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Diamonds unanswered


#1

All,

For a long time the diamond question has been on my mind. I would
like a few of you to respond to a couple of questions that I have
still unanswered.

Question #1 - Do you think that if all the money that has been spent
on diamond exploration were spent on say alexandrite exploration
there would be many more alexandrites on the market? Would small
alexandrites be as common as small diamonds? How about any other
gemstone that we now consider rare?

Question #2 - Has anyone ever seen the actual pile of rough or cut
diamonds supposedly stored by DeBeers?

Question #3 - At what point in diamond size and quality does a stone
qualify as rare?

Question #4 - Does anyone know what percentage of diamonds that are
mined are cuttable into jewelry grade diamonds? What is a jewelry
grade diamond?

My opinions on diamonds are the same as my opinions on other stones.
Stones in the ground are beautiful objects with no meaning nor any
ambitions. Humanity from the mining to the shaping to the
embellishment in jewelry give meaning to the stone. Stones become
bearers of love and bearers of immense hardship. All because of
humans. Just like a gun does not kill, diamonds are not bad. Humans
can be very bad.

Gerry Galarneau


#2

Gerry,

 Do you think that if all the money that has been spent on diamond
exploration were spent on say alexandrite exploration there would be
many more alexandrites on the market?  Would small alexandrites be
as common as small diamonds? How about any other gemstone that we
now consider rare? 

In answer to your question #1: The conditions that make alexandrite
do not occur in nature as often as those that make diamonds, so no,
they will never be as common as diamonds.

        Has anyone ever seen the actual pile of rough or cut
diamonds supposedly stored by DeBeers? 

Question #2: No, I have only seen pictures, but I am pretty sure they
were not faked.

In answer to the rest: Think of all the jewelry stores in the world.
Virtually all of them are wall to wall diamonds. Case after case of
diamond jewelry. How can they be considered rare in any size? At
least no more rare than any other large gem. You’re right, there is
nothing wrong with diamonds, they are just boring. (with some
exceptions for colored diamonds):slight_smile:

Later, Mark

Mark Thomas Ruby
SunSpirit Designs
Loveland, CO
970 622-9500 studio
970 622-9510 fax


#3
    Do you think that if all the money that has been spent on
diamond exploration were spent on say alexandrite exploration there
would be many more alexandrites on the market?  Would small
alexandrites be as common as small diamonds? How about any other
gemstone that we now consider rare? 

If the same amount of money spent on mining diamonds were spent on
practically any gemstone, I suppose there would be many more of
them. But since diamonds are so widely marketed and alexandrite is
not, it wouldn’t be economically feasible to spend that kind of
money on alexandrite mining. I don’t believe that the conditions for
the formation of alexandrite was ever as favorable as it was for
diamonds, so I doubt that they would be as common. Diamonds have
been found in every part of the world except Antarctica, whereas
alexandrite has not. As far as other gemstones we consider to be
rare concerning this discussion, I don’t think so, either.
Alexandrites, demantoid Garnet, Paraiba tourmaline - these and many
other rare gemstones lack something diamonds offer: durability. I’ll
agree that there are tougher stones than diamond, but none of them
can wear longer.

    Has anyone ever seen the actual pile of rough or cut diamonds
supposedly stored by DeBeers? 

I haven’t personally seen it, but all diamond rough is well
documented. It’s just too big a business to fudge about it. Most of
De Beers’ mining processes are mechanized, so it would be difficult
for them to pretend otherwise.

    At what point in diamond size and quality does a stone qualify
as rare? 

To me, any ‘extra fine’ gemstone qualifies as rare. The geologic
conditions under which gemstones form are incredibly uncommon. There
may be billions of carats of diamonds in the earth’s mantle, but
until there is a kimberlite (or lamproite) eruption to bring them to
the surface, there they will stay.

Kimberlites are actually fairly widespread. In the 1990s, there were
around 6,000 of them known around the world. The thing is, fewer
than 1,000 of them contained any diamonds. If there are no diamonds
in the kimberlite’s path to the surface, there are no diamonds in
the pipe. Of the 1,000 that contained diamonds, only perhaps 50 of
them were diamondiferous enough to be economically mined, and only
20 or so remain today. Now, here’s what actually qualifies just
about any diamond (indeed, any gemstone) as rare - The first
diamond-bearing kimberlite eruption occurred around 2.5 billion
years ago by scientific estimate. The newest emplacement happened
around 20 million years ago. No one has ever seen one. There may be
undiscovered, diamond-laden pipes still to be discovered, but in the
end, supplies are limited. It is absolutely within the realm of
possibility that we may eventually mine every diamond on the planet
before any more reach the crust of the earth through a kimberlite
eruption. And there’s no guarantee that the next eruption will
contain diamonds. In fact, the statistics are against it, 120:1.

While looking around the average diamond district, they don’t seem
rare - they seem to be everywhere. But the reality is that most are
included, colored or in some other way (cut, etc) common (meaning
less rare). The better the clarity and color, the larger the size,
the more rare. And even supplies of inferior goods won’t last
forever. It may be another 20 million years (or longer) before any
more diamonds are rushed to the surface. Personally, I’m not so sure
the human race will be around that long.

     Does anyone know what percentage of diamonds that are mined
are cuttable into jewelry grade diamonds? 

It depends on the mine, itself. Primary deposits such as kimberlite
pipes have the lowest percentage of cuttable material. Or, at least
makable material. Other sources, such as alluvial and marine
deposits have a typically lower overall yield in carat weight, but
the rough has been tumbled to the point that either the finest
pieces with the fewest flaws remain intact, or they make it to the
deposit already broken or cleaved into smaller pieces. In that case,
the work of planning, cleaving and sawing is minimalized to the
point that a much larger percentage of the rough is cuttable. In
1960, more than 80 percent (by weight) of diamonds were recovered
from alluvial deposits. By the early 1990s, it accounted for only 25
percent, so percentages fluctuate over the years. In marine mining
in particular, gem quality stones are extremely high by percentage.
For example, in Namibia, any fractured stones that survived the trip
were broken apart during the trip. As a result, around 90 to 95
percent of the diamonds mined there are gem quality.

According to one GIA publication, the world’s estimated diamond
production in 1999 breaks down like so:

15 percent gem-quality rough
39 percent near-gem rough
46 percent industrial rough.

The actual amount of finished goods is somewhat hazy from there. As
technology increases, more and more near-gem and industrial rough
can be acceptably enhanced or somehow justified as jewelry material.
Also, these percentages are for rough. In the gem-quality category,
finished goods will wind up closer to 12 percent, due to losses in
cutting.

  What is a jewelry grade diamond? 

Not so long ago, that was a supremely difficult question to answer -
it would have been an absolutely subjective matter. But with today’s
technologies, the answer is: They all are. In the past, there was a
lot of brown and black ‘bort’ that would have gone on to become
industrial grade abrasive. Now, black bort is used as high end
jewelry. Brown diamonds have been given names like ‘champagne’ and
’cognac.’ Many are now irradiated and/or HPHT enhanced to fancy
colors like blue and green. With the advent of lasers,
difficult-to-cut rough such as carbonado (a typically black,
somewhat aggregate form of diamond that can’t be polished by
lapidaries) may now be fashioned in certain ways. Macles are also
easier to work with due to lasers.

By traditional view, some of the above doesn’t qualify as ‘jewelry
grade’ diamond, but there are many high end designers who are using
non-traditional bort to excellent effect. Does the designer who
intersperses black diamonds in a pleasing pattern among colorless
diamonds in platinum regard it as jewelry grade? Probably only the
ones who consider themselves ‘ottists.’

James in SoFl


#4

Dear Daniel,

There is so much misabout diamonds that I don’t know
where to begin…Your assertion that diamonds are not rare flies
in the face of reality. Diamonds ARE rare, if , for no other reason
than they are typically accompanied by tons of worthless gangue
materials. The productivity of diamond mines is probably as sparse
as any other mineral mined by man. A typical “pipe” mine produces
somewhere on the order of less than a carat per ton. When you make
adjustments for size and type you will discover that much of that
production is not useful for jewelry purposes and that which is
suitable may not have enough size to warrant cutting. A rough stone
that is large enough to yield a one carat diamond is rare indeed !

Diamond critics often cite the fact that there are diamond
occurrences throughout the world, but they tend to overlook the fact
that many of these mines have already been worked out. A typical
"pipe" mine has an average lifespan of about twenty years. Many of
the biggest mines in Southern Africa have long since been worked
out. The Australian mines have passed their peak. The Brazilian
deposits have been insignificant producers for decades. The largest
mine in Africa, the Williamson mine in Tanzania, is history for the
most part. Currently, the biggest producers in the world are the
Russian pipes in Siberia and the mines in Botswana. These mines are
claiming production of thirty million carats each per year. But,
wait a minute !!! Do these figures reflect the GEM or the TOTAL
production ??? If you assume that they are the usual total
production then the portion that actually surfaces on the jewelry
market would be far less.

The generalization that diamonds are no more rare than “any other
large gemstone” is tenuous at best. Emeralds, rubies,and alexandrite
are certainly very rare, but the other gemstones are abundant
compared to diamonds.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because diamonds
occur in so many places that they are abundant. They may be widely
dispersed, but the irony is that they are also VERY widely dispersed
within their occurrences !

Ron MIlls, Mills Gem Co.Los Osos, Ca.


#5

All,

Ron Mills and I are in agreement on the quantity of diamonds mined
versus quanitiy of jewelry grade diamonds. I have read actual
measurements of less than 1 carat to 3-5 carats of diamonds per ton
of material from the Canadian and Australian mines. Less than 15% of
the recovered diamonds are considered cuttable. Less than 1% of the
cuttable diamonds are 1 carat or larger. Less than 1% of those
diamons are in the top 2 class of diamond grading. Rare? In my
opinion they are extremely rare.

Lets look at the actiual diamond formations versus gemstone
pegmatites. James quate of 6,000 kimberlite pipes, versus 1,000
diamoniferous pipes, versus 60 or so actually pipes feasible to mine
is correct by my sources. In gemstone pegmatites I have read
estimates that less than 1% to 5% of the pegmatites on the Earth have
been mined or assayed for potential. Most colored gemstones are
recovered by rudimentary means as compared to diamond mining. In my
opinion if the same money spent mining diamonds were put into mining
colored stones even the rare colored stones would be very available.

I also think that far to little is know about colored gemstone
pegmatites to be able to even estimate how rare is a stone. I know
several large dealers who refuse to spend large amounts of money on
tourmaline rough. What is large amounts of money? Try $100,000 and
up. Why? Tomorrow another miner may stuble upon another source like
Nigeria and flood the market destroying the value. This will never
happen to diamonds because as James wrote it may take a long time
before a new kinmberlite pipe is formed and we are not discovering
many new ones.

Just my thoughts about the beautiful and rare diamonds from our
Earth’s center.

Gerry Galarneau


#6

All,

G.G.'s comparison of pegmatites and diamond pipes is a very good
example of how rare diamonds are compared to the gemstones that
might be found in pegmatites. Brazil is the prime example. The
pegmatite belt in Brazil is roughly 800 miles long and 300 miles
wide. There are literally hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions
of pegmatite veins throughout…all of them are mineralized. Only
the cost of mining precludes their continued exploitation.We will
certainly exhaust the diamond deposits long before we run out of
pegmatite possibilities…

Ron MIlls , Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.