From opulent jewels worn by the rich and famous on red carpet events around the world, to our own, albeit more modest, stud earrings, diamond tennis bracelets and diamond rings that catch the light just right, a diamond’s dazzling facets have mesmerized us through the ages.
Diamonds are referenced in India as early as the 4th century BC. In the Middle Ages, they adorned European royalty and elite. In the 1700s, South America became a major supplier when miners there discovered diamonds while panning for gold. From there, diamonds continued to gain popularity. In the late 1800s through the early 1900s, South Africa became the most important source for rough diamonds and while it has remained a major player still today, other countries have joined in mining the world’s supply of rough diamonds including Australia, Russia, Canada, Botswana and Congo Republic, making diamonds available and more affordable for everyone.
In diamond mining, thousands of tons of rock are blasted for each carat of rough diamonds that are found. 80% of the mined diamonds are not deemed to be of a high enough quality and are instead used for industrial purposes. This is one of the reasons a diamond is a rare and expensive treasure to be cherished. At first glance, a rough diamond looks somewhat like a piece of dirty rock candy. Once it is ascertained that a particular rough diamond is of gemstone quality, the diamond’s journey from its unassuming state and until it’s polished to bright and sparkling perfection would make any traveler envious, as it has likely traveled in and out of at least a few continents.
After they are mined, professional Sorters assess and sort the stones based on their weight, color and clarity. Then they are divided into parcels varying in size and the market price is adjusted according to what was mined that month. Next they are sent to diamond manufacturers in diamond centers around the world. Tel Aviv, New York, Antwerp and Mumbai are among the world leaders in cutting and polishing diamonds.
Once in the hands of the manufacturer, a professional Marker – a person highly skilled in analyzing the stone in order to maximize its fullest polished capacity – marks the stone. These markings serve as a blueprint for the Cleaver, whose job it is to cut the diamond in such a way as to leverage the stone’s natural planes and decide which parts will be cut away while being careful to realize the stone’s full polished potential. This is a highly important phase in the stone’s journey as once the diamond is cleaved and parts of the rough stone discarded, it cannot be undone.
Most polished diamonds are then sent to worldwide diamond labs such as GIA, IGI and AGL. There, each diamond is assessed and given a certificate indicating that it is indeed a natural diamond. Its measurements and characteristics are analyzed and its quality grade according to the 4 C’s – Carat Weight, Cut, Color and Clarity are confirmed. These labs are wholly objective and are not affiliated with any diamond manufacturer and so can therefore provide unbiased diamond grading based solely on the diamond’s physical attributes.
The diamonds are then returned to the manufacturers and wholesalers and sold around the world via diamond brokers. In the diamond industry, deals are often signed and sealed with just a handshake. This is a phenomenon unique to the diamond trade where a handshake is considered a binding contract between diamond dealers, brokers and jewelers everywhere. For now it seems an elbow bump will have to suffice in lieu of shaking hands until we can safely say that Covid-19 is behind us.
Considering all that goes into the creation of a beautiful diamond, it is no wonder that our admiration for diamonds remain, like the diamond itself, timeless and forever.