Thursday, April 19, 2007


The diamond is composed solely of pure carbon and is the hardest substance known, being No. 10 on the Mohl scale. It is found in South Africa, Brazil, India, Borneo, in the Ural Mountains, and in the United States.

The ancient supply of diamonds came probably from India. Although we hear of diamonds in very early times, yet the ancient Indian mines were apparently the first source of supply and continued so until diamonds were found in Borneo, which was only in small amounts, and later more largely in Brazil. The Brazilian mines were discovered in 1727 and were later mined extensively. Mr. Edwin W. Streeter, the London jeweler, in his book published in 1879, states that about 1845 there were twenty five thousand people engaged in diamond digging in Brazil.
In South Africa diamonds were first found in 1867. The first diggings, they could hardly be called mines, were along the Vaal River. These river diggings were of considerable extent, and a large number of miners from all parts of the world were engaged in searching for stones. Their methods, however, were very crude. The famous rush to Kimberley began in 1870, when a fine fifty carat diamond was found on the Jagersfontein farm. The thrifty widow, who was then the owner of the farm, let the right to dig diamonds for a monthly fee. Imported diamonds were next discovered on the Dutoitsfontein farm, and soon diamonds were also found on the Bulfontein farm located just across the highway.

The Kimberley mines were discovered in 1871, and the DeBeers and Wesselton about the same time. It is needless to say that the system of leasing claims did not last very long, and that these various farms were soon bought by miners. For some time, however, the various claims were worked by one or two men to each claim, then by larger partnerships, and later by large French and English mining companies.

In 1872 Cecil J. Rhodes, then a student at Oxford University, on account of ill health went to South Africa. He went first to the plantation of his brother, Herbert Rhodes, who had also become interested in diamond mining. A year later he joined his brother in his mining ventures. This same year, 1873, Barnett J. Barnatto came from London to join his brother, Henry, at Kimberley, as a buyer of rough diamonds. Both Rhodes and Barnatto soon acquired some property and became interested as small mine owners. They increased these holdings rapidly, until after a time both saw the need of combination in mine ownership and especially the need of scientific management in operating the mines. In 1888, they, with Messrs. Rothschild, Alfred Beit, and other able mining men, formed the DeBeers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. Since the formation of this company the mines have been developed along scientific lines by an extremely able management, resulting in great benefit to the company and also to the world.

Since the formation of the syndicate the price of the gems has never been allowed to break, even in times of the greatest commercial depression. In the early days of diamond mining, on the other hand, and especially in India and Brazil, prices sometimes fluctuated very widely. Mr. Streeter, as an example, states that at the time of the commercial crisis of 1857 the prices of diamonds fell to one half that of the year previous. The Indian diamonds also fluctuated greatly in price according to the supply and the demand.

The diamond mines of India were of such importance that in 1669 the traveler Tavenier reported that sixty thousand men were employed in the work. From the ancient Indian mines came many of the famous diamonds of the world: the Kohinoor, the Great Mogul, the Blue Hope, and others.

The Brazilian mines, which were practically only river diggings, were originally government property and were worked mainly by slaves. The slaves, while constantly watched and severely punished if detected, still managed to secrete and steal a large percentage of all the diamonds found. The Brazilian diamonds were practically all small stones, very few being above fifteen or twenty carats in the rough. Some were very fine, while others were quite poor. The supply from Brazil at first frightened the Indian miners and reports were spread that the Brazilian stones were simply the refuse of the Indian mines shipped to Brazil. The Portuguese of Brazil, however, effectually turned the tables by shipping their diamonds to India, where they were sold as Indian stones at the market price. The height of the Brazilian mines appears to have been reached about the years 1861 to 1867. During that period there were shipped from Diamantina about ten million dollars' worth of rough diamonds.

In comparing the mining in Brazil and India to that in South Africa, it will be noted that, not only did the diamond mining in South Africa stand on a much higher level, in that the mines were worked by the most up to date appliances and machinery, but also that the men employed in the mines were very carefully watched to prevent theft. These employees, mostly natives, many thousands of the Zulu and other warlike tribes being included, were all required to sign an agreement to remain three months or more in the employ of the company. After signing this they were carefully examined, first, to that there is no contaminating disease among them, and they are also thoroughly searched, not being allowed to take with them clothing in which diamonds could be easily secreted, shoes, for instance, in the heels of which diamonds could be concealed. They are then admitted into the compound or walled enclosure, within which they must remain constantly during the whole period of their work until they are discharged from the mines.

These compounds was some seventeen in number, the largest being at the DeBeers mines, where four acres was enclosed; the walls being ten feet high and compound was covered with a fine wire screen to prevent the throwing of diamonds outside to an accomplice. The huts of galvanized iron for the workmen were built in the compound, and there was also a swimming pool and other means of amusement, so that the natives, while virtually prisoners within the compound, were well cared for. When they left the employ of the company they were again searched most thoroughly, being stripped and then placed in a detention room provided only with a blanket. Here they were kept for a period of five to seven days, so that even if the men swallow diamonds it is impossible for them to escape with their treasures. Finally they are given their old clothes, which have been kept in sacks numbered for each man, and allowed to leave the compound.

The diamonds are found in what is called blue ground, which is about as hard as sandstone. After being excavated from the mines the blue ground is conveyed to the floors, large flat areas, where it is left from three to six months, if not more, to soften. These floors are very large, those of the DeBeers and Kimberley mines covering two thousand acres. The blue ground on the floors was harrowed by steam traction engines to assist in pulverizing the ground. This, with the action of the sun and rain, finally disintegrates the material so that it can be taken to the washing machines or pulsators, as they are technically called. The yield of diamonds per load of blue ground is very small, but by the careful and comprehensive methods used, practically no diamonds are lost and the total yield is very large.

Of the South African mines the Kimberley and DeBeers produced most of the diamonds. These mines had been worked so deep, about three thousand feet, that, owing to the heat and danger at that depth, they are considered about worked out and comparatively few stones now come from these mines if any at all. The Dutoitspan mines are at present the largest producing mines in South Africa, and give very sound material, about the same as that of the Kimberley, DeBeers, and Weselton. The Bulfontein in point of production is the second largest mine under the DeBeers control. Its rough runs rather small in sizes and is imperfect. From the Jagersfontein mine, commonly called Jagers (pronounced Yagus) are found some of the finest blue white stones in the world, although there are other qualities of stones found there as well. The Premier mine, also controlled by the DeBeers Company, produces some very remarkable stones. From this mine came the famous Cullinan diamond, which weighed in the rough 3,253 ¾ carats. This stone was of fine blue white color and remarkable free from imperfections.

The gem was bought by the Transvaal Government and was sent as a present to King Edward VII, who entrusted the cutting of the Cullinan to Messrs. Joseph Asscher & Co., of Amsterdam. From it were cut, besides several smaller stones, two diamonds, each of which was larger than any other diamond in the world. In the Premier mine was also found the second largest diamond in the world, weighing 1,640 carats. This stone was not perfect and was bought by Mr. Jac. Dryn, of Sntwerp, and was cut into small stones. The beautiful deep blue diamonds which were on exhibition in the spring of 1912 at the store of Smith Patterson Company were from the Premier mines. Many other remarkable stones in golden brown, canary, green, etc., are found in the Premier mines.

The Wesselton mines as a rule produced fine white diamonds. The Robert Victor mine, of South Africa, was an independent mine controlled by English capital. The diamonds from this mine are of a very fine color, but are also very imperfect.

In addition to the regular mines in South Africa diamonds were found in certain rivers. These diamonds were mined by damming up the river at various points, pumping it dry and dredging it. The river diamonds in the rough can always be recognized by their dull surface, which is accounted for by the scratching due to the constant rubbing against pebbles and other diamonds while being carried down by the stream. River diamonds vary greatly as to quality.

Of the stones found in the mines in the German possessions in South America nearly all were small and practically all are cut into melees. They were largely, however, of good quality, and a large part of the best melees came from the German mines.

For many years the DeBeers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., has sold its annual production the London Syndicate of diamond merchants, who handle most of the products of the mines of South Africa, with the exception of the German mines. The London Syndicate's method in conducting business was quite unusual. In general the procedure was as follows. When the managers had a lot of goods for sale they notified the buyers of the rough who were on their list as being entitled to buy from the Syndicate direct, that a "sight of the goods" may be had on a certain date. The buyer must declare his intention and make application some time in advance of the time when a sight of the goods was expected, in order to secure the opportunity to make his purchase. If the favored buyer who is allowed to buy the rough does not then buy, he was omitted from the purchasing list for several months. The goods were sold in lots and had to be paid for with cash on the spot.

The goods mined at South Africa were sorted and classified at Kimberley as follows:

1. Close goods
2. Spotted stones
3. Rejection cleavage
4. Fine cleavage
5. Light brown cleavage
6. Ordinary and rejection cleavage
7. Flats
8. Naats
9. Rubbish
10. Boart

Close Goods are supposed to be pure stones of desirable shapes. Spotted Stones are crystals slightly spotted. Rejection Stones are those seriously depreciated by spots. Cleavage is broken stones. Flats are flat crystals. The refuse classed as Rubbish and Boart in polishing material.

The first eight classes are supposed to be further subdivided according to shades, as follows:

* Blue white
* First Cape
* Second Cape
* First bye
* Second bye
* Off color
* Light yellow
* Yellow

Only the first grade or close goods are really carefully graded according to these eight shades. With the other grades the sorters are less particular.

Each color is again subdivided into several sizes, and when the goods arrive in London the Syndicate again sorts them into:

* Finest extra blue white, Fine Capes
* Extra blue white, Capes
* Finest blue white, Bye waters
* Blue white, Yellows
* Finest white, Finest light brown
* White, Light brown
* Silver Capes, Brown and dark brown

All these colors are divided into shipments of Closed Goods, Spotteds, Irregulars, Blocks, Naats, and Flats.

While diamonds are found in many colors the usual colors are white and yellow of various shades. The Jagers stones are largely blue white and in the trade blue white stones are frequently called Jagers. The diamonds from the Wesselton mines were usually of fine white color, and goods of this color are generally termed Wesseltons. All Capes and Bye waters have some tinge of yellow. Brown diamonds, if light enough, are quite desirable, and often mount up to better appearance than the best Silver Capes.

Fancy stones of remarkable shades, Golden Brown, Apple Green, Deep Blue, Canary, etc, if of fair size, are of much more value than blue white, varying according to the specimen. The most valuable of all diamonds are the red. This color is very rarely found, and there are only a few specimens of it in existence.

Old Mine stones are supposed to be fine blue white or extra fine white stones from the old Brazilian or Indian Mines, and originally were always cut in such a manner as to save the most weight; consequently, they were frequently very thick and of poor shape. Today we hear very little about Old Mine stones, since as fine stones have been found in South Africa as were ever found in the Old Mines, and those that were shown as Old Mine stones were generally "fakes," coming from regular sources.

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