MonthMay 2015

The Untold Story of Diamonds: The Gem that Globalized Trade & Business

Diamonds have long been believed to be every woman’s best friend. Not only that. These timeless sparklers represent the delicate-but-tantalizing stare a woman gives her man; her flawlessness and finesse; and, her classic beauty. The very same qualities which enamoured her to the man who holds her dear.

Before you put a ring on your lady love’s finger, wouldn’t you want to know more about diamonds? These account for much more than you could ever imagine. Let’s get to it!

Our love affair with diamonds was born in India – one of the most exotic places in the world. It is where diamonds were culled from its rivers and streams. Some historians believe, in fact, that India started trading diamonds as early as 4BC. At that time, limited resources were put out as the country had a limited market for diamonds. Only the wealthiest of the wealthy could afford it.

India’s diamond trade found its way into Western Europe where equally interesting merchandise were brought and sold in Venice’s medieval markets. By the 15th century, diamonds became the European elite’s fashion statement.

Unfortunately, the supply of diamonds coming from India took a dive in the early 1700s. This became an upperhand for Brazil since it emerged as a new important source of diamonds. Gold miners discovered that their country was a rich source of these sparklers when they sifted through the gravels of local rivers. What used to be India’s “seat of powerful trade” became that of Brazil’s since the latter dominated the diamond market for more than 150 years.

Down the line, the diamond market underwent its own evolution. The old ruling classes (the diamonds’ biggest buyers) declined in the late 1700s. Political disarray like the French Revolution led to changes in the distribution of wealth. Affluence increased not just in Western Europe but also in the United States of America during the 1800s. With that, explorers came to discover that South Africa was just as rich a source of diamonds.

It was in the year 1866 when diamonds were discovered in Kimberly, South Africa. Credits go to Cecil Rhodes, entrepreneur and founder of the great De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in 1888. Come 1900, De Beers controlled about 90 percent of the entire world’s production of rough diamonds.

South Africa paved the way for many other segments in the diamond mining industry, as it moved from the surface to farther underground.

On one hand, mining entailed costs. On the other, it turned in low yieldings. But, these were turned into an  opportunity because more efficient mining techniques were developed. After all, “business was booming!”

They saw that the industry clamored for better marketing. Thus, it led to advancement in terms of diamond cutting and polishing as well as improvement in mining operations – that is, increased efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced appearance of finished sparklers.

In 1870, annual production of rough diamonds was well under a million carats. By 1920, the figures upped to three million. Annual production approached 50 million in 1970.

Just before the end of 1970s, South Africa, alongside Zaire (now renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo), and the former Soviet Union, were believed to be the world’s most important rough diamond producers. In the 1980s, higher-quality diamonds were being culled from Russia and Australia  (with South Africa remained relatively constant). Zaire’s production of lower-quality diamonds, on the other hand, more than doubled. And, finally, diamond mining surpassed its 100-million-carats-per-year mark in 1990.

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Not much has changed through the years. Jewelry aficionados as well as retailers do not take into account the path the industry has undertaken. Rather, they keep in mind just one direction – that diamonds still very much flowed through the mines; then, onto cutting centers;  and ultimately, to retail stores and customers.

The exquisite beauty that is encapsulated in all the diamonds you see in stores and workshops has bestowed indescribable happiness and appreciation for centuries.

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Sans the scientific proof for such feelings, one’s education as regards diamonds have grown steadily with the help of renowned chemists, physicists, geologists, mineralogists, and oceanographers.

Through constant research, findings about how diamonds form and how they’re pushed to the earth’s surface has made it more convenient for miners to locate new diamond discoveries.



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