How Diamonds are Created and Where They are Found
Natural diamonds, that have been cut into many facets are considered one of the most beautiful things on Earth. This nature-made beauty sculpted by man glistens and sparkles in the light. Diamonds bring joy to many people by their brilliance. However, few stop to think about their origins.
Diamonds are not created on the Earth's surface and very few are thrust there by the violent motions which the surface of the planet can sometimes be subject in the form of volcanoes. This is why companies must mine for diamonds. They are formed about 100 miles under the Earth's surface. Diamonds are primarily made up of carbon. Pure carbon can take on many forms including diamond, graphite, and fullerite. To become a natural diamond, carbon must spend millions of years under extreme heat (900° - 1300° C) and pressure (45 - 60 kilobars) deep inside the earth1. This changes the way the atoms in the carbon bond together. The end result is a fully formed diamond.
If the temperature and pressure are not just right, then graphite will form. There is quite a difference between the beauty of diamonds and graphite, which is commonly used as the core of pencils!
Because diamonds are the hardest material found in nature, they can scratch nearly any surface. Imagine the vast number of materials in the world; a diamond must be extremely durable to rise above all others. Australia, Botswana, Russia, and the Congo account for a large portion of the world's diamond mining.
How Diamonds Are Mined
There are two methods for mining diamonds, pipe mining and alluvial mining. In pipe mining the diamonds are taken from deep in the ground using volcanic pipes. These pipes are not man-made but found naturally beneath the surface of the Earth. Shanks are drilled next to the "pipes", and tunnelled to reach to the deepest area of the pipe. Rocks, debris and diamonds are conveyed to the surface and then transferred to a screening plant where they are sifted, and the diamonds screened out. Alluvial mining is done in riverbeds and on beaches. First, walls are constructed to allow work to be done while bulldozers level the area that diamonds are suspected to be located. Here again, the debris is taken to a sorting facility. Most of the processes are done by machines.2
The relative scarcity of diamonds is what has made them so precious across so many cultures. As the world becomes smaller with easier transport and communication, and there get to be more people, it seems diamonds have taken on more significance as a display of wealth. Some people believe that the supply of diamonds is actually quite large due to new mining techniques. Suspicions abound that these diamonds are kept off the market in order to keep the price inflated. However, as populations grow and more people wish to own diamonds, there seems to be a burgeoning market for this precious stone in spite of expanding supply.
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