From its formation hundreds of kilometres below the earth’s surface to its brilliant metamorphosis into someone’s cherished engagement ring, the journey of a diamond from mine to ring can take up to 3.3 billion years.
A diamond starts to form when carbon below the earth’s surface grows in kimberlite rock as eight-sided crystals. The extreme heat and pressure placed on the these carbon crystals forms very tight atomic bonds within the crystal, giving the diamond its hardness.
Powerful volcanic activity then pushes the kimberlite and diamond towards the earth’s surface and are mined down the volcanic pipe – the primary sources of the world’s diamond mines.
Mining the Diamond
Diamonds are difficult and costly to mine, but because of demand and the high value, we manage to mine approximately 130 million carats of diamond across the globe annually. However, the vast majority of these diamonds are low-grade, with a only a tiny fraction of these diamonds classified as gem quality.
Although diamonds are found in many different countries, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Namibia, South Africa and Russia account for more than 80 per cent of the world’s deposits.
Diamond Rough is Sorted & Categorised
Once the diamonds have been mined, the next step is to sort, classify and value them across thousands of specific categories. These diamonds are then sold to diamond cutters who polish them.
While diamonds are the world’s hardest mineral, they have cleavage planes that can be split using specialised skills to divide the stone into two faceted jewels. The main diamond cutting and polishing centres can be found in Israel, India and China.
The polishing process is computer controlled, but most of the actual polishing is still performed manually. After the cutter cleaves the original rough into smaller, more workable pieces, the girdler grinds away the stone’s edges to provide its shape. Faceting follows, usually in two steps. Finally, the cut gem is boiled in acids to remove any dust or oil.
The Final Stage – Diamond Wholesalers & Retailers
Once polished, most diamonds are sold and traded via Antwerp (hence the claim that diamonds are polished in Belgium) and other diamond bourses, or direct to wholesalers or manufacturers. There are 24 registered diamond exchanges [bourses] situated across the world.
At this point, the polished gems are ready to be set into finished pieces of jewellery. Diamonds are generally crafted into jewelry commissioned by a retailer or jewellery designer. Manufacturers sometimes also design the jewellery and sell it directly to retailers.
A diamond’s journey is as multifaceted as the finished stone. From the mines of Africa to the cutting factories of India, and finally onto the fingers of women the world over – a diamond’s journey from mine to ring is a remarkable adventure.