In 1869 a Griqua shepherd boy on the Zandfontein Farm near the Orange River in South Africa picked up a rough diamond. This finding has been credited with starting the New Rush, a diamond rush by prospectors in the Kimberley area in the late nineteenth century. Schalk van Niekerk, a neighbouring farmer, famous for acquiring a 21.25 carat stone in 1866 that was found by a young boy, traded the stone with the shepherd boy for five hundred sheep, ten oxen and a horse, practically all of Van Niekerk’s possessions.
A few days later Van Niekerk sold the rough diamond crystal which weighed 83.50 carats (16.70 gms) to the Lilienfeld Brothers in Hopetown for £11,200 ($56,000)! They in turn sent this diamond to England where it was bought by Louis Hond, a diamond cutter, and was cut in a pear shape with a total weight of 47.69 carats. The stone was named the Star of South Africa Diamond and this white, D-colour, stellar brilliant cut, pear-shaped diamond became a symbol of South Africa’s diamond prosperity.
After changing hands twice, it was sold to the Countess of Dudley for ±€25,000 ($125,000). William Ward, the Earl of Dudley, had the pear-shaped stone mounted with 95 smaller diamonds in a head ornament and renamed it The Dudley Diamond. It remained in the Ward’s possession until 02 May 1974 when it was sold on auction in Geneva for 1.6 million Swiss francs (±€225,300). It was displayed at the vault of the Natural History Museum in London from 08 July 2005 – 26 February 2006. Still on show in this museum is a reproduction of the uncut and the cut diamond. The original piece was also part of the ‘Cartier in America’ travelling exhibition in 2009 – 2010.