to view genuine diamonds of all colors, and visit a small museum. We particularly liked the hollowed out Bible used by some miners to smuggle diamonds out of the mine until 1883, when searches were instituted.

    There is also a café, gift and jewelry shops, and many structures and artifacts left from the days when Kimberly was a thriving mining town. Visitors can walk the eerily empty streets of the company town and step into the modest home where the De Beers family lived.

    Those who arrive at Kimberley’s...MORE Victorian railway station by train then travel to The Big Hole via motorcoach, about a ten-minute drive.

    Continue to 2 of 12 below.
  • 02 of 12

    Kimberley Mine Statistics

    kimberley mine
    ••• Digging at Kimberley ended in August 1914. © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Nearly 15 million diamonds were extracted from the Kimberley Diamond Mine, discovered in 1871. Excavation ended in August 1914.

    Continue to 3 of 12 below.
  • 03 of 12

    The Big Hole

    big hole kimberley
    ••• The nearby town is dwarfed in relation to the Big Hole. Louise Murray / robertharding/ Getty.

    That's deep: The Big Hole is 215 meters, or 705 feet, deep. 

    Continue to 4 of 12 below.
  • 04 of 12

    Kimberley Mine Map

    kimberley attractions
    ••• What to See and Do. © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    This map helps visitors to understand the facilities they can explore around The Big Hole. They include original and recreated structures from when Kimberley was a working mine with a town that served its residents with a variety of shops and other necessities.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Diamond Mining Machinery

    ••• Most of the mining, however, was done by hand. © Susan Breslow Sardone.

    Rusted now, this was one of the machines in use during the heyday of diamond mining in Kimberley.

    Continue to 6 of 12 below.
  • 06 of 12

    Kimberley Diamond Museum

    ••• Visitors to the Kimberley Diamond Museum may enter a secure vault to view genuine diamonds. © Susan Breslow Sardone.

    The Kimberley Diamond Museum tells the story of the history of diamond mining and presents artifacts from the early days. Many visitors wonder if free samples are available. They are not.

    Find out more about the history of diamond mining in Wikipedia.

    Continue to 7 of 12 below.
  • 07 of 12

    South African Diamond Mining Town

    ••• © Susan Breslow Sardone.

    The discovery of diamonds brought not only miners but also tradesmen to Kimberly, and a town sprouted at the end of the nineteenth century.

    Continue to 8 of 12 below.
  • 08 of 12

    Diamond Miners' Huts

    ••• Small huts served as housing for the diamond miners. © Susan Breslow Sardone.

    Although slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony in 1834, most of the miners did not live much better than those who had no freedom.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Kimberley's Oldest House

    ••• The sign is printed in both English and Afrikaans. © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    According to the sign, "This house was prefabricated in England in 1877, conveyed from the coast to the diamond fields by oxwagon and erected at 14 Pneil Rd. First registered owner Mr. A. J. Petersen."

    Continue to 10 of 12 below.
  • 10 of 12

    De Beer Gravestone

    ••• © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Johannes De Beer was an Afrikaner upon whose farmland diamonds were discovered. He is buried in Kimberley.

    Continue to 11 of 12 below.
  • 11 of 12

    Kimberley Diamond Buyer

    diamond buyer
    ••• © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Once an important part of the diamond trade, this one-room office was where diamonds found in Kimberley were purchased and sent overseas for cutting and sale.

    Continue to 12 of 12 below.
  • 12 of 12

    Kimberley Bank

    south africa bank
    ••• The Standard Bank of British South Africa helped to convert the value of diamonds into currency. © Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Little of the riches dug from the Kimberly mines benefitted South Africans; most of the treasure was sent overseas.

    The Kimberley diamond mine enriched Englishman Cecil Rhodes, who founded De Beers. The company became a virtual monopoly. The imperialist Rhodes and his British South Africa Company founded Rhodesia, which now includes the southern African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia.