‘Diamonds’ is a unique book, bringing together the work of a writer and two
photographers, all of whom specialize in the diamond industry. It is in the
graphic tradition of the illustrated book, rather than simply comprising
text and images. It is a significant book, we believe, because we have set
out to chart and illustrate the little – known world of diamonds in the
twenty – first century, and to examine the changes that have marked the
From our earliest history to the present, diamonds have had a mystique
that sets them apart from other gems and which has attracted many
mythologies. These stones have throughout history been symbols of power and
royalty, of love, even of religion, as well ass being a store of wealth for
monarchs, as the history of most crown jewels makes plain.
Older legends of the origins and composition of diamonds still exist. The
legends of Sinbad’s Valley of Diamonds, or the mines of the imaginary
prince Prester John, or the cursed stones stolen from temples, which blight
the lives of their owners, are still to be found in storybooks today. Yet,
the reality of the world of diamonds is in its own way as much a marvel as
It is a world that shows extreme contrasts between the beauty of diamonds
and the complex and sometimes harsh environments where they are found and
made into gems. The processes behind the production and creation of the
jewellery in the shop window remain little known, so we have set out to
illuminate the most important aspects of the journey a diamond makes from
mine to shop window to wearer. This pipeline has changed dramatically in
the last ten years.
From the mines of Russia and Canada, to Africa, to the world’s rough –
diamond trading and cutting centres, we examine this new and emerging world
of diamonds. We look at the history of diamonds and diamond cutting,
showing how stones mined in India over a thousand years ago are still worn
today. Diamonds are almost indestructible and virtually every diamond ever
mined still exists. We look at the jewels themselves, ancient and modern,
unique and priceless, as well as those worn every day.
The technologies that grab diamonds from the bottom of the sea or cut and
shape them precisely into a unique stone are also important. Indeed diamond
itself is a crucial material for countless industrial applications and one
whose uses are still being explored, for example in new types of computer
chip and diamond film to improve loudspeaker systems.
Yet diamonds have for centuries also been the source of numerous conflicts.
The African civil wars put the workings of the industry in the limelight;
consequently the Kimberley Process was set up to prevent sales of conflict
The Kimberley Process, new mines, new technologies, and De Beers’ new focus
on Botswana, have all changed the shape of things. Today’s diamond world is
a very different one.
This is a watershed era for the diamond industry. It is a decade or more
since the first United Nations sanctions were placed on illicit diamond
trading used to fund civil wars, which resulted in a world-wide rough
diamond trading agreement, know as the Kimberley Process, and started major
changes in the way the diamond industry operates. The later years of this
decade are seeing another revolution – the focus of much of the world’s
diamond trading is shifting from Europe to African diamond – producing
This book takes the reader on a journey into the new world of diamonds,
exploring the diamond pipeline through a unique visual and textual record
of the industry as it enters the twenty – first century. We will also show
the extraordinary range of uses the diamond has, from famous jewellery to
the flawless window for a space probe, and explore diamond’s age – old
The diamond is indeed very old, almost as old as the planet, and has been
mined for about two millennia, although the global diamond industry is not
nearly that old. That industry is now changing as never before. It was a
product of the age of imperial expansion in the late 19th century and of
the rise of wider markets for diamonds in the 20th century. These old
hegemonies are breaking up, pushed by both political and business forces,
and by requirements for better governance.
This is one of the most significant periods of change the diamond industry
has yet seen. During the past ten years, events unprecedented in its
history have brought the workings of the diamond industry to new level of
visibility on the world stage, as both the trading and mining sides have
had to come to grips with new circumstances and new ways of doing business.
This has entailed sweeping changes in the global structure of the industry,
of which one of the most important is De Beers moving its sales centre from
the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) in London to Gaberone, in Botswana, the
world’s largest diamond – producing country. The privileged place of London
as a major rough diamond trading centre is now ending.
The diamond axis is shifting inexorably to Africa, the continent that has
for so long produced at least 60 percent of the worlds diamond and many of
the best gem diamonds. The separation between diamond mining and diamond
cutting is now being reduced, with as yet unknown effects on rough diamond
trading and cutting centres such as Antwerp and Tel Aviv.
Producer countries are asserting more rights over mineral resources and
moving decisively away from older models of mining, where the majority of
the value was exported, to setting up cutting and polishing diamonds in –
country wherever possible. This is a seismic shift in an industry whose
main cutting and manufacturing centres have previously been far removed
from the mines.
Africa, which produces at least 60% of the world’s diamonds, has been
afflicted by the further question of long term ‘resource’ wars in four
African countries, indirectly involving many more. These were civil wars
which were paid for by large-scale diamond smuggling to major international
diamond centres. These highly destructive wars were the catalyst for
controls on global rough diamond imports and exports, know as the Kimberley
Process. This compact between governments, the diamond industry and civil
society exists to prevent ‘blood diamonds’ reaching world markets and to
protect consumer confidence in diamonds. It is another very significant
catalyst for change in the industry.
All the major diamond mining and trading countries have their own histories
and strategies for the emerging shape of the new diamond industry. The hunt
for new diamond deposits is almost global, as demand for diamonds threatens
to outstrip supply. For the time being, it is a very good time to be a
diamond producer. It is also a time when producers and traders can expect
to be scrutinised by their peers and for the first time, with the Kimberley
Process, have something like a global forum involving all players.
Diamond- producing countries range across the large scale production of
Australia’s outback, the important Arctic circle producers. Russia and
Canada, whose mines are sheathed in permafrost for much of the year, to the
gem-producing deserts and sea-beds of Namibia, the rivers of Central and
West Africa, the rain forest of the Congo, and the African savannah, which
hosts volcanic pipes and diamond sands.
Each environment has its own technical and ecological challenges, as well
as social demands. New prospecting and mining technologies have been
developed, often on a giant scale. Meanwhile, older, less industrial,
mining methods, in particular the often feudal world of small-scale artisan
mining, have rightly become a focus of concern. Questions of how these
different types and scales of mining can sit side by side are only now
beginning to be addressed.
There is little that is not in flux in the diamond pipeline- the journey of
a diamond from the mine to the piece of jewellery. The route from mine to
exporter to rough trader to polisher, and finally to jewellery-maker and
buyer is becoming more transparent, but is still complex.
Major diamond cutting and trading centres-Antwerp in Belgium, Israel’s Tel
Aviv, the powerhouse of the Indian diamond cutting industry, the South
African cutting industry – have developed over many years and now face
changing roles. Perhaps least affected is New York, that great importer and
manufacturing centre, and route into the world’s largest diamond consumer,
the USA. But new policies within the industry mean that smaller cutting
centres will emerge now and rough diamond trading will become more
The cutting industry itself is already diversified, from unique stones cut
by master-cutters, to the cutting of tiny stones for the wider market.
Changes in cutting technology over the last fifty years have made diamond
jewellery accessible to all, but the attraction of great diamonds- the
romance of famous stones and the unique beauty of high – end jewellery
remains an important part of the diamond’s continuing mystique.
In looking at the range of this vast industry, we will inevitably be able
to mention only some of the very many players who make up the industry. De
Beers, who are inextricably linked with the history of the diamond mining
and trading industry, are one such. There are very many other important
mining, trading and cutting companies and no-one has been deliberately
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