Diamonds are one of the Earth’s most precious gemstones. These stunning jewels are created from pure carbon in extreme temperatures and pressures, transforming elemental materials into the glittering stones we call diamonds.
It can take anywhere from a few days to millions of years to create a diamond, with each stone carrying its own unique style and story on its journey to our rings, watches, and necklaces. While many diamonds take shape in the Earth’s mantle, there are many places diamonds can be naturally formed, from outer space to specialized diamond labs across the globe.
Let’s take a look at the five places diamonds can form.
90 miles below the Earth, ideal conditions are created for diamonds to grow in. The Earth’s mantle has a minimum of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and around 725,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. When volcanoes erupt, the diamonds move through a kimberlite pipe to reach the Earth’s surface.
The volcanos inside the Earth are much stronger than the volcanos we normally hear about. This force is required to push the diamonds to the top. It takes between one and three billion years for the Earth to go through this entire process.
Next, we have subduction zones that still involve the Earth’s Mantle in a slightly different way. Two tectonic plates collide, and as one falls below the other, it creates a pathway for the diamond to move through.
The same elements are required here and carbon comes from the plates or if carbon rocks fall when the plates collide. These stones are usually small and used only in industrial processes.
Did you know when asteroids come in contact with the Earth, often, there are diamonds inside? There is the perfect amount of heat, pressure, time, and carbon, yet just like the subduction zone, these diamonds are also for industrial use only. Industrial diamonds are known for their durability and are used in drill bits, heat sinks, and X-ray machines. They are actually known for having a lot of inclusions.
Yes, you read that right! Diamonds are in space. When meteoroids collide, nanodiamonds form and will be used as industrial diamond material. With these diamond particles being so small, they will never be used for commercial purposes or in jewelry.
Lab-grown diamonds have been around since the 1950s. It first started with developing the High Pressure High Temperature machine where one diamond is made at a time. Then to the Chemical Vapor Deposition machine, where many diamonds can be made at one time.
Both machines mimic the pressure and heat that’s required. Carbon is then added plus the perfect amount of time the diamond needs to be in the machine to form.
The cremation diamond industry began in 2001 and will play a major role in lab diamonds becoming more of the market share. Eterneva offers personal, lab-grown cremation diamonds which help to eternalize your loved one’s memory.
Where Can We Find Diamonds?
Diamonds were not found in Canada until 1991, in deposits in the Northwest Territories. The largest mines began production in 1998, and are located in remote areas of the country. Therefore, the mining operation can become dangerous during extreme environmental conditions.
The kimberlite pipes are abundant in Canada and this country has produced 11.1 million carats in 2013. The diamonds are considered conflict-free due to the environmental regulations and ethical labor laws practiced and this has led them to be highly sought out. 90% of the stones mined here are gem quality.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
It is hard to say exactly how much is produced in this country because the majority of the mining is completed informally andl, not completed by a big commercial company. Mining operations are controlled by rebels and due to their unconventional practices, these are considered to be conflict diamonds. In 2013, the Democratic Republic of the Congo produced around 12.3 million carats.
Australia’s Argyle mine is known for its fancy colored gemstones used as industrial-grade diamonds. Yet, this mine is almost depleted. The colors they are known for are pink, purple, red, and yellow diamonds. This mine has been producing 12 million carats annually, making the majority of the country’s total of 13.9 million carats.
Botswana has two primary mines, Orapa and Jwaneng, that are responsible for a large volume of rough diamonds. The largest international corporation for diamond mining, De Beers, has a partnership with the Botswana government to operate these two main mines. The physical size of Orapa in Botswana makes it the largest mine in the world. The reserves are at 130 million carats.
In this country, diamonds are jewelry-quality and usually green in color. They are also more large and valuable than the number one producing country of Russia.
Diamonds from Botswana makeupmake up more than half of their exports. Jwaneng produces around 10 million carats annually and the country totals at 20.9 million carats. It is believed that Jwaneng has 166 million carats yet to be mined.
Finally, Russia—the world’s largest producer of diamonds!
Alrosa is the only mining company in the country. Some people believe Russia has the world’s largest reserve of rough diamonds in the Yakutia Region of Northeastern Siberia. Alrosa sells the rough diamonds to manufacturers in Belgium, China, Hong Kong, Israel, and India.
Russia also had the Popigai Asteroid hit their land in 2012 and it is thought to hold trillions of carats. Russia mines about 40 million carats annually with 36.2 million carats coming from the Siberian Region. Sixty-two percent are of gem quality, while the rest are industrial grade.
- The Aikhal mine started out as an open pit, then transformed into an underground mine. This allowed the country to extend its production. It is thought that 176 million carats are yet to be mined here.
- Udachny mine in Russia was also an open put that was made into an underground mine. 164 million carats in the reserves are estimated here.
Diamonds can also be found in Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Sierra Leone.
Even though Namibia accounts for 8.4 million carats annually in the world, making them number nine overall, they actually have the highest price per carat. Their diamonds are mined when deposits wash into the rivers and oceans.
Since this leads to environmental factors coming into play, only the strongest and best quality stones will survive. A diamond with many inclusions will break along the way and not make the full journey.
Black diamonds, or carbonados, are a rare color and were originally found in alluvial deposits only in Central Africa and Brazil. Later, some have even been found in Venezuela and Eastern Australia.
This gem is made up of many smaller crystals that formed together to make one structure. This results in the stone having many fractures, or inclusions. Oftentimes, when a white diamond has a large number of inclusions, it will be heat treated to turn it black.
There are three types of black diamonds: natural, man-made, and treated.
A natural diamond is when the stone is found in an alluvial deposit and will have a high amount of inclusions, but will be hard to see due to its opaque color. Man-made black diamonds are made in a lab, and at Eterneva, it takes about three months to make a black diamond.
If there is a colorless diamond that has a high amount of inclusions, it will be exposed to heat and radiation to turn it into a black stone. That way, the inclusions are not seen on the surface. Treated black diamonds are the most affordable of the three different types.
In Brazil, carbonados were found when miners were in search of gold and stumbled upon the diamonds in the early 1700s. Here there are mainly independent miners that use simple tools like pans to sift through the flowing water in search of the rough diamonds. Documentation in Brazil is not always accurate or accounted for, so it’s hard to say what diamonds have flowed in and out of the country.
Central Africa is known for its conflict diamonds due to the industry being run by rebels. Unofficial miners go to the rivers daily with their picks and shovels to see what rough diamonds they can find to sell to support their families.
Who Cuts and Polishes the Most Diamonds?
Around 90% of the cutting and polishing market is completed in India. This is due to the low cost of labor and favorable regulatory environments. Next, China is the second polisher of diamonds, partly because of the strong domestic demand that they have.
Lab diamonds are actually transforming the industry. Mines can only last for so long and environmental conditions are starting to take a toll with the required amount of energy, effort, and safety to keep tapping into the mines.
Lab diamonds are often less expensive which can be a major factor when someone is looking to buy this stone. This method is also conflict-free, which has become a trend with conscious buyers. About 6.5 million carats are grown in a lab and that number continues to evolve.
The countries that grow lab diamonds are China with 57% of the market, India at 14%, the United States and Singapore at 12% each, then Russia at 2%, and the United Kingdom at 1%.
China actually makes most of their lab-grown gems for the western countries in their High Pressure High Temperature machine. When looking at the overall market share, the US and India often use CVD machines.
Ever Wonder Where Engagement Rings Began?
Long before diamonds were popular, the Egyptians and Romans both had their own way of expressing eternal life with another. Egyptians would use woven reed or leather as a sign of love; whereas, the Roman women were given a ring around a set of keys that symbolized ownership to their husbands.
Fast forward to 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring for their engagement. Throughout centuries, popular engagement rings evolved.
Sometimes other stones were used for the centerpiece, like a ruby, or even the woman’s birthstone. Whatever the stone or setting, it still signified a cherished union and created a lasting love together.
As we can see, diamonds are found all over the world. Sometimes they are mined or lab-grown and the ethical practices vary from country to country. This gem started as a prized jewel in engagement rings that only the wealthy could afford, to the last 20 years honoring a loved one that has passed.
A diamond may have various reasons for being worn, yet the quality and integrity of the stone will always remain the same.