As an engagement or wedding ring, or other types of high-end jewelry, diamonds are the number one sought-for gemstones.
However, surprisingly, not a lot of people know where they come from and how they are mined in this world.
Today, we will be discussing how diamonds are created in nature, their uses, mining methods and some background on diamonds.
There are only a few countries where diamonds are produced naturally.
Diamonds are a mineral made up of carbon. Carbon is found in something we’re more familiar with, “graphite”. Graphite is the material found inside a mechanical pencil core.
The presence of magma and an accompanying eruption is fundamental in the diamond creation process and is what turns carbon into diamonds.
There is a high-temperature and high-pressure environment inside the earth.
The earth consists of a mantle (a layer covering the nucleus forming the earth), and magma (a substance in which the solid part of the earth is melted by high temperatures).
Diamonds are born when the carbon, which was in such a high-temperature and high-pressure environment, is suddenly pushed up to the surface of the earth by an eruption, and then cooled instantly.
If it had been cooled slowly, diamonds would never have been made and all diamonds would have been black lumps of coal or the like.
Let’s take a look at a few places where diamonds are naturally produced.
Where Are Diamonds Found in Africa?
Diamonds in Botswana
Botswana is actually the second largest producer of natural diamonds, with production of 20.7M carats of diamonds.
While it is not the largest producer of natural diamonds in the world, Botswana is the highest producer of diamonds by value in the world.
Diamonds in Angola
Angola is the third largest diamond producer in Africa, thanks to the country’s large and diversified mining resources.
Angola has a production of 9.0M carats of diamonds.
Diamonds in South Africa
Africa has the most concentration of volcanic pipes that are necessary for diamonds to be transported from the Earth’s centre to the surface.
Due to this geological coincidence, South Africa has a production of 7.2M carats of diamonds.
Diamonds in Namibia
Namibia is 9th on the world’s top 10 diamond-producing countries, with production amounting to 2.1M carats.
Diamonds in The Democratic Republic of Congo
Congo is the second largest diamond producer in all of Africa. This may be a surprise to some, but almost all diamond mining in the Congo is done by hand.
Diamonds in Zimbabwe
The Marange diamond fields is located in Zimbabwe and is considered to be the world’s largest diamond producing project in the world by some mining experts.
However, production from this field is controversial due to ongoing legal and political issues surrounding allegations of forced labour.
Where Are Diamonds Found in North America?
Diamonds in Canada
Diamonds were not discovered in Canada until the early 1990s.
The first diamond to be mined in Canada was in 1998.
Canadian diamonds are highly regarded as Canadian diamond mines are conflict-free and have one of the highest environmental standards in the world.
Canadian diamonds undergo a rigorous certification process that allows the stone to be tracked from the mine to the end user.
Canada is 5th on the world’s top 10 diamond-producing countries.
Diamonds in the United States
Although the United States is one of the world’s largest consumer of diamonds, there are not a lot of diamonds produced domestically.
The only active diamond mine in the US is in Arkansas.
Where Are Diamonds Found in Asia?
Diamonds in Russia
Russia is the world’s leading producer of diamonds with a natural production of 41.9M carats.
A massive asteroid impact that occurred about 35 million years ago has created both the country and the world’s largest diamond deposit.
Russia has the world's largest diamond deposit. Known as the Popigai Crater, the impact from this asteroid was so powerful that it vaporized rocks. This flash formation transformed graphite in the area into diamonds.
Where Are Diamonds Found in Oceania?
Diamonds in Australia
Australia is 4th on the world’s top 10 diamond-producing countries, with production amounting to 13.6M carats.
* Data is as of 2018
** The above data is the most up to date at the present time, the total amount mined in the world at the time was 25.4 tons of diamond.
Are Diamonds Different Depending on Their Country of Origin?
Unfortunately, even with state-of-the-art laboratories, it is not possible to identify a diamond’s geographical origin.
However, diamonds do differ depending on their country of origin.
While Russia is the world’s leader in the volume of natural diamonds produced, Botswana is the largest diamond producer by value.
There can be differences in the quality of diamonds produced depending on the diamond’s country of origin.
Certain countries have higher environmental standards that protects miners and the overall industry.
Purchasing conflict-free diamonds ensure that the diamonds are mined, produced and shipped without connection to any rebel or terrorist groups.
How Are Natural Diamonds Made?
How Are Diamonds Formed?
Diamonds are formed in the Earth’s crust in a high temperature and high pressure environment.
The intense heat and pressure caused carbon atoms to form into diamonds inside the Earth.
Molten magma form and expand in the Earth’s mantle.
The rapid expansion forces the magma out of the Earth and onto its surface.
Diamond-bearing rocks are ejected out of this eruption and forms pipes to the surface, called Kimberlite pipes.
The name, Kimberlite, comes from the South African town in which diamonds were first discovered in this type of rock.
How Are Diamonds Used?
When speaking of diamond usage, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is the jewelry in a jewelry store.
However, this only makes up a fraction of the diamonds mined.
Surprisingly, about 80% of the diamonds are used in industrial settings.
Diamond as Jewelry
Diamonds used in the jewelry industry only make up about 15-20% of the diamonds mined.
This number include cheaper, accessory-quality diamonds.
So, if we are looking only at fine jewelry, this number is much smaller than 15-20%.
The reason why diamonds are used for industrial purposes is that it has the highest hardness among the other natural resources on earth.
Another feature is that it is an electrical insulator, meaning it does not conduct electricity, and is also an excellent heat conductor.
These features make it an important material in various fields, such as abrasives, cutter blades, grindstones, drills, and parts for electrical appliances, etc.
How Are Diamonds Mined?
Although there are various methods for mining diamonds, there are currently two main methods of mining.
Pipe Mines: Primary Deposit
Since diamonds are closely related to volcanic eruptions, pipes called Kimberlite pipes are formed when diamond-bearing rocks are ejected out of the Earth’s mantle and onto its surface.
These pipes are called pipe mines.
The actual mining method is to collect the crushed Kimberlite by setting explosives, or to carry out the excavated material using a tool such as a drill.
However, only 10-20% of the diamonds found in kimberlite are of gem quality.
Alluvial Deposits: Secondary Deposits
Kimberlite, which was found in the primary deposit, becomes gravel due to natural weathering and erosion over a long period of time.
Some of them flow into rivers and the sea.
In the case of alluvial deposits, kimberlite is piled up on the bottom of the river to form a deposit due to gravity. Also, what has flown into the sea is washed up on the coast and deposited, forming a deposit.
Since the mining method is not as large as that of a pipe mine, power shovels, bulldozers, and vacuum suction equipment are used to collect gravel containing diamonds.
However, the probability of actually getting diamonds is lower than that of primary deposits, and it is said to be about 1 in 100 million can be used as gemstones.
It was from this drift sand that humanity first encountered diamond.
Major Mining Companies of the World
Thanks to mining companies, retail consumers can get their hands on diamond jewelry.
Namely, there are two large mining companies in the world that are key players in the diamond industry: De Beers and Alrosa.
You’ve probably heard of them.
De Beers SA
De Beers SA is a South African diamond mining and producing company.
They are the largest producer and distributor of diamonds. At the start of the 21st century, they supplied 40% of the world’s demand for diamonds for both jewelry and industrial use.
The De Beer brothers discovered the first diamond on their farm in the mid 1800s.
In 1871, an English entrepreneur bought the claim to the De Beers mined and incorporated De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd to keep prices steady and demand growing.
Alrosa is a Russian diamond mining group that specializes in all mining, producing, distributing and sales of diamonds.
Alrosa accounts for 95% of Russia’s diamond production.
The company was incorporated fairly recently, 28 years ago.
But have a history dating back to the 1950s when the first primary Kimberly deposit of diamonds were found in the Soviet Union.
Try Your Hand at Mining
You’ve learned about where to find diamonds and how to find them.
Let’s put your textbook knowledge to use!
The Crater of States Park in Arkansas, US, is a great hands-on way to learn about the diamond mining process.
This is one of the only places in the world where the public can search for real diamonds.
Whatever you find is yours to keep!
It is reported that 1 in every 250 visitors will find a diamond.
209 State Park Rd
Murfreesboro, AR 71958