6 March 2015 Archived
A historic diamond brooch, belonging to Colonel Sir David Harris, pioneer of the South African diamond industry, director of de Beers, Barney Barnato's first cousin and close friend of Cecil John Rhodes, will go under the hammer in Cape Town on Monday 16 March at Strauss & Co's auction. Originally a gift from Colonel Sir David Harris to his wife, Rosa Gabriel of Pomerania (Prussia), whom he married in 1873, it is estimated to fetch R400 000 - 450 000.
Colonel Sir David Harris, KCMG, VD, soldier, statesman, pioneer and ‘grand old man’ of Kimberley was born in London in 1852, one of seven children from a modest Jewish family. In 1871, at the age of 19, lured by tales of fortunes made on the Cape diamond fields, he borrowed £150 from his mother (her life savings) and set sail for South Africa. His funds depleted, and unable to afford the £30 to go by post cart, he completed the 600 mile journey from Durban to the diamond fields on foot. Once there Harris found success as a prospector, digger, dealer and soldier, ever-active in the defence of his adopted home town of Kimberley.
His ‘unquenchable faith, courage and organising ability’ soon attracted the attention of Cecil John Rhodes who was to become a friend and who, in 1897, after the death of Harris’s cousin Barney Barnato, insisted that Harris take Barnato’s seat in parliament. Harris, as a fierce Independent, remained a popular member of the Cape legislature until his retirement some thirty-two years later.It was Rhodes too, who invited him to take a seat on the board of the recently formed De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd in the same year, a position he held for forty years.
Throughout his career Harris maintained his love for Kimberley and was instrumental in its defence: firstly as a volunteer in the Diamond Fields Horse and the Kimberley Regiment and later as the commander of the Town Guard during the siege of Kimberley for which he was awarded the CMG and knighted in 1911. Harris died in 1942 and is remembered in an obituary as being ‘held in the highest esteem and affection by all with whom he came into contact (…) his name will be remembered as one of the most devoted sons of South Africa’.
Harris’s love for the country, and in particular Kimberley and its people, was shared by his wife, Rosa, whom he had met on board ship on a return journey from England in 1872. They married a year later and she became as widely known in the town as her husband, beloved for her ‘charming courteous personality, entirely free from affectation’ and her tireless efforts for charitable causes with ‘her ever active desire to be of some assistance to the poor and the distressed’.
This strong sense of duty and service is one that was shared by their daughter, Phoebe, an untiring philanthropist, and her daughter, Rosa Anne, who was a founder member of Save the Children (Cape) and the organisation’s chairlady for 30 years. The current owners, in keeping with the philanthropic heritage attached to this brooch, have indicated their intention to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Cape Branch of Save the Children.
Description of Lot 32:
Composed of seven flowerheads, the centre claw-set with an old brilliant-cut diamond weighing approximately 3.20 carats, enclosed by yellow and white old brilliant- and old European-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 10.80 to 11.30 carats, mounted in gold and platinum, width approximately 37mm
Colonel Sir David Harris, K.C.M.G. V.D., (1852 - 1942), pioneer of the South African diamond industry, director of de Beers for 40 years, distinguished financier, soldier and politician. This brooch was a gift to his wife, Rosa Gabriel of Pomerania (Prussia), whom he married in 1873. Thence by descent to the present owners.
Lot 32 Victorian diamond brooch is scheduled for auction on Monday 16 March, Session One.
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