Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Rhodes To Empire

Great wealth to many is an end in itself. For Cecil John Rhodes, it was the means to an end. An imperial rather than a material man, Rhodes sought wealth so he could fulfill his vision of British Empire. In his efforts to finance that vision, he also played a lead role in the 19th century development of South African diamond mining and the modern diamond industry. Now he and his vision are making news again.

Once admired among the colonial movers and shakers of the British Empire, today Rhodes is recognized for his role in the oppression of Africans, for taking their right to vote, their land and their wealth from them, and for his rabid racism during his lifetime. In 2015, students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa succeeded in having his statue removed.

Following worldwide Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of the May 25 death of George Floyd in the U.S., the U.K.’s Oxford University, Rhodes’s alma mater and administrator of the scholarship that bears his name, plans to take down another monument. According to the U.K. source The Guardian online, in June Oxford’s Oriel College “voted in favour of removing its statue of the Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes and will set up an independent inquiry into the key issues around it following a student-led campaign that began four years ago.”

Sickly and Single Minded

The stories of Rhodes and largescale diamond mining begin more than 150 years earlier. Born on July 5, 1853, Rhodes was the fifth son of 12 children belonging to an English vicar. Rhodes was never well; his heart and lungs gave him trouble all his life. He was an unremarkable student and poor in sports. In fact, biographer Brian Roberts points out that Rhodes’s scholarly and personal shortcomings would have made him ineligible for the Rhodes scholarships that Rhodes established in his will.

Rhodes made few friends at school. Even as he grew older, he did not invite intimacy. By the time he was 30, he was called the “old man,”

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