How a diamond gets from mine to jewellery store
on 30 November 2015
Diamonds are already among the most cherished items on Earth, but learning about what's involved in getting these precious stones from the ground to your jewellery could give you even more appreciation. Knowing where your diamonds come from will also give you confidence that they are ethically sourced.
How diamonds form
Diamonds are some of the oldest objects on Earth, formed approximately 3 billion years ago under extreme temperatures and pressures over 100 miles below ground. Over the eons, some diamonds found their way up to the surface through volcanic pipes, with some being deposited in rivers and oceans but most settling inside kimberlite rock.
Only around 1 in 200 kimberlite pipes contains enough diamonds to make mining a commercially viable option, as extracting a single carat of rough diamond requires over 250 tons of ore. More than 120 million carats of rough diamond are processed every year.
Modern technologies have made diamond identification and extraction more precise, including x-rays and more accurate blasting methods.
2. Sorting and selling
After rough diamonds have been extracted from the Earth, they enter the extensive process of sorting, classifying and valuation.
Most of the world's diamonds are sorted by DTC, part of DeBeers, and organised according to some 16,000 distinct categories depending on their size, quality and suitability. These rough diamonds are then sold in bulk to cutting and polishing firms or sold directly to manufacturers.
Around 20 percent of diamonds are certified gem quality and fit for jewellery, with 80 percent being suitable for industrial use.
3. Cutting and polishing
At this stage, even the best quality diamonds are still embedded inside rough stone and need to be carefully cut and polished to reveal their true brilliance without losing precious material.
The world's leading cutting centres are located in Antwerp, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York and Tel Aviv, which utilise the latest computer and laser technologies. After cutting and polishing, diamonds are graded and officially documented, ready for private sale.
4. Manufacturing and selling
The finished diamonds are now ready to be set into jewellery and other items, which may be done by wholesalers or by jewellery sellers themselves to cut out the middle man. The process from sorting to retail takes around 5 months.
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