Diamonds are highly sought after for their shimmering beauty, and over time have – perhaps paradoxically – become a symbol for love and power.
Where are diamonds found?
Not only do they look superb when set in a lustrous engagement ring or fancy evening necklace, but they’re also incredibly durable. In fact, diamonds are one of the hardest naturally occurring substances on the planet, which is why they’re often used as drill-tips in many industries.
Diamonds can be found in many countries around the world, most notably in Belgium, South Africa, Russia, Botswana, Zaire and right here in Australia. It might surprise you to learn that the Argyle mine, located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, is one of the world’s largest supplier of diamonds. It has been in operation for more than 30 years and has produced more than 800 million carats of raw diamonds.
Although only 5 per cent of the diamonds found in the Argyle mine are of gem quality (40 per cent are considered “near gem” and 55 per cent are rated “industrial”) this one mine produces nearly double the amount of diamonds of any other country, according to Geoscience Australia.
How are diamonds formed?
Most of us have a vague notion that diamonds are extracted from the ground, but how do they get there in the first place? Around 150-200 kilometres deep beneath the Earth’s surface, in a layer known as the mantle, conditions are perfect for the formation of diamonds. Here, a combination of temperatures of about 1200 C and pressure of approximately 50 kilobars causes carbon atoms to bond incredibly strongly to one another, which is what gives diamonds their tough, durable properties.
How are diamonds extracted from the ground?
Of course, current technology is not possible of getting anywhere near those extreme depths. Luckily for all us diamond lovers, Mother Nature lends a helping hand here, by pushing molten rock up through the layers of the Earth. During this journey, diamond is caught up in the magma, and is eventually brought to a rest near the Earth’s surface, where the colder climate cools the diamonds and locks them into their hardened structures. Once the diamond deposits have been identified, there are a number of mining methods humans can use to extract the precious stones from the ground.
Although those in the industry have a good insight into the conditions that create diamonds, much of the process is still unknown. Artificial diamonds can be grown in laboratories in controlled environments, but we may never be able to fully replicate the mysterious events that occur in the centre of the earth to create this majestic gem.