The Cape Town Diamond Museum
Did you know?
Diamonds are measured in carats. The name comes from the carob seed once used as the standard for weighing precious stones. One carat weighs 0.2 grams.
When a 15-year-old farm boy named Erasmus Jacobs picked up a shiny stone under a tree near a town called Hopetown, on the Orange River in the Northern Cape region of South Africa back in 1867, he had no idea that his discovery was about to spark off an enormous diamond rush.
Or that the diamond, which became known as Eureka, would lead to the establishment of the city of Kimberley.
And that Kimberley, in turn, would lend its name to kimberlite, the rock formed in volcanic pipes in which these precious stones were formed.
You can learn more facts like these and see how diamonds are crafted into beautiful jewellery at the Cape Town Diamond Museum, located on the first floor of the Clock Tower Centre at the V&A Waterfront.
A small display tells you how diamonds became the ultimate romantic gift; about famous characters like Barney Barnato and Cecil John Rhodes, who shaped South Africa’s history; and how to judge the value of a diamond by its clarity, cut, colour and carat.
For a time after the initial discovery of that first South African diamond, 95% of the world’s production took place around Kimberley, at diggings that were as chaotic as they were profitable.
Today things are different. South African sales are strictly regulated to ensure the diamonds are ethically sourced, and the Clock Tower is a good place to do a bit of diamond shopping.
The Cape Town Diamond Museum is a non-profit venture developed by a leading diamond designer, Yair Shimansky, who wanted to give something back to the city.
Once you have been through the formal section of the display, you can enter the workshop (which doesn’t technically form part of the museum) and see highly skilled cutters and polishers behind glass, working on designs patented by Shimansky himself, among them My Girl, Brilliant 10, Evolym (My Love spelled backwards) and Eight Hearts.
After your visit, wander around the Waterfront, have a bite to eat at the water’s edge and contemplate that Eureka moment back in 1867, that was to shape South Africa’s history in fundamental ways.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
The Clock Tower Centre is at the V&A Waterfront close to the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.
Around the area
The Waterfront is one of Cape Town’s major tourist attractions with a host of shops, restaurants and other attractions like the Two Oceans Aquarium. From here, you can also book a trip to Robben Island.
Tours to do
A guide will show you around the display at the museum, particularly if you want to enter the secure area where the diamonds are cut.
Once at the Waterfront, this is pedestrian territory.
What will it cost
A visit to the Diamond Museum is currently free, but a nominal charge of R50 may be introduced.
Length of stay
The museum visit shouldn’t take more than half an hour, but there’s ample to keep you busy for a day at the Waterfront. The museum is open from 9am to 9pm, seven days a week.
What to pack
Your credit card for some retail therapy.
Where to stay
Anywhere in Cape Town.
What to eat
Outside the Clock Tower Centre is Moyo, an African-style restaurant. If you cross the bridge that links this area with the rest of the Waterfront you are spoilt for choice, from fast-food outlets to high-end dining.
Keep an eye on the V&A Waterfront's list of activities.
The V&A Waterfront is an enormous shopping area where you can buy anything from curios to outdoor clothing.