Ever wondered how diamonds became a symbol of love and eternity?
For hundreds of years, diamonds had been mined from secondary sources like rivers and mud pools. Nobody knew where or how these diamonds came from until diamond pipes were discovered in South Africa during the 1870s.
As it turns out, the source of rough diamonds found along river beds came from inland kimberlite pipes when rain washed them into the rivers and sea. As more discoveries of kimberlite pipes were made during the 18th century, a “diamond rush” ensued.
Back then, mining was a dangerous and labor intensive task. There were little safety guidelines in place and the overcrowding of people and equipment made diamonds mines a precarious workplace.
Diamond diggings at Kimberley Kopje in 1872. Noticed the ropes extending into the mine?
Transport equipment used to carry buckets of ore and crushing machinery.
Mining for diamonds is a dangerous job. Any mistakes could lead to fatalities.
If you think about it, a diamond is made of exactly the same material found in everyday items like pencil leads and charcoal. But why is the same material that makes up the black looking carbon so different and in a diamond? What is the reason behind the unique properties of diamonds that turn them into gorgeous ornaments and sparkling jewelry?
Well, from a scientific point of view, it is the special covalent bonding between carbon atoms that makes diamond behave differently from lead or charcoal. In a diamond, the atoms are arranged in a tetrahedral structure and this gives the diamond extreme properties in strength.
Well, from a scientific point of view, it is the special covalent bonding between carbon atoms that makes diamond behave differently from lead or charcoal.
What do diamonds look like when found?
When diamonds were first discovered, they were widely used in religious ceremonies by priests. In fact, they were believed to possess supernatural powers that could ward off evil and offer spiritual protection. In the Dark Ages, diamonds were used for medicinal purposes. People actually swallowed diamonds in the hope of curing certain diseases and ailments.
The development of polishing technology has led to increased usage of diamonds in jewelry in the 19th century. At first, diamonds were only reserved for the upper class and the royalty because of their costs.
With the discovery of vast diamond bearing pipes, supply increased significantly and diamonds were made available to the general public in the form of engagement rings. As a result, the industry reached new heights and contributed to an important part of worldwide economy.
In the present day, the industry is divided into two main groups. One that is largely targeted at industrial needs and the other which is targeted at the jewelry market. Interestingly, Debeers is often credited for its huge role in marketing diamonds to consumers and driving fanatical demand.
Artisanal miners working along a river bed.
Throughout history, Africa had always been a great source of diamonds. Yet, despite the wealth that the resource can provide, there had been widespread corruption and poor governmental management. People are still living in poverty and suffering from the aftermath brought about by unethically sourced diamonds.
At present, there are regulations in place that control how diamonds can be obtained, especially in Africa. The Kimberly process was formed by a coalition of countries to make sure rough stones produced in countries of Africa are not “blood diamonds”.
With the introduction of better prospecting techniques, sources were discovered in other parts of the world. Other significant producers include countries like Canada, Russia, Australia, Botswana, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Siberia.
Today, diamonds from these countries have found their way into the international market and some of these mines had gain recognition for specialty diamonds. For example, Australia’s Argyle mine is famous for its production of pink color diamonds while the African based mines are sources of some of the biggest sized diamonds in the world.
Sure, there are issues like diminishing supply and conflict diamonds that still plague the industry. There are also controversies and environmental issues that are tagged to diamond mining.
However, with ongoing efforts to find new sources of diamonds and ethical mining regulations, I believe the future prospects for the industry look very optimistic. To wrap things up, I hope this article has given you some insights into diamond origins and how the industry has evolved overtime.