The diamond industry is fascinating from every angle, just like the minerals themselves. Still one of the rarest and most prized substances on earth, the industry itself is storied, multifaceted, and exciting.


So how did the diamond on your finger get to you? What’s the process for turning ice into the precious item you wear so proudly? Read on to find out.


Out of Africa

While diamond mines are truly spread throughout the world, most diamonds (about 65%) still come out of Africa. De Beers is probably the most famous name in the diamond industry, and while their size and hold on the market has fluctuated in recent years, they’re still the most important figurehead in the trade.


Diamond mines can be found throughout the world, with notable non-African diamond mines located in Russia, Australia, and Canada.


The controversy in recent years over blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, received a lot of attention. Diamonds mined in war zones, where oppressed peoples were used to mine diamonds against their will in fear of their lives, became a source of outrage. The U.N. made sanctions, which were then implemented by the diamond trading industry.


Once diamonds are mined, they’re sorted according to value, and then sent for cutting and polishing.


On to Asia or Europe

Most of the great diamond cutting centers are in Europe and Asia—especially Antwerp, Thailand, Mumbai, and Tel Aviv. New York is also a large diamond cutting center. Diamantaires, specialists in diamond cutting, cut the diamonds into the shapes in which they’re sold at diamond exchanges around the world.


The most famous diamond exchange is the DTC. The DTC network hosts ten sales of rough diamonds every year, which occur in London, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia simultaneously. At these sales, the DTC ‘sightholders’ inspect their allocations of rough diamonds, and they can either purchase them in their entirety or they can reject them. Customers literally have “SIGHT” of the rough diamonds, and that is why these selling meetings are called “SIGHTS”. De Beers never sells rough diamonds other than at these “SIGHTS”


After purchasing rough diamonds at “SIGHTS”, the sight holders will cut and polish the rough stones into highly polished and valuable gems that will eventually be sold into the open market


Then to you

After that, once the diamonds are purchased by distributors, they’re sent to be manufactured and integrated into the pieces of jewelry they were destined to occupy. Once complete, the jewelry is sent to retail stores and dealers.


The endlessly complex diamond industry is now, as it has always been, in a constant state of flux. Changing economic times have challenged the worldwide demand for diamonds (especially for industrial purposes). Scientists are now able to synthesize diamonds in a way that’s nearly perfect and indistinguishable from the naturally occurring mineral. The De Beers Empire, while still healthy, has seen better days, as evidenced by the 2005 sale of the Premier Mine. However, the process that brings your diamond to you, that brings the rarest of all minerals and transforms it into jewelry, hasn’t changed in over 150 years.