For centuries, the only two countries producing diamonds were India and Brazil. Up to the middle of the 19th century, the world supply of diamonds was so scarce that even monarchs and noblemen found it hard to get hold of them. The idea of making diamonds available to the general public seemed unthinkable. When diamonds were first found in South Africa in 1867, however, supply increased rapidly, although the notion of diamonds as a precious and rare commodity remain to the present day. De Beers changed the dynamics of diamonds forever and controlled the diamond trade worldwide for the next 100 years.
De Beers mainly mines gem quality and industrial diamonds, markets diamonds produced by itself and also others, makes and sells synthetic diamond and related international investments in mining, industrial and finance companies. In its worldwide operations, it has assumed many forms.
In London, it operates under the innocuous name of Diamond Trading Company or the famous DTC. In Israel, it is known under the all-embracing mantle of "The Syndicate". In Antwerp, Belgium it is just called the CSO (Central Selling Organization), and in black Africa and India it disguised its South African roots under different names and entities due to apartheid related boycott. In Africa and India it used subsidiaries and names such as Diamond Development Corporation or Mining Services, Inc. or Hindustan Diamond Corporation *through two Bermuda corporations) respectively. At it height, it not only either directly owned or controlled all the diamond mines in South Africa. It also owned diamond trading companies in England, Portugal, Israel, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland
De Beers employs about 24 000 people in 19 countries. This includes a multinational professional exploration team of over 200 earth scientists on 5 continents and in 13 countries, with over 25 joint venture exploration and evaluation projects with a number of companies in many parts of the world. Also company have 20 mines currently in production in Africa and with expertise in every form of mining built up over more than a century. De Beers has the skills to surmount the formidable technical challenges that face us wherever we operate, from deep sea to alluvial and open pit.
In November 2011, Anglo American made the surprise, though not completely unexpected, announcement that the Oppenheimer family was selling its 40 percent stake in De Beers for $5.1 billion to Anglo American. If approved, the deal means Anglo American, which has been De Beers' largest shareholder since it became a private company in 2001, will hold an 85 percent in the diamond mining and marketing firm.