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Tiffany Yellow Diamond

 
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 The Tiffany Yellow  Diamond
 
 It is debatable whether Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's did much to increase the prestige of this famous New York jewelry store because long before 1958, the year of the book's publication, it had become a household name within the United States as well as abroad. Doubtless some people continue to inquire whether the store does serve breakfast to its clientelle, but of course what the delightfully-named heroine, Holly Golightly, sought was not refreshment of the stomach but of the spirit, which was supplied by the sight of the magnificent gems on display in the showcase.
 
Founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1837, Tiffany & Co. came to the fore among diamond merchants during the second half of the 1800s. During the political disturbances in Paris in 1848, which cumulated in the overthrough of King Louis Philippe, the firm bought a large quantity of jewels. At the sale of the French Crown Jewels in 1887, Tiffany's bought a great diamond necklace of Empress Eugénie, considered at the time to have been the finest single item to go on sale, four diamonds which may have been among the former Mazarins, as well as several other pieces. In the end, Tiffany's emerged as the largest buyer, with 24 of the total 69 lots.
 
 Between these two events in French history came the discovery of diamonds in South Africa. Tiffany's were active there too, buying a light-yellow cushion of 77 (old) carats cut from a rough stone weighing fractionally less than 125 (old) carats and another fine yellow gem weighing 51 and 7/8 (old) carats. Both of these two diamonds were among the first large stones to be cut in New York City. They were surpassed, however, by the famous gem named after its owners. In the rough, the stone was a beautiful canary-yellow octahedron weighing 287.42 (metric) carats.
 
 It is believed that the Tiffany Yellow was found in either 1877 or 1878. The lack of exact information concerning the correct date of its discovery extends to its location as well; this has been variously described as the 'De Beers Mine' or the 'Kimberly Mine', 'the De Beers Mines' or 'the Kimberly Mines'. The finding of the Tiffany Yellow took place before accurate records of the discovery of large diamonds from South Africa were kept. However, the clue to its location has been supplied by one writer who has stated it was found in the mines of the French Company. This was the colloquial name for the Compagnie Français de Diamant du Cap, an important mining concern, the existence of which sparked off the most momentous financial struggle which the diamond industry has witnessed.
 
 

 

 In the belief that the only solution to the problems posed by the inefficient and haphazard mining methods employed by the Kimberly deposits lay in the amalgamation of the multitude of claims into one unit, by 1887 Cecil Rhodes and his colleagues had succeeded in making the De Beers Mining Company, which was then headed by the flamboyant Barney Barnato.
 
 Born Barnett Isaacs in 1852, the son of a small shopkeeper off Petticoat Lane, one of the best-known streets in London's East End, Barnato was in every respect the complete antithesis of Rhodes. Barnato was an extrovert, imbued with Jewish-Cockney wit and humor. After leaving school at fourteen, he obtained a number of odd jobs including being a 'bouncer' at a public house and appearing on stage at a music hall. Several of his relatives left for South Africa after hearing of the discovery of diamonds there, so Barney eventually followed them. His only capital on arrival at the diamond fields consisted of a box of cigars - of doubtful quality - which he hoped to sell to the diggers. He became an itinerant buyer of diamonds, his genial personality proving a useful asset. In time, he bought for claims in the center of the Kimberly Mine and prospered so that he was able to form the Barnato Diamond Mining Company. Like Rhodes, Barnato kept on buying up claims. In 1885 Barnato merged his company with that of Baring-Gould's Kimberly Central Mining Company, thus giving him a strong hold in the Kimberly Mine as that of Rhodes in the De Beers Mine.
 
 Since his company was going so well, Barnato saw no reason at all why he should join any scheme of Rhodes for amalgamation. However, one obstacle lay in the path of the Kimberly Central, namely the Compagnie Français de Diamant du Cap. By virtue of its position within the Kimberly Mine and the policy it pursued, the French Company impeded any success of future operations by Barnato's company. Consequently Barnato made proposals to the French: but Rhodes had already done likewise and had succeeded in raising the finance necessary for the purchase of the French Company in Paris. Rhodes then laid a trap for his rival. He told Barnato that he could acquire the French Company if he wanted it and would not ask for cash in payment, only the equivalent of the price paid in Kimberly Central's recently issued new shares. By this means Rhodes was able to secure a useful foothold in the form of one-fifth of Kimberly Central's issued capital; all the time this had been his real objective, not the control of the French Company. Barnato acquiesced in his plan, falling right into the trap Rhodes had set for him.
 
 The stage was now set for a titanic battle for the remainder of the Kimberly Central's issued capital. Both Rhodes and Barnato bought recklessly, and at a time when the price of diamonds barely covered the cost of production, the company's shares soared from £14 to £49 within a few months. Eventually Rhodes and his associates could claim to own three-fifths of Kimberly Central's issued capital and Barnato realized he had been beaten. He surrendered in March of 1888, accepting the terms which gave Rhodes the control he had sought. On March 12th, De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited was formerly incorporated. The new company took over assets which represented the whole of the De Beers Mine, three-quarters of the Kimberly Mine and a controlling interest in the Bultfontein and Dutoitspan Mines. Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato were appointed among the company's first Life Governors.
 
 
 
 

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