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Jules Porgès in Prague 1875
Jules Porgès with wife Anna and daughter
Jules Porgès and family at Chateau de Rochefort 1875


Jules Porgès (25 May 183920 September 1921) was a Paris-based financier who played a central role in the rise of the Randlords who controlled the diamond and gold mining industries in South Africa.

He was born Yehuda Porges in Viennamarker and raised in Praguemarker, where his father was a jeweller. He settled in Paris in the early 1860s and established himself as a diamond trader, through his company Jules Porgès & Cie.

He recognised early the significance of the diamond finds in South Africa, and in 1873 sent two of his younger staff, Alfred Beit and Julius Wernher to South Africa as his firm's representatives. He arrived in Kimberleymarker himself in 1876 and continued their work in consolidating claims, financing deals and marketing stones, so that his firm Compagnie Française de Diamant du Cap de Bonne Espérance gained a significant portion of the Kimberley mine.

He saw the benefit of Cecil Rhodesmarker's attempt to consolidate the disparate mining holdings, and sold the Compagnie Française to De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1887. He was also instrumental in the negotiations that led to Rhodes buying the Kimberley Central Mining Company (the stake of Barney Barnato).

With the discovery of gold in South Africa, at Barbertonmarker and then Witwatersrandmarker he turned his attention to gold mining and acquired stakes in many mining claims in and around Johannesburgmarker and developed the financial structures that enabled their exploitation. With Beit and Wernher, and other partners including Hermann Eckstein and Eduard Lippert he was the founder of the mining and financial group known as the "Corner House" whose offices were on a corner at the site of Market Square in Johannesburg and whose name was also a pun on "Eckstein", "corner stone" in German.

In 1890, he largely retired from South African business, and his interests were taken over by the firm of Wernher, Beit & Co.

He built a large château at Rochefort-en-Yvelinesmarker just outside Paris for his wife and daughter and maintained a Paris townhouse on the Avenue Montaigne, where he housed his important art collection.

He died in Paris in 1921, having outlived many of his protegé Randlords.

Sources

  • Dictionary of South African Bibliography (Pretoria, 1983)


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