How Jewelry Is Mined: Diamond and Gemstone Mining

Jewelry, having a 90,000 years old history, has been important throughout all ages, from ancient times to the present day. Early jewelry was usually made from found materials such as seashells, wood, stones, feathers, and other natural objects, but many of these pieces had important meanings. In some cultures, these objects have been built in a special way to represent different beliefs or affiliations. As jewelry evolved over the centuries, jewelry mining techniques also developed. So, how do you think that jewelry is mined?

Jewelry mining is a very complex and lengthy process that requires large amounts of valuable resources such as time, manpower, equipment, and information. In simple terms, jewelry mining is a process where the gemstones and precious metals are extracted from the soil and further processed to reach a certain quality. There are several methods for removing jewelry from the earth. Jewelry mining methods include open-pit mining, river mining, quarries, shaft mining, and hard rock extraction. The correct procedure is chosen according to the circumstances, but regardless of the method chosen, the whole jewelry making process should be very systematic as it costs a lot of money.

To achieve positive results, the first requirement is to determine the jewel bearings of this proprietary process. This requires extensive knowledge of the properties of jewelry. This key is used to identify valuable and that the possibility of finding deposits of semi-precious stones. The jewelry mining route is done through a sophisticated and technical system. However, we all know that traditional methods have their own uniqueness that cannot be denied even after the development of new scientific methods. So, all methods are divided into two types of mining. Open-pit mines and underground mines.

How Diamonds are Mined

It is no secret that diamonds have existed on earth for much longer than humanity. It is also common knowledge that diamonds were subjected to extreme conditions and volcanic eruptions during their formation to go deep into the crust. However, the average person may have gaps in their knowledge of what is going on from that point on until the diamond appears as a shiny piece of jewelry.

Very specific volcanic eruptions, called kimberlite eruptions, brought diamonds to the surface from the Earth’s mantle more than a hundred million years ago. Even after these kimberlite deposits are discovered, there is still a long way to go until the extraction process is complete. Below are some of the different ways diamond mining and how diamonds are mined and processed before they are turned into beautiful, sparkling gemstones.

One of the main forms of extracting diamonds is open-pit mining. This method is used when diamonds are close to the surface or covered with a fine layer of gravel and sand. The first step is to identify the correct areas and then blow up the rocks to access the diamonds under the kimberlite pipes. Heavy equipment and machinery are used to fabricate the open-pit mine. Another type of mining is called underground mining. While this is what most people think when it comes to mine, it is a very complex form of mining.

To create an underground mine; The type, shape, and size of the kimberlite deposit should be considered. Another way to extract diamonds is to extract the bottom of the sea. This can be done horizontally or vertically. Miners use a caterpillar flexible tubing to remove the seabed to the surface, used for horizontal mining. Alluvial mining is the newest form of mining and refers to diamonds blown by wind or water where they land. In this extraction method, diamonds are extracted from their final resting places throughout.

After the mineral is discovered, it is crushed and ground. This is called fragmentation. The crushed ore then goes through an intensive media separation (DMS) process. The mineral is mixed with a semi-liquid alloy of iron and silicon. The alloy has a very specific density, hence the name of this process. The mixture is then passed over a strip of oil for the diamonds to adhere. Diamonds repel water, so grease is used here. X-rays are also used to detect diamonds in the mixture.

Rough diamonds are measured and graded after being collected. Diamonds are cut or split for industrial use. Rough diamonds are held with tweezers and fall into three main categories: gemstone, industrial grade, and braided. Finally, the diamonds are prepared for cutting. When a diamond is ready to be cut, the process continues until it’s cut as neatly as possible. Different tools and processes are used depending on the direction of the diamond. Diamond cutters meticulously create faces. The color of a stone has a big influence on how to cut it. In this step, microscopes are used to detect defects that also affect the cutting process.

After challenging processes such as digging diamonds and carefully converting them into gemstones, they are ready to be shipped to diamond wholesalers and jewelry manufacturers. Even if it looks like the last, this step alone can be timely as the diamond trade is complex and involves many parties. When the diamonds finally reach the hands of those who will sell them to the consumer, the stone has officially entered the world of jewelry, its beauty and style will be checked and placed in the appropriate jewelry accordingly.

You may be surprised that the mining doesn’t end with rough diamond mining. The long process should enlighten those who wonder why diamonds are so expensive. A lot of money is spent searching for and purchasing these diamonds, and a considerable amount of money and experience is spent turning these rough stones into sparkling gemstones. If you know more about the extraction process, you can definitely appreciate your diamond more.

Diamond Mining and Processing

There are four main points that we generally associate with when we see or hear diamonds. First, we thought about how good they would look at our partner’s fingers. Next, we all know diamonds are the hardest material in the world, but most of us have the misconception that they are unbreakable. Some of us may be referring to them as industrial diamonds. Lastly, the greater part of us presumably generalizes them with the excessive costs related to diamond jewelry. These four elements together may or may not cover everything related to diamonds.

It turned out that diamond mining is one of the most time-consuming and resource-intensive processes where companies have to invest their efforts. Despite all of our technological advances and technical tools, diamond mining still involves a certain combination of art and science. So, let’s take a look at some of the methods of extraction of rough diamonds from the ground.

Before mining takes place, researchers must find diamond resources. To do this, geologists monitor secondary diamond sources (e.g. river beds) to determine where the main sources of pipe sediment are. Sediments are found with the help of field research and located using drilling equipment. Once the pipes are found, ore samples will be examined to assess the suitability and profitability of the mine. If the presence of diamonds turns out to be correct and profitable, the rods are driven into the ground in mineralized pipes and large amounts of soil are extracted.

To be efficient and effective, mining of rock and rugged land is generally not investigated in the field. Instead, the ore is processed to be removed and transported to the factory with special rough diamonds. Depending on the richness of the mineral, several hundred tons of mineral can be sieved to produce a one-carat gem-quality rough diamond. Even after removing it, the rough diamond is still far from being placed in an engagement ring. Rough stones are classified into various types of gemstones and industry-specific grades in high-security facilities. The raw materials are then sold, cut, polished, and traded.

As you can imagine, the path of a rough diamond from the powerful formation process to the installation in a perfect environment is a long process and involves many different channels. If you are interested in learning more about gemstones and gemology, you should read about gemology topics. Throughout history, the world landscape has constantly changed. Rivers, waterways, and streams are the primary drivers of the development of secondary mineral depositions as they can transmit precious stones through kimberlite lines to the ocean.

Another commonly used extraction method is alluvial extraction. This type of mining is often done in areas with secondary deposits such as riversides, beaches, and even offshore locations. Alluvial mining involves building walls and diverting rivers. When the water is drained and can no longer flow to the area of ​​interest, excavators are used to digging the bottom of the bank. Kimberlite ore is usually found at depths of at least 15 meters. At the point when the precious stone rich profundity is reached, the crude material taken from the depths of earth shipped to a screening plant for additional processing.

There is another type of alluvial mining called craft mining. Essentially, this is the same method used by gold miners involving sifting and filtering the sludge. When it comes to craft mining, the extraction process usually takes longer due to low-tech equipment and associated manual labor. Compared to alluvial mining, the finishing process is shorter and uses fewer resources, as diamonds are detected on-site in the working area.

Diamond deposits in marine bodies are the result of the erosion of kimberlite pipes. When there are heavy rainfalls, the diamonds released are washed by rivers and carried to the shore. Namibia is a country with the largest number of jewel quality sea beds in the world. Currently, the country has partnered with De Beers to carry out marine mining efforts and has produced more volume from land extraction.

Since marine debris is unevenly distributed over large areas, mining companies use different methods to extract it. Some of these methods include shallow-water mining, deepwater operations with high-tech equipment, and simple alluvial mining. As in open-pit mining, minerals are usually transported off the field for further processing.

Did you know that alluvial spoilage can seriously disrupt and damage our natural environment? You may have heard of the Big Hole (Kimberley’s open-pit mine) or Jagersfontein mine, where some of the most famous diamonds in history were discovered. Unknown to most, these mines are the largest man-made holes and also left permanent marks on our planet’s surface visible from space.

The Journey of Jewelry From the Mine to the Store

Diamonds go far prior to being set in your wonderful adornments. Mining is the initial step, yet what occurs straightaway? Not all ways leading diamonds are the equivalent. The diamond has a unique journey. It starts in a mine in Canada, South Africa, Australia, or India. There, crude jewels are mined in kimberlite quarries. Whenever this is done, the crude diamonds are grouped by size, shape, color, and other characteristics. There are two potential courses from the mine to the sellers after this step.

The most secure and most clear course for you as a buyer is through the channels of De Beers, the world’s biggest mining gathering, or one of its rivals, for example, Rio Tinto in Australia or Debswana in Botswana. De Beers is likewise presumably the digging organization most popular for its publicizing. De Beers’ first ads with the notorious trademark formed the way the world ganders at the diamond business.

Mining organizations coordinate deals gatherings where raw diamonds can be bought from precious stone experts from the second they are mined. These are uncommon occasions where you can only participate by invitation. Visitors can purchase the precious stones themselves or offer them to small scale dealers. Gems creators at that point put them in completed adornments to offer to goldsmiths. Wholesalers offer them to precious stone retailers.

The other strategy isn’t utilized that much. Some mine owners can decide not to offer their items to a mining pool like De Beers. This isn’t easy as a large portion of the mines is likewise worked by this mining gathering. The mine owners at that point sell the item from the jewel mine straightforwardly to different purchasers. These purchasers can process the jewels and decide to sell themselves, or they can proceed with the cycle in the clearest manner.

True Cost of a Mined Diamond

We can choose the source of our diamonds. We can ask hard questions about the diamond companies’ mines because we have options. We do not have to ignore the true cost of diamonds mined by companies because we can buy diamonds that have been removed from the ground or hammered by American workers and American creativity.

Forget the guilt for a moment. What is the true cost of a diamond mined by a company? If you do some research, there is a gold mine knowledge. Or ask an astronaut why you can literally see institutional surface mines from space. Here is an introduction to getting you started. The most prominent effect of mining is the amount of rock and soil transported to reach diamonds deep in the ground. Miners do not dig dead land. They go where they can find diamonds. Whatever the people, animals, and ecosystems that live there, once the miners started they no longer live there.

Diamond mining jewelers often claim that diamond mining is less troublesome in Canada than in Africa because it does not involve child laborers or exploitation. It would be true without two inconvenient facts. Diamond distributors ship stones around the world in a competitive market. No matter how much money you spend on a Canadian diamond, you support the African diamond market. Canadian stones of the same size, cut, color, and clarity are sold at a higher price simply because they come from Canada.

Canadian mines produce minerals every day by processing 1 million tons of waste rock and 950,000 tons of waste, finely ground rock, and mined materials such as diamonds. All waste and residues should be stored in one place. The landfill is a very generous term for the process of piling rock debris piles on the ground and dumping large quantities of waste and process chemicals into “waste ponds”. These by-products of mining create chemical reactions that form acidic water that dissolves lead, copper, and zinc. Bad news for the entire food chain that this toxic mixture seeps into groundwater and contaminates the creatures that depend on it.

In northern Canada, these wastes are stored in frozen dams. It sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately, Arctic latitudes are warming three times faster than the rest of the world because ice melts frozen soils and that slows down debris. As frozen soil continues to melt each summer, acid rock drainage can cause heavy metals to leach into soil and water supplies. In the National Environment and Economy Roundtable report, the impacts of mining waste were summarized as environmentally and socially catastrophic and resulted in the irreversible deterioration of fragile habitats and health impacts.

Millions of tons of rock removal and contamination of water resources have a dramatic impact on wildlife habitats around diamond mines. In Zimbabwe, diamond mining waste contaminated the rivers Odzi and Save, where animals drinking water from the river poured their skin and died. In Namaqualand, a region of South Africa and Namibia, 65% of the coastline was mined for diamonds. This coast is home to endemic species of coastal birds and flowers, animals, and insects. In northern Canada, herds of caribou and musk ox roam in areas where diamond mine waste is stored. Indigenous peoples fear that animals will eat plants growing near waste ponds, which could introduce toxic heavy metals into the food chain.

New technologies are allowing diamond companies to develop new diamond reserves below the ocean floor. Marine mining operations dredge the ocean floor, sift the sled and return it to the water. In total, more than 579,000 square miles of the ocean floor are currently leased to private companies or countries for the exploitation of ocean exploration diamond mines. This is roughly the combined area of ​​California, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin! It takes tremendous amounts of energy to move these vast terrains.

CO2 emissions from diamond mining in 2012 were equal to about 1.5 million cars on the road. Americans utilize more power per family than all other nations on the planet, and diamond mining utilizes enough power for 1 million American families to use. The sad irony is that these emissions are accelerating the melting of Canada’s frozen landfills. We use recycled gold because gold mining is also destructive. Approximately 75% of active gold mines and exploration areas are defined as high conservation value. These locations are often found in low-income countries where there is little or no landscaping. When a mine is depleted or abandoned, the destruction continues.

There are even 10,000 abandoned mines in Canada, although wealthy countries sometimes try to minimize permanent damage from dead mines. There are 6,000 abandoned mines in South Africa. Globally, 1 billion tons of rock debris and waste from surrounding ecosystems are being contaminated, affecting the health and well-being of the people and wildlife. Diamonds are traditionally given as gifts of love. It takes forever. Unfortunately, the destruction of your extraction also takes forever. Ivory is beautiful, but as a global community, we have decided that ivory is not worth the elephants that would have to die to harvest it. Diamonds are beautiful, but are they worth the ecosystems that have to die for mining? Governments don’t do much about it. You can do something about it.

Gemstone Mining Methods

Throughout history, people have used gemstones to make jewelry and decorate items. The jewelry industry is a multi-billion dollar industry based on raw materials such as gemstones and diamonds. For the gems business to act mindfully, it should be guaranteed that the beneficial outcomes exceed the negative impacts at the creation, assembling, and retail levels. The important thing is to face social, economic, and ecological problems on a daily basis in order to achieve a sustainable balance between future extraction and recycling.

Precious stones formed by geological processes in the rocks of the earth’s crust and upper mantle. The rocks and gems we find on the earth’s surface today have been buried deep within the earth’s crust and mantle for a long time (millions of years) when conditions (temperature and pressure) allowed the formation and processing of jewels. If the rock that was previously buried due to erosion is brought to the earth, we can find materials and minerals made of precious stones (eg gold) in this rock. Gemstones are formed and can be found in two different geological environments:

  • Primary gemstone deposits

Precious stones are on the original bedrock. The productivity of such a bed is profoundly subject to the gemstone fixation (per ton of rock) and the change stage in the bedrock. Many large-scale diamond miners mine primary kimberlite deposits in search of diamonds. Many primary color ore mines are found in decomposed pegmatite veins (eg for topaz, beryl, etc.). Some gemstones, such as emeralds, are found in primary deposits almost exclusively of gem quality.

  • Secondary gemstone deposits

If a primary gem bed is eroded or eroded, more durable gemstones such as diamond, corundum, and chrysoberyl can be transported by water or wind power and then deposited in a secondary gravel bed (Sediment regime). For example along a river or within a delta. These rich concentrations of dense rough gemstones are often referred to as gemstone bags. They are an excellent source of gemstones in many deposits in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, and other regions.

Mining techniques used to extract gemstones reflect all types of deposits: primary (mined in hard rock, underground or open-pit) and secondary (in sedimentary, soft rock). The mineralogy of a gemstone determines the type of geological environment it is in. The chemicals, temperatures, and pressures required for the gemstones to grow. This means that the rocks that host gemstone resources and the types vary significantly.

While the main sources of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires are the primary formations, other gemstones can often be found in secondary alluvial soils. As miners follow tectonic structures, the geology of the gemstone deposits is critical to subsequent mining methods and is essential for any environmental impact that may arise. A notable difference between primary and secondary storage is that explosives are used in the former, but not in the second.

Mining Techniques of Gemstones

Diamond mining is controlled by a number of major mining companies, the most effective of which is De Beers. However, this is not the case for stone mining typically done by independent miners. Various methods are used in gem mining, from domestic mining to highly technical stone mining techniques.

Open-pit mining is one of the methods of gem mining that involves the extraction of overlapping minerals or rocks to reach stones containing gems. Stones containing gems are then washed with high-pressure water jets to protect the gemstones. They are then sent to processing companies for processing. Terrace mining is used to describe the mining method in which gemstones containing precious stones are exposed by excavating horizontal terraces in circular formations. It is demolished, then rubble is washed to obtain stones. This is how emerald mining is done in Colombia.

The tunneling technique is used to extract the rock containing gems when it is too close to the surface. A tunnel is built to reach the gemstone deposits, and mining is done by blasting or collecting individual coarse gemstones. Where there are more sea beds such as Namaqualand diamond deposits, West Africa joins the Marine Mining Farm. This includes land reclamation or offshore dredging.

A river naturally changes its course or artificially modified by blocking the flow at both ends and creating a channel. The bedrock is allowed to dry, then the stones are obtained. KGK Group invests in the extraction of primary gemstones in South America and Africa: two emerald mines, one Paraiba mine, and one rubellite mine. The group is committed to providing ethical resources for the benefit of local communities.

The face of rough gemstones reveals its beauty, and then the stones become jewelry. Gemstone cutting requires great skill and can pose a health risk to the gemstone cutter if not done in the right conditions. Historically, the main diamond trading centers were Antwerp and Tel Aviv, but Mumbai became an important hub for diamond trade in the early 21st century due to diamond production and its strength in the local market. Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India are the main centers for the production and improvement of colored gemstones.

Gemological Laboratories provides jewelry analysis services to the jewelry owners and jewelry industries. This service is focused on providing independent gemological expertise to the jewelry trade. This work consists of confirming the natural origin of a gemstone, providing information (advice) on how to process a gemstone, and, if possible, proposing to determine the gemstone’s geographical origin. Gem Laboratories plays an important role in maintaining consumer confidence in the industry.

The Gemstone and Sustainability Information Center at the University of Delaware (USA) attempted to compile a directory of jewelry labs using the information provided by the studied jewelry labs. A selection from the most important international gemology laboratories has been chosen, this is by no means exhaustive and is not a measure of the quality or approval of specific laboratories.

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Savaş Ateş

I like reading books. I like to read about jewelry too. After reading a lot of books about it, I have started to visit jewelry manufacturers and stores. It is my number 1 hobby.

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