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The Cape Town Diamond Museum
A must-visit hidden gem
Latest update: 9 May 2023
“Do you know why the engagement ring is worn on the left ring finger?” asks my tour guide at the Cape Town Diamond Museum.
CAPE TOWN'S HIDDEN GEM MUSEUM
I shake my head. “The first man to propose with a diamond, Archduke Maximilian,” he explains pointing to a portrait in the museum’s diamond timeline, “believed there’s a vein that runs directly from that finger to the heart. He then presented a diamond engagement ring to his wife-to-be, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477.”
Learn about the diamond industry, the history of diamonds and diamonds in South Africa. Image: Lara Van Zyl
This is just one of the many interesting anecdotes that visitors will be regaled with at the Cape Town Diamond Museum. Situated in the Clock Tower Precinct at the V&A Waterfront, the establishment is the only one of its kind in South Africa.
You can see mining gear, famous diamond replicas, historical artefacts, natural kimberlite and more. Image: Lara Van Zyl
A NEW APPRECIATION OF DIAMONDS
The Cape Town Diamond Museum, a gift from acclaimed jeweller Shimansky to the Mother City, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating a new appreciation of diamonds.
During our visit it was interesting to see “the light switch on” with people in our own CapeTownMagazine.com team, purely because they appreciated the intricacies of diamonds as well as the “the 4 C's” for example. The geek insights made them excited.
It's during the visit to the (small) museum that visitors get a visual and informative overview of the incredible history of the world’s most precious stone: The diamond.
The “Diamonds through the ages” visual timeline reveals some of the key moments in the history of the coveted crystallised carbon creation: From its formation in 3.3 billion BC and the first diamond sighting in India in 2500 BC, to the discovery of the first gem in South Africa, which was made in 1867 by 15-year-old Erasmus Stephanus Jacobs, who unearthed the diamond on the south bank of the Orange River.
Book in advance to avoid disappointment. Image: Lara Van Zyl
Opposite the visual representation are three vitrines that house examples of rocks related to diamonds: There’s kimberlite, in which diamonds are usually found, and pyrope, which is commonly situated near diamond-bearing rock. Other interesting examples include peridotite (the oldest substance known to man) and desert roses (crystals from the Namib Desert).
A small turn around the corner in the middle of the museum reveals the history of diamonds in South Africa – think textbook-like images of the bustling diamond industry in 1870s Kimberley. But the most dazzling display in the museum is a wall dedicated to showcasing life-sized replicas of the world’s most famous diamonds.
See how diamond jewellery is manufactured to the final product. Image: Lara Van Zyl
FAMOUS SOUTH AFRICAN DIAMONDS
There’s the Hope Diamond (reportedly the most valuable stone in the world, apparently worth more than a quarter of a billion US dollars), The Taylor-Burton (the serious bling that actor Richard Burton famously gifted Elizabeth Taylor), and, of course, the Cullinan, the largest rough diamond crystal ever found.
Other fascinating presentations include a mine shaft installation detailing how rough diamonds are transformed into creations of fire and light and a display of historical mining artefacts, such as lamps, sifting pans and even a miner’s lunchbox and mug.
The museum is an accredited and affiliated member of Cape Town Tourism, having achieved the required criteria for membership and offering quality service and a remarkable visitor experience.
SWIPE TO GET FREE ENTRY TO THE MUSEUM
Click on our Instagram post below and scan the QR code (last image) to get free entry to the Cape Town Diamond Museum.
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WHEN TO VISIT THE MUSEUM
The Cape Town Diamond Museum is open seven days a week from 9am to 9pm and entry is R200. Find it on the first floor at The Clock Tower Precinct in the V&A Waterfront.
Read more to find out what you should know about buying diamonds and tanzanite in South Africa.
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT SHIMANSKY
Here's everything you need to know about the Cape Town Ring.
Everything you need to know about buying jewellery and gemstone in Cape Town.
Or read Shimansky's history of diamonds in South Africa.