Nicky Oppenheimer, the South African business magnate, is a name synonymous with diamond mining, having inherited and directed one of the world’s largest diamond mining companies, De Beers.

Early Life

Born on June 8, 1945, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nicky Oppenheimer grew up in a family entrenched in the diamond business. The Oppenheimers have been involved in the diamond industry for several generations. He attended Harrow School in the United Kingdom and later graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. His early years exposed him to the possibilities and complexities of the diamond mining industry, a sector his family dominated.

The Gem of a Decision

After completing his education, Oppenheimer returned to South Africa and joined Anglo American, a company founded by his grandfather, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. His decision to enter the family business was a gem of a choice, setting him on a path to become one of the most influential figures in the diamond industry. His rise was meteoric; he would later become the chairman of De Beers, once controlling approximately 40% of the world’s diamond production.

Major Achievements

  • Chairman of De Beers: Under his leadership, De Beers transitioned into the modern era and maintained a near-monopoly over the global diamond trade.
  • Innovative Marketing: Responsible for iconic marketing campaigns like “A Diamond is Forever.”
  • Conservation Efforts: Founded the Brenthurst Foundation and Oppenheimer Generations, focusing on conservation and philanthropy in Africa.
  • Billionaire Status: Listed as one of the richest people in South Africa and globally with a significant fortune.


Nicky Oppenheimer’s career was not devoid of challenges and controversies. Criticisms have been leveled against De Beers for allegedly unethical practices, including the trade of blood diamonds. Oppenheimer’s legacy is thus a mix of immense business success and lingering questions about ethical responsibility.

Legacy/Current Status

Even after selling his family’s 40% stake in De Beers to Anglo American in 2012, Oppenheimer’s influence on the diamond industry remains profound. His focus has shifted to philanthropic endeavors, especially in the fields of education and conservation in Africa. His family’s legacy, both in diamonds and philanthropy, continues to shine.

Quick Facts

  • Net Worth: $7 billion (estimated as of 2022)
  • Key Companies: De Beers, Anglo American
  • Notable Quote: “In the end, the business that can spend the most to acquire a customer wins.”
  • Did You Know?: Nicky Oppenheimer is an avid cricket fan and owns a private game reserve in South Africa.


Nicky Oppenheimer’s lustrous legacy in the diamond industry is an inextricable part of South Africa’s economic and cultural narrative. As the scion of the Oppenheimer diamond dynasty, his life story is a complex tapestry of immense wealth, power, and influence, but also poses ethical questions about the very industry that brought him fame. Will his efforts in philanthropy and conservation outshine the darker facets of his legacy? Only time will tell.

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