A Diamond in the Rough
The story behind the stone
Above: A shard from a much larger diamond found about 55 miles north of Kimberley (as the crow flies), South Africa.
How I Found It And It Ended Up Here
Back in 1987 when I worked for Armscor and military contractors, there was one large base in the centre of South Africa where I installed the new security computers and software I had written. The day I found the stone was much like any other except I was performing final checks, commissioning and actual lethal fence inspection.
I arrived at the base with all my emulators and computers early in the morning to ensure I had time to do the work. Unfortunately, the operations room door was locked, the CSO had not yet come onto the base or was still with the base CO. I have a tendency to “fidget” when I am waiting and I started kicking the tailings around from our conduit trench cuts (to lay power and communications cables) for the base lethal security system.
Now, one thing you have to understand about the Warrenton/Jan Kempdorp area is that it has an inordinate number of lightening strikes per month, like 13 per square kilometre. So we had to bury all of our cables to protect the security system, but the trenches were only dug about 2 feet down and ran from the ops room to each Remote Indication and Control Unit (RICU). Why anyone would build an ammunition depot on a diamond field in an area with 13 lightening strikes per kilometre, I have no clue, but they did it. Maybe however it was to protect the natural resources that were buried only a few feet under the ground, there may have been method to their madness.
I don’t know a lot about diamonds, but when I found this dull stone in the ground I thought, “Naw, it couldn’t be.” But I proceeded to drag it along the passenger side of the windshield of my rented VW Westfalia. Much to my shock, it left a rather deep an onerous grove. I though, “Ok, sure it is” and still didn’t believe it, but I threw it in my pocket and forgot about it. After all I was there to do a job and do the job, I would. I finished the commissioning and site inspection around 4pm and headed off down the highway for home in Johannesburg (Germiston).
I arrived in Germiston around 10pm that night, I was dead tired so I took a shower and got into bed. I didn’t even think about the stone. However, the next morning when I threw on my pants, I felt it in my back pocket, I of course removed it and showed it to my wife. I let her cut some glass with it, she immediately wanted to sell it.
Now, I am an engineer and a physicist, I am not a diamond expert and am not networked in that field, so I just told her to leave it alone, we’ll worry about it later. She put it in one of my old shaving kits and she and I forgot about it, her because she was bringing up our daughter and trying to get pregnant and me, well, I had too much work and people had a bad habit of shooting at me when I was on site. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about anything but my work and staying alive.
When I left South Africa in 1990, we had both forgotten all about the stone. We packed all our belongings and had them shipped to Canada. In the process, my gun safe, permanent residence papers, honorary doctorate from Wits and the most important thing, one pair of handcuffs were stolen. But the stone wasn’t, it was in the old shaving kit, not in the gun safe. Of course the theft was reported to the RCMP at the Airport, but nothing ever came of it.
In 1991 once our belongings arrived from South Africa we found the stone again. I took it to a cutter in Downsview to test it and see about making a pair of large earrings. He did his analysis, confirmed it was a diamond with a weight of 28 carats, examined it for inclusions and gave me a price of $250 a carat to cut the stone ($7,000) in India or $400 a carat ($12,000) for New York. I had barely gotten out of South Africa alive with my family and very little money, so that was out of the question. If the Canadian Administrative Consul in Pretoria, R. A. J. (Adrian) Brazeau, helped us rather than put my entire family in harm’s way, I might have made it out with enough money to have the stone cut, but that’s not what happened (rather, I had to pay dearly to get us all out and use every covert connection I could find). I put the stone away again, thinking that one day, I would be able to cut it, as my research contracts were getting more profitable as time went on.
We found the stone again in 1996 after a move to the house we eventually bought in Ajax. We had to sort through everything to decide what to keep and what to pitch and there it was, definitely not pitch-able. I put the stone in a safe place and forgot about it again. As always I had far too much work to do, maintaining my research contracts and business ventures, so it sat collecting dust in one of my parts cases.
We sold the house in 2007 and when my wife an I sorted through our things, hers and mine, I found the stone again. This time however, I have decided to do something with it, eg., sell it, because now it is just collecting dust in one of my safety deposit boxes and I’ll never spend $28k to have it cut ($990 per carat). I would have to stand over the cutter day and night and make sure it wasn’t switched and I just won’t do that.
So, that’s my story on how and where I got the stone, and how it came here with me.
Just an end note: Now a little bit of the evidence of my past is gone. The stone was sold in 2007 after extensive tests. What the buyer does with it their business, but I am hoping they follow my original plan and cut it into large earrings rather than a couple of dozen one carat stones.