Diamond Industry Stages / Processes

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Diamond Industry Stages / Processes

Key Takeaways:

  • The first process in the diamond value chain is the exploration of the possibility of the existence of diamond deposits underneath the earth's surface.
  • The next step in the diamond value chain is mining.
  • Producers then inspect the rough diamonds and classify them based on their shape, quality, size, or color. Only about 20-25% of rough diamonds are considered gem quality. The rest are used for industrial purposes.

Introduction:

  • This report provides the requested information on the diamond industry stages/processes.

Selected Findings

Natural Diamond Industry Value Chain

Exploration

  • Openings, or 'pipes,' are formed in the ground due to strong volcanic activities that force minerals such as Kimberlite, and some diamonds, to the earth's surface. Most diamonds that come up this way "settle back into the kimberlite rocks" in those pipes.
  • The first process in the diamond value chain is the exploration of the possibility of the existence of diamond deposits underneath the earth's surface. This can be achieved by searching for Kimberlite and Lamproite pipes, among others, by testing for magnetic field changes on the ground. Also, Kimberlite indicator minerals can be traced back to their origin and the pipes are explored for diamond existence and exploration potential.
  • Notably, only a small portion of Kimberlite pipes have diamonds, and even fewer are commercially viable. Therefore, only viable mines are selected. While diamonds are found in several locations worldwide, South Africa, Russia, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Canada, Botswana, and Australia account for about 80% of the global diamond supply.
  • Apart from onshore Kimberlite pipes, some diamonds may travel by river and others may be found in the deep ocean where Kimberlite pipes are found underwater or stones are deposited by rivers into the ocean.

Mining

  • The next step in the diamond value chain is mining. The following are the extraction methods commonly used:
    • Underground mining: This refers to the varied techniques used to extract minerals, ore bodies, and gems by tunneling underground to find deposits.
    • Open-pit mining: This is extracting minerals or rock from the earth's surface by removing them from open pits, which are cuts or excavations at the ground surface. The method is used when mineral deposits are in Kimberlite pipes or close to the surface.
    • Alluvial mining: This occurs on riverbeds and beaches where water currents and erosion have deposited Kimberlite deposits. Diamond is sifted from the sand.
    • Marine mining: Advances in technology have made it possible to excavate diamonds from seabeds and, today, marine mining is commercially viable.
    • After mining, the diamond-containing ore is put through various stages of crushing, blasting, and processing to release diamonds. Only about one carat of rough diamond is extracted from approximately 250 tons of ore.

Sorting

  • Producers then inspect the rough diamonds and classify them based on their shape, quality, size, or color. Only about 20-25% of rough diamonds are considered gem quality. The rest are used for industrial purposes.
  • Moscow, London, and Antwerp are the major sales points for rough diamonds. Diamonds are mainly sold "through the sight-holder system, in which a selected group of verified buyers is allowed to purchase the rough." They can also be sold through spot sales and auctions.
  • Alrosa, De Beers, Rio Tinto, and Dominion Diamond Corporation are the largest rough diamond suppliers globally.

Cutting and Polishing

  • The following processes are involved in this step:
    • Planning: Experts carefully plan how the rough diamond will be cut with minimal waste.
    • Cleaving: This involves using a laser machine to cut the rough diamond into several pieces.
    • Bruting: Also, known as girdling, the rough diamond is then made into a shape close to the final shape. This is usually done by grinding two rough diamonds together.
    • Polishing and Blocking: This involves forming "facets in the diamond." Blocking involves "a standard template for the rough diamond by polishing eight pavilion main facets, eight crown facets, and one table facet." Next is the 'brillianteering' process whereby the remaining facts are added to form 57 facets.
    • Inspecting: An expert then reviews the diamond's cut using a magnifying glass. They are then graded and certified in different labs.

Jewelry Manufacturing

  • Next, Jewelry manufacturers design beautiful jewelry pieces in form of rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, among others. India, China, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Thailand, and the United States are major manufacturing countries.

Retailing

  • Finally, diamond jewelry is sold to either wholesalers or directly to retailers. Asia Pacific, China, Europe, p, and the U.S. are the major diamond jewelry markets.

Synthetic/Lab Diamonds

  • While lab diamonds look and feel similar to natural diamonds, their method of formation and processing is quite different. They are "man-made diamonds made under very similar conditions of very high pressure and high temperature" by crystallizing a diamond seed for weeks. The cut is then polished and sold to wholesalers or retailers.

Research Strategy

To provide the requested information, the research team has leveraged information from industry players. We have used some older sources but they have been corroborated by newer ones.

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