Unearthing Diamonds: The Road From Mine to Market to You

Do you ever stop and wonder how a diamond makes its way from a mine deep within the earth to a jewelry store? It’s a long and winding journey, filled with high stakes and fascinating stories to tell. These glittering gemstones are one of the most concentrated forms of wealth on the planet. As you gaze into the depths of a diamond, thousands of years of geological processes and human effort stare right back.


Diamonds in the Rough: The Mining Process

closeup photo of a diamond bracelet

The journey of a diamond starts deep within the earth. They form under intense heat and pressure, around 90 to 120 miles below the surface. Volcanic eruptions transport diamonds to the surface, embedded within igneous rocks known as kimberlite, a.k.a. the earth’s diamond delivery system.

Locating kimberlite pipes is challenging and often unsuccessful, as only 1 percent of the world’s known kimberlite pipes have high economic concentrations of diamonds. Geologists analyze satellite data, rock samples, and seismic surveys to identify promising locations. Test drilling is necessary to determine if diamonds are actually present. Of the kimberlites discovered, only 1 in 200 contain diamonds in economic quantities.

However, although kimberlite pipes are rare, diamonds are fairly common. Geologists find them in various geological formations. Other sources include alluvial deposits (diamonds eroded from primary sources and transported through rivers), lamproite pipes, and impact craters. These sources contribute to the overall availability of diamonds.

Once researchers find a viable source, securing permits and building infrastructure can take 3 to 5 years before mining begins. Heavy equipment is necessary to remove and transfer overburden – the rock and soil above the diamond-bearing ore. Hydraulic shovels scoop up the ore, loading it into trucks for processing.


From Ore to Gemstone

Crushing, washing, and sorting processes extract diamonds from the ore. Grease tables, X-ray sorters, and dense media separation differentiate gems from waste. Afterward, rough diamonds move to cutting and polishing facilities, transforming them into dazzling gemstones ready for jewelry.

A diamond’s journey from mine to gemstone is long but worthwhile. Although only 20% of rough diamonds are gem-quality, when these natural wonders catch the light, all of the effort that went into finding and crafting them seems worthwhile. Diamonds truly are precious in every sense of the word.

Further reading: 21 Diamond Facts: Older Than Dinosaurs, a Carbon Planet, and More


Cut and Polished to Perfection: Transforming Rough Diamonds

Once mined and transported for processing, the real work begins. Rough diamonds look nothing like the sparkling gems we know and love. They require expert cutting and polishing to reveal their beauty.

closeup of a diamond ring


Finding the Diamond Within

Diamond cutters examine each rough stone to ascertain the optimal cut to maximize size, color, clarity, and shine while minimizing waste. They envision what’s hidden inside the rough exterior to unravel the diamond within. The stone’s shape, flaws, color, and inclusions all inform which cut will be the most flattering and impactful.


Shaping the Stone

A diamond cutter splits a rough diamond into separate pieces using sawing and cleaving techniques. Then, they use diamond-tipped tools to grind each stone into a round shape. This process requires precision, skill, and patience to avoid cracking or damaging the diamond. Once rounded, they continue polishing and refining the stone’s shape and facets.


Adding Facets for Sparkle

Facets are the flat, polished surfaces on a diamond. They allow light to reflect and refract, creating a mesmerizing display of color and light. The most popular diamond cuts, including round brilliant, cushion, princess, and emerald, have at least 57 facets. The cutter carefully calculates the angles and placement of each facet to maximize the diamond’s optical properties.


Polishing to Perfection

photo of diamonds

In the final polishing stage, the cutter buffs and shines each facet until the diamond reflects light beautifully. This tedious process can take weeks or months. It requires a keen, artistic eye to achieve ideal proportions, symmetry, and polish. Completed, a once rough stone emerges as a glittering jewel, ready to shine and sparkle for decades.


From Gem to Jewelry: The Journey of a Diamond to the Consumer

Once a cutter transforms a rough diamond into a gemstone, it’s time to combine forces with a precious metal.


Grading and Certification

GIA-certified professionals will evaluate and grade a cut and polished diamond based on the four Cs: clarity, cut, color, and carat weight. They receive an official certification of these grades, which influences their market value. Rare, colorless diamonds with high clarity grades are the most valuable.


Setting and Creating Jewelry

Once a GIA-accredited expert grades and certifies a diamond, it is ready for jewelers to set into earrings, engagement rings, and more. Jewelry designers create settings and pair the diamonds with precious metals like gold or platinum. They design the settings to complement the stones and finish them with a high polish. After setting the stone in place, the piece of jewelry is ready for purchase. The clarity, cut, color, carat weight, and setting all contribute to the masterpiece it becomes.


Takeaway on a Diamond’s Journey

From a remote mine in some far-flung corner of the world into a remarkable piece of jewelry, it’s pretty impressive when you stop and think about it. All those hands, processes, and decisions transformed a dull rock into a fine object of beauty and significance.

The next time you look at that ring on your finger or those earrings in your ears, appreciate the long road that little diamond had to travel to make its way to you. And remember that, like those diamonds, sometimes, the most precious things in life start as diamonds in the rough.


Where to Sell Loose Diamonds in Phoenix, AZ

Selling diamonds with Biltmore Loan and Jewelry is quick, easy, and reliable. All you need to do is complete this online form for an appraisal. You can also visit us in Scottsdale, Arizona, to determine your diamond’s value and receive a generous cash offer on the spot. Our GIA-accredited staff looks forward to helping you get the best diamond price in the market.