Ernest Oppenheimer

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Ernest Oppenheimer (right) (Amsterdam, 1945)

Sir Ernest Oppenheimer (22 May 1880 – 25 November 1957) was a diamond and gold mining entrepreneur, financier and philanthropist, who controlled De Beers and founded the Anglo American Corporation of South Africa.


He was born in Friedberg, Germany, the son of Edward Oppenheimer, a cigar merchant. Oppenheimer began his working life at 17, when he entered Dunkelsbuhler & Company, a diamond brokerage in London. His efforts impressed his employer and in 1902, at the age of 22, he was sent to South Africa to represent the company as a buyer in Kimberley, where he eventually rose to the position of mayor.

In 1927, he 'managed to wrest' control of Cecil Rhodes' De Beers empire and built and consolidated the company's global monopoly over the world's diamond industry until his retirement.

He was involved in a number of controversies, including price fixing, antitrust behaviour and an allegation of not releasing industrial diamonds for the US war effort during World War II.[1][2]

He died in Johannesburg in 1957. He was born into a Jewish family, but as an adult, he converted to Anglicanism and was buried at St George's Church, Parktown. He was succeeded in the business by his son Harry Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer's brother, Sir Bernard Oppenheimer, was also heavily involved in the diamond industry.

In 1964, the Oppenheimer Diamond was named in his honour by its owner, Harry Winston, who donated the stone (not a gem, as it remains uncut and unpolished) to the Smithsonian Institution as a memorial.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Janine P. Roberts (2003). Glitter & Greed. The Disinformation Company. ISBN 0-9713942-9-6. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  2. ^ Theodor Emanuel Gregory (1977). Ernest Oppenheimer and the Economic Development of Southern Africa. Arno Press. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Cecil Rhodes
Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines
circa 1925–1957
Succeeded by
Harry Oppenheimer