History Of Diamonds
The history of diamonds begins in India, where diamonds were first discovered and pulled from the country’s rivers and streams. Historians estimate the people of India were trading diamonds as early as 400 BC, around the same time the Persian empire collapsed.
Limited technology, and access to the resource meant a very limited market for diamonds making them highly sought after. As such they were mostly reserved for the wealthiest members of India’s upper class.
As trade markets opened up, buying and selling of exotic materials became more prevalent in Europe and the rest of the known world. By the early 14th century diamonds had become the most sought after accessory for Europe’s elite. This growing demand put more pressure on the operations to recover and produce diamonds in India. With a declining mineral reserve base, India’s diamond supply began to slow, and in the early 17th century Brazil emerged as the primary producer. Brazil would go on to supply the majority of the world’s diamonds until the mid 18th century when explorers unearthed the world’s first large scale diamond deposits.
By this time, war, revolution, expansion, and political upheaval had changed the distribution of wealth, and global markets. This opened up the market to a larger population and demand for the stones skyrocketed.
The modern diamond market in effect began on the African continent, with the 1866 discovery of diamonds in Kimberley, South Africa. It was this discovery that led Cecil Rhodes to established De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in 1888. By 1900, De Beers controlled 90 percent of the world’s production of rough diamonds.
Up until their discovery in Africa the majority of the world’s diamonds were found in Placer or Alluvial deposits. This refers to a process where host rock containing the rough diamonds is eroded away over time by streams and rivers and the diamonds are deposited in sediment. The African deposits were very different, these were solid rock formations containing diamonds. This affected many components of the diamond production process as diamond mining moved from the surface, underground.
In the beginning this style of mining was at a large cost and produced very low yields, but the diamonds were there, and the new source forced the development of more efficient mining techniques. Over time yields increased creating the need for more efficient cutting and polishing, which helped reduce costs, and provide a better finished product. In the late 1800s, the annual production of rough diamond was under a million carats. By the late 1920s, rough diamond production had grown to over three million, by the 1970’s, annual production approached 50 million carats.
In 1982, a new mine in Botswana began producing high-quality diamonds, and not soon after their opening, De Beers contracted with their government to buy the mine’s production and Botswana began building its own local industry. This would prove to be the trend for the next thirty years seeing new mines open in Australia in 1985 and important new deposits in northern Canada in 2000. In 2013 Approximately 130,000,000 carats (26,000 kg) of diamonds were mined, with a total value of nearly US$9 billion.
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