It is no secret that natural diamonds are rare, precious gemstones mined from the Earth. Before a diamond is cut, polished, and faceted, and even shipped to wholesalers and jewelers, it has to be mined. So, all these things go into the making of a diamond ring, unless the stone is lab-created.
There is something fascinating about the formation and mining of diamonds. Firstly, diamonds have been on Earth since time immemorial. It is even believed that since volcanic kimberlite eruptions brought the gems from the mantle of the Earth to its surface more than 100 million years ago, which means diamonds predate humankind.
Diamonds are a treasure discovered in myriads of ways. Below is a guide to several methods of diamond mining, and a summary of the processes that follow it.
Methods of Diamond Mining
This is one of the main methods of excavating diamonds. The miners use this method when the gems are close to the Earth’s surface or covered in a layer of sand and gravel. The starting step is to identify the right locations, and then blast through rocks to access the gemstones underneath kimberlite pipes. Heavy machinery is used to make the open pit mine for that.
Another method of excavating diamonds is underground mining. Although that is what most people think about mining when they first hear the term, this is one of its complex forms. The size, shape, and nature of kimberlite deposits have to be taken into account carefully to make an underground mine.
Diamonds are also excavated from the seabed in two ways: horizontal and vertical. In horizontal seabed mining, remotely operated vehicles crawl across the ocean floor with sensors, suction hoses and machines to sort out the gemstones of wrong sizes. Essentially, ROVs suction up gravels on the seafloor to a ship anchored on the area where the mining operation is done. Once they board the ship, workers sort out sand and gravel while separating the gemstone in the process.
In vertical seabed mining, the rock found on the seafloor and carrying diamond is drilled. The debris, which comes as a result of drilling, is suctioned up to the ship. It is then sorted by workers and then graded. In both methods of diamond mining, ships are used to offload the gemstones and bring new workers and supplies to the area.
This diamond mining method aims to discover diamonds landed on an area, whatever they may be, through wind force or tidal waves. The miners dig the Earth and look for the gems in slit-filled locations like coastal areas and riverbeds. It has been around for hundreds of years. Now, it is the most prevalent method used to excavate diamonds, especially in Africa and Brazil.
The Subsequent Phases of Diamond Mining
After the kimberlite ore is discovered from an area, it is put through a process called comminution, which involves crushing and milling the ore. After that, the crushed ore undergoes a process called dense medium separation. The DMS process involves mixing the crushed ore in a semi-liquid alloy, comprising silicon and iron. Then, the mixture is passed over grease belts, as diamonds will adhere to that. Since the rear gem repeals water, grease is used in this particular phase.
Besides that, X-rays are used to detect the mineral within the mixture formed through DMS. Once workers gather rough diamonds, they measure and sort the gems. Then, they are cut or set aside for industrial uses. Diamonds are separated into plenty of categories according to their clarity, carat weight, and color.
Uncut and unpolished diamonds are sorted into three categories, namely industrial-grade, bort, and gem-quality. After all these processes, rough diamonds are prepped for the main process that contributes to its shine and shape: cutting.
The Rough Diamond Cutting Phase
When a diamond is all good to be cut, it is done as smoothly as possible using distinct tools and methods. They are chosen after considering the facets of the gem. The diamond cutters make detailed facets in a skillful way by taking breaks in between to examine how its sides are forming.
The color of the gemstone has an impact on how it is cut – if it is too large, sawing precedes that. Even an optical instrument called microscope is used to detect imperfections in diamonds. If flaws are detected, it can affect the process of cutting the gem into shapes.
How diamonds are excavated and then turned into sparkly gems may seem surprising to a common Joe. Surely, there is another method to make artificial diamonds in laboratory conditions, which replicate those found in the Earth.