I am just a bee, going around picking at flowers and bringing honey to De Beers...
-- One of De Beers' customers
De Beers, the South African colossus that dominates the business, stretches an intricate and close-knit worldwide diamond network that operates in some respects on a vast industrial scale and in others like a medieval guild. The torrent of stones that circulates through the network moves along a path referred to as "the pipeline" from mines to dealers to polishing factories to jewelers to the necks and fingers of customers—a journey that takes somewhere between one and two years. There are many inlets to this pipeline: vast open pits in the Arctic Circle and the Kalahari Desert, deep underground tunnels, even floating mines out in the South Atlantic.
For more than 100 years, the name De Beers has evoked all glamour and mystery radiated by a diamond. Through shrewd marketing and careful manipulation of the market, the South African company. For more than 100 years, the name De Beers has evoked all glamour and mystery radiated by a diamond. Through shrewd marketing and careful manipulation of the market, the South African company has parlayed these pieces of crystallized carbon into multi-billion-dollar-a-year business empire.
When a gang of thieves with a stolen bulldozer plowed into London's Millennium Dome in November 2000 to steal a 203-carat diamond from a display sponsored by De Beers, Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers's chairman, hailed the botched heist as wonderful publicity. "If only we could do this once every six months. We could do away with the advertising department altogether."
De Beers has been truly a family affair. Built around the twin pillars of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. and Angelo American Corporation of South Africa, the Oppenheimer dynasty controls most of the world's diamond mining and trade and is one of the biggest multi-nationals. They are the world's leading diamond producers and virtually control diamond mining and diamond supply to the world to date. The De Beers company has been a power unto itself since its founding in 1888. In the decades since, it has left no borders - geopolitical or ideological - stand in its way of profit. De Beers mines and markets gem-quality and industrial diamonds.
Although the fucntions of the De Beers corporation are still the same like in the Cecil B. Rhodes's times, the company is tightly controlled by the Oppenheimers and their relatives.