Friday 21st October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘south africa’

Pushing the boundaries

October 12th, 2016

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes challenging human endurance

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

“Deep underground, deep sky and deep sea” comprise the lofty goals of Three Deep, a five-year program announced last month by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Part 1 of this feature looked at the country’s ambitions to take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land, at sea and into the heavens, and also outlined other countries’ space programs related to mineral exploration. Part 2 delves into undersea mining as well as some of the world’s deepest mines.

Looking to the ocean depths, undersea mining has had tangible success. De Beers has been scooping up alluvial diamonds off southwestern Africa for decades, although at shallow depths. Through NamDeb, a 50/50 JV with Namibia, a fleet of six boats mines the world’s largest-known placer diamond deposit, about 20 kilometres offshore and 150 metres deep.

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

Workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng operation
must withstand the heat of deep underground mining.

Diamond Fields International TSXV:DFI hopes to return to its offshore Namibian claims, where the company extracted alluvial stones between 2005 and 2008. The company also holds a 50.1% interest in Atlantis II, a zinc-copper-silver deposit contained in Red Sea sediments. That project’s now on hold pending a dispute with the Saudi Arabian JV partner.

With deeper, more technologically advanced ambitions, Nautilus Minerals TSX:NUS holds a mining licence for its 85%-held Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea waters. A seafloor massive sulphide deposit at an average depth of 1,550 metres, its grades explain the company’s motivation. The project has a 2012 resource using a 2.6% copper-equivalent cutoff, with the Solwara 1 and 1 North areas showing:

  • indicated: 1.03 million tonnes averaging 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc

  • inferred: 1.54 million tonnes averaging 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc

Using the same cutoff, the Solwara 12 zone shows:

  • inferred: 2.3 million tonnes averaging 7.3% copper, 3.6 g/t gold, 56 g/t silver and 3.6% zinc
Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

This Nautilus diagram illustrates
the proposed Solwara operation.

A company video shows how Nautilus had hoped to operate “the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine” beginning in 2018 using existing technology from land-based mining and offshore oil and gas. Now, should financial restructuring succeed, Nautilus says it could begin deployment and testing by the end of Q1 2019.

Last May Nautilus released a resource update for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific waters of Tonga.

Another deep-sea hopeful, Ocean Minerals last month received approval from the Cook Islands to explore a 12,000-square-kilometre seabed expanse for rare earths in sediments.

A pioneer in undersea exploration, Japan’s getting ready for the next step, according to Bloomberg. A consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal will begin pilot mining in Chinese-contested waters off Okinawa next April, the news agency stated. “Japan has confirmed the deposit has about 7.4 million tons of ore,” Bloomberg added, without specifying what kind of ore.

Scientists are analyzing data from the central Indian Ocean where nodules show signs of copper, nickel and manganese, the Times of India reported in January. The country has a remotely operated vehicle capable of an unusually deep 6,000 metres and is working on undersea mining technology.

In August the World Nuclear News stated Russia is considering a nuclear-powered submarine to explore northern seas for mineral deposits. A government report said the sub’s R&D could put the project on par with the country’s space industry, the WNN added.

If one project alone could justify China’s undersea ambitions, it might be a 470.47-ton gold deposit announced last November. Lying at 2,000 metres’ depth off northern China, the bounty was delineated by 1,000 workers and 120 kilometres of drilling from 67 sea platforms over three years, the People’s Daily reported. Laizhou Rehi Mining hopes to extract the stuff, according to China Daily.

China’s deep underground ambitions might bring innovation to exploration but have been long preceded by actual mining in South Africa—although not without problems, as the country’s deplorable safety record shows. Greater depths bring greater threats from rockfalls and mini-earthquakes.

At 3.9 kilometres’ depth AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) Mponeng holds status as the world’s deepest mine. Five other mines within 50 kilometres of Johannesburg work from at least three kilometres’ depth, where “rock temperatures can reach 60 degrees Celsius, enough to fry an egg,” according to a Bloomberg article posted by

In his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, Matthew Hart recounts a visit to Mponeng, where he’s told a “seismic event” shakes the mine 600 times a month.

Sometimes the quakes cause rockbursts, when rock explodes into a mining cavity and mows men down with a deadly spray of jagged rock. Sometimes a tremor causes a “fall of ground”—the term for a collapse. Some of the rockbursts had been so powerful that other countries, detecting the seismic signature, had suspected South Africa of testing a nuclear bomb.

AngloGold subjects job-seekers to a heat-endurance test, Hart explains.

In a special chamber, applicants perform step exercises while technicians monitor them. The test chamber is kept at a “wet” temperature of eighty-two degrees. The high humidity makes it feel like ninety-six. “We are trying to force the body’s thermoregulatory system to kick in,” said Zahan Eloff, an occupational health physician. “If your body cools itself efficiently, you are safe to go underground for a fourteen-day trial, and if that goes well, cleared to work.”

Clearly there’s more than technological challenges to mining the deeps.

By the way, credit for the world’s deepest drilling goes to Russia, which spent 24 years sinking the Kola Superdeep Bore Hole to 12,261 metres, halfway to the mantle. Work was halted by temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

Cry, the resource-rich country

September 30th, 2016

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

by Greg Klein

South African gold mining really got its start with an 1886 discovery and subsequent rush at Langlaagte, then an isolated farm. Already the world’s largest diamond producer, the country went on to become the behemoth of global gold reserves until 2007. But all that wealth left a damning legacy in an extensive network of abandoned tunnels that lure illegal and desperate gold hunters, often to their deaths. A cave-in and several fatalities in mid-September brought Langlaagte back to international prominence. It’s just one of many such stories playing out in South Africa.

The rising death toll shows the problem’s “spiralling out of control,” Bloomberg quoted Christo de Klerk. Addressing a Johannesburg news conference on September 27, the CEO of Mines Rescue Services said his highly trained volunteer group had recovered 24 bodies so far this year, the largest number in seven years of records.

Legal or illegal, South African miners face perils numerous and deadly

The impetus to Johannesburg’s growth came
from an industry with a highly disturbing death rate.

Even this year’s total marks “the tip of the iceberg,” he stressed. Maybe 90% of the casualties never get reported, which would mean hundreds of missing people have died in their graves.

Speaking with Warren Dick of, de Klerk explained that many of the mines have been abandoned for 60 to 70 years, lacking maps or plans. Without ventilation, gas build-ups can occur. Moreover the diggers often target the pillars, increasing their instability and exacerbating an already dangerous enterprise.

It’s no way to live and a horrible way to die, as shown by some very disturbing photos released by de Klerk’s organization.

This is the world of the zama-zamas, people who might live underground for months at a time. Often working in gangs, they haul in explosives, generators and stockpiles of food, de Klerk told Bloomberg.

Deprived of sunlight for so long, “their skin turns grey,” Matthew Hart wrote in his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. “The wives and prostitutes who live with them turn grey. In South Africa they call them ghost miners. They inhabit an underground metropolis that in some goldfields can extend for 40 miles, a suffocating labyrinth in which the only glitter is the dream of gold.”

Gang warfare delivers additional menace. De Klerk said most of the illegal miners come from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, whose factions fight underground turf wars. His rescuers have encountered murder victims, in one case a grisly pile of 10 bodies that had been shot execution style, he told

The deadly business puts conflict gold on the market. A spokesperson for the SA police elite Hawks unit told Hart that organized crime sends the illicit gold to the Persian Gulf, India and Russia, where it’s laundered into the legitimate bullion trade. “Big players” in police and government support the trade, he said. A 2001 industry study by Peter Gastrow “reached the same conclusion: that an untouchable elite was behind the theft of gold,” Hart wrote.

While rogue miners are said to be predominantly immigrants, they include some South Africans, even legitimate mine employees looking for extra income. In February Sibanye Gold NYSE:SBGL reported two contractors became trapped after entering an abandoned part of the company’s Cooke mine at the end of their shift.

That same day Sibanye reported a fatality in one of its own operations. The SA industry remains deadly, legal or illegal. Harmony Gold Mining NYSE:HMY, for example, reported six separate fatalities so far this year, nearly reaching last year’s total of seven.

In the first eight months of this year 61 people died in South African mines, according to Department of Mineral Resources numbers reported by Last year’s 12-month total came to 77, according to the industry’s Chamber of Mines.

But in February the Mail and Guardian stated the number of accidents, fatal or not, had risen by 500 in the 12 months prior to February. “In the past five years, there have been at least eight accidents a day in mines, injuring more than 15,000 people,” wrote Athandiwe Saba.

That’s not counting occupational diseases. Earlier this month acting chief mines inspector Xolile Mbonambi told an industry conference that 6,577 cases of mining-related diseases were recorded in 2014, reported. Interim figures for 2015 show a slight improvement in the number of silicosis cases but an increase in TB, which Mbonambi called “an indictment on the industry broadly.”

“Moreover, he highlighted that the repercussions of fatalities extended well beyond the boundaries of mines and had substantial socio-economic impacts, affecting the poorest of the poor locally and communities of neighbouring countries the most,” added.

As for the violence, it doesn’t end with gang rivalries. Rival unions have been killing each other’s members at the rate of several murders a year. Meanwhile the newcomer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union gains members at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers. Some observers attribute the NUM slide to a lack of confidence following Marikana, where in a single burst of gunfire police killed 34 striking platinum miners in 2012.

If there’s truth to the accusations, South African mining might harbour yet another threat. After Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe was gunned down in front of his family last March, some people attributed the murder to his work as an anti-mining activist.

September 16 marked the 30th anniversary of the country’s Kinross disaster, which killed 177 miners.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

June 29th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 29, 2016

Dissatisfied with a reported $61-million bid, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC declined to sell its 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona stone. The company had hoped Sotheby’s June 29 London event would pull in $70 million or more.

The stone’s currently the largest gem-quality diamond in captivity and history’s second largest after the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond. Found in 1905, Cullinan was cut and polished into nine gems for the Crown jewels and royal sceptre. Lucara took the unusual step of delegating the Lesedi La Rona sales job to an auctioneer, not standard procedure for rough. But a heavy promotional campaign failed to find a sufficiently astronomical price.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

Despite its record size, as well as exceptional quality and
transparency, the Lesedi La Rona drew disappointing bids.
(Photo: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Yet the miner’s expectations might have been understandable. In May Lucara sold its 812.77-carat Constellation for $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond,” the company stated. Lucara kept a 10% interest in Constellation’s sale after being cut and polished.

Exceptional cut-and-polished prices in recent months included the Blue Moon of Josephine which went for $48.4 million last March, then considered “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat.” Just one day earlier the same buyer paid $28.5 million for the 16.08-carat Sweet Josephine.

In April, however, Sotheby’s rejected a top bid of $22 million for the 9.54-carat Shirley Temple Blue diamond, having hoped for $25 million to $35 million.

Lucara’s recent record finds came from its Karowe mine in Botswana, aided by an improved recovery circuit. The two Josephines came from South Africa’s Cullinan mine, now operated by Petra Diamonds. That company’s most recent large find weighs in at 121.26 carats. It’s currently on tender.

Earlier this month ALROSA announced one of Russia’s biggest finds, a 241.21-carat rough that followed the previous month’s 207.29-carat stone, each from a different pipe at Yakutia in Siberia.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, expects even more next month

May 9th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 9, 2016

The 812.77-carat sale had Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC bragging about “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond, breaking all records”—and the company has an even bigger stone going to auction next month. Lucara got $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, for the newly named Constellation, one of last November’s big finds from the Karowe mine in Botswana. The company retains a 10% interest in Constellation’s cut-and-polished profits.

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, hopes for even more next month

Sorters scrutinize some of the smaller
stones from Lucara’s Botswana operation.

Lucara’s record-breaking recovery, just days before Constellation, was the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, from which Sotheby’s hopes to raise more than $70 million in London next month. As a gem-quality rough it ranks second in size only to the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan stone found in South Africa in 1905.

Cullinan was cut into nine polished gems, eight of them set into Britain’s Crown jewels. The ninth, the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa, now resides in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre. It’s considered the world’s largest top-quality polished diamond but, Sotheby’s says, might lose that distinction to Lesedi La Rona.

But for that to happen, “a full complement of truly diamantine nerves will be required,” the auctioneer points out. “For while the art and craft of diamond-cutting—a meditative skill often passed down through generations—has radically improved since the Cullinan was cut, it is still through man’s ingenuity that the full beauty and light of a gem is revealed.”

Constellation bagged considerably more than the extraordinary cut-and-polished sales of recent months, including the $48.4-million Blue Moon of Josephine.

At a special tender of Karowe rough last month, Lucara flogged 10 diamonds totalling 1,525 carats for $51.3 million.

Last year Lucara attributed its historic finds partly to Karowe’s new XRT recovery circuit. The company planned to spend $15 million to $18 million to integrate an additional recovery process for exceptionally large gems.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Rapaport wants rough diamond prices slashed, De Beers CEO axed

November 26th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 26, 2015

Saying rough prices must fall by 30% to 50%, a leading industry commentator has called on De Beers head Philippe Mellier to resign. “The rough diamond distribution system is collapsing as De Beers and other mining companies attempt to force unsustainable artificially high rough diamond prices on the diamond trade,” Martin Rapaport said in a November 24 statement.

Rapaport wants rough diamond prices slashed, De Beers CEO axed

Martin Rapaport

“Rough prices are higher than polished prices, which have come down to realistic levels due to the downturn in the global economy. The mining company’s refusal to lower rough prices is destroying the diamond trade, creating severe financial losses, illiquidity, supply shortages and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs…. Without a viable, profitable and sustainable diamond trade distributing their diamonds, De Beers diamond mines are worthless.”

Rapaport is chairperson of the Rapaport Group, described as “an international network of companies providing added value services.” The press release appeared on his news website, along with an article called Rough Bubble Bust.

Rapaport called on those working in the industry to contact Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani. “De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier’s brand of trade exploitation and cannibalization is no longer tolerable,” Rapaport charged. “It is time for Mellier to go.” Anglo owns 85% of De Beers, with the government of Botswana holding the rest.

A November 26 Rapaport News article predicted De Beers’ revenue will fall about 44% in 2015.

In a report released earlier this month, diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky said De Beers reduced its 2015 production plan by 12% with cutbacks in Botswana and South Africa. Although the company dropped rough prices around 10% at an August sight, prices remained unchanged at an October sale.

“Some buyers responded by rejecting up to half of their parcels offered, an indication that additional price cuts are probably still necessary in the current environment for some mid-stream clients to remain economically viable,” he stated. “Anecdotes suggest that in some cases it is still cheaper to buy polished on the open market than it is to buy rough directly and cut into polished.”

In a recent interview with Mining Weekly Online, Zimnisky said Canadian diamond mines are less likely to be affected by the downturn.

Lucara claims diamond history with second-largest rough stone ever found

November 18th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 18, 2015

Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC takes a place in history with a 1,111-carat gem-quality, Type IIa rough diamond announced November 18. Pulled out of the company’s Karowe south lobe in Botswana, it’s the largest gem-quality diamond known, after the legendary Cullinan stone found in South Africa in 1905. The Cullinan was cut and polished into the two largest diamonds in the British Crown jewels.

Lucara claims diamond history with second-largest rough stone

Found by Lucara’s newly installed large diamond recovery
XRT machines, the rock measures 65 by 56 by 40 millimetres.

Lucara’s latest find far outweighs Karowe’s second-largest stone, a 348-carat piece announced just six days earlier. The company reported a 255-carat diamond at the same time.

At Lucara’s second Exceptional Stone Tender of 2015 last week, the company sold 13 single stones totalling 1,440 carats for a total of $29.7 million, or $20,625 per carat. A tender held last July reaped $68.71 million, or $41,028 per carat, for 14 stones totalling 1,674 carats.

But the 1,111-carat discovery “puts Lucara and the Karowe mine amongst a select number of truly exceptional diamond producers,” boasted president/CEO William Lamb. “The significance of the recovery of a gem-quality stone larger than 1,000 carats, the largest for more than a century, and the continued recovery of high-quality stones from the south lobe, cannot be overstated. Our focus on mining the south lobe, which is delivering value beyond expectation, has been perfectly timed with the commissioning of our recent plant modifications, enabling the recovery of these large, high-quality exceptional diamonds.”

One week earlier Sotheby’s announced “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat” with the $48.4-million bid for the Blue Moon of Josephine diamond.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Update: On November 19 Lucara announced two more big finds from Karowe, an 813-carat and a 374-carat white diamond. Weights are subject to change when the stones are cleaned.

Sotheby’s sets new records as the Blue Moon diamond gets $48.4 million

November 11th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 11, 2015

The Blue Moon netted less than the seller’s highest hopes but still set “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat,” Sotheby’s Geneva showroom heard. And, one day after Christie’s auctioned a pink diamond for $28.5 million, the anonymous buyer sparked speculation. In each case the purchaser was described only as being from Hong Kong, Reuters reported. He, she or they promptly named the first Sweet Josephine and the second Blue Moon of Josephine.

Blue Moon diamond sets new records with $48.4-million price

The Blue Moon before and after: A master cutter hacked
away more than half the size to nearly double the value.

The blue’s price fell in the mid-range of an anticipated $35 million to $55 million. Christie’s pink got over half a million more than its highest anticipated price and nearly tripled the auctioneer’s past pink record of $10.77 million set in 2009. But in 2010, Sotheby’s sold a 24.78-carat pink for $46 million.

The 12.03-carat, internally flawless Blue Moon, described as one of the world’s rarest gems, features a fancy vivid hue that the Gemological Institute of America said “might be so unique as to be indescribable.”

Dug up in January 2014 at South Africa’s fabled Cullinan mine, the Blue Moon’s 29.6-carat rough original sold the following month for $25.6 million. The stone underwent five months of scrutiny by a team of experts before a design was chosen, then three months of artistry by a master cutter.

Cullinan was a 1902 discovery so rich that it threatened De Beers’ hegemony until the giant took over the mine in 1914. Petra Diamonds has operated it since 2008. Cullinan boasts of being the only reliably conflict-free source of blue diamonds.

Sotheby’s sets new records as Blue Moon diamond gets $48.4 million

Ultraviolet light exposes the Blue Moon of
Josephine’s red phosphorescence, “another
extremely rare and fascinating feature of
this diamond,” Sotheby’s noted.

It’s also known for its progeny of other stones of exceptional quality and size. At 3,106 carats, the mine’s namesake Cullinan diamond was the largest rough gem ever recovered. Cut into two magnificent pieces, the Great Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa, the stone provided the two largest diamonds in the British crown jewels.

Since 1904 the mine has produced nearly 800 stones greater than 100 carats and over a quarter of the world’s diamonds above 400 carats.

Although Canadian rough generally fetches sums well above the global average, the prices and sizes are dwarfed by the most ostentatious bling. Last September Birks offered for sale a $3.69-million, 15.1-carat stone that it called the “largest diamond ever mined in Canada.” That gem originated as a 55.07-carat rough from the Rio Tinto NYE:RIO/Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC Diavik joint venture in the Northwest Territories. But in 2011 BHP Billiton NYE:BHP auctioned the Ekati mine’s 78-carat rough Ekati Spirit for $6.1 million. Dominion, now the mine’s majority owner, calls that stone Ekati’s most significant find. The mine has also coughed up a 182-carat rough that fell short of gem quality.

Diamonds haven’t been the only luxuries attracting the super rich in recent days. On November 9 Christie’s sold Modigliani’s Reclining Nude to a Chinese billionaire couple for $170.4 million, “the second-highest price ever achieved at auction for a work of art,” the Guardian reported. Another Christie’s art auction the following night brought an additional $331.8 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Two days later Sotheby’s was to put more art under the hammer, including an Andy Warhol silkscreen and a Cy Twombly painting with pre-sale estimates of $40 million and over $60 million respectively.

Read about Christie’s Sweet Josephine auction.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Christie’s flogs pink diamond for $28.5 million; Sotheby’s hopes Blue Moon will get $55 million

November 10th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 10, 2015

Update: On November 11 the Blue Moon sold for $48.4 million.

A stinking rich buyer has christened this $28.55-million purchase the Sweet Josephine. And so sets a Christie’s record for pink diamonds, this one described as the “largest cushion-shaped fancy vivid pink diamond ever to be offered at auction.” The November 10 winning bid brought over half a million more than the highest anticipated price and nearly tripled the auctioneer’s past pink record of $10.77 million set in 2009.

In 2010 rival Sotheby’s sold a 24.78-carat pink for $46 million.

Christie’s auctions pink diamond for $28.5 million; Sotheby’s hopes Blue Moon will get $55 million

As investments, diamond jewelry “can appreciate considerably in
value over a relatively short period of time,” according to Christie’s.

The 16.08-carat stone comes set in a ring and “surrounded by a double row of pavé white diamonds, highlighting the main stone, with a third row of small pink diamonds underneath,” Christie’s stated. “The band is comprised of small circular-cut white diamonds set in platinum.”

Among coloured diamonds, pinks are the most coveted and regularly fetch record prices, the auctioneer explained. But with no trace of a secondary colour, this one’s exceptionally rare. “Only one in 100,000 diamonds possesses a colour deep enough to qualify as ‘fancy’.”

Size matters too. Less than 10% of pinks weigh more than one-fifth of a carat. “In almost 250 years of auction history, only three pure vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have appeared for sale,” Christie’s added.

The stone “comes to market at a time when great gems are mirroring prices achieved for masterpieces in the world of fine art,” said Christie’s spokesperson Rahul Kadakia prior to the auction. “Collectors are looking to jewels as savvy investments that are both beautiful and can appreciate considerably in value over a relatively short period of time.”

Christie’s auctions pink diamond for $28.5 million; Sotheby’s hopes Blue Moon will get $55 million

These five “heroes” of Rio’s most recent tender went to “notable investors,
collectors and retailers based in Europe, USA, China and the Middle East.”

Rio Tinto’s (NYE:RIO) Argyle mine in Western Australia claims credit for most of the world’s rare pinks and reds. The same day the Sweet Josephine changed hands, Rio’s 2015 Pink Diamonds Tender “delivered an exceptional result, reflecting global demand and sustained price growth,” the company stated. But prices were confidential. Rio plans to suspend Argyle’s operations sometime this quarter.

Sotheby’s hopes to soar past the record-selling pink the evening of November 12, when the final lot of its Geneva auction comes up for bids. The 12.03-carat, internally flawless Blue Moon has been described as one of the world’s rarest gems, with a fancy vivid hue that “might be so unique as to be indescribable.”

This billion-year-old chunk of carbon from Petra Diamonds’ Cullinan mine in South Africa could bag $35 million to $55 million.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Infographic: The world’s most famous diamonds

November 5th, 2015
Infographic: The world’s most famous diamonds


by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | November 5, 2015

Original graphic by Gear Jewellers.

You may have heard of the Cullinan Diamond or the Hope Diamond, but do you know the stories behind these legendary finds? This infographic looks at the history and characteristics of six of the most famous diamonds.

A diamond primer

Every diamond is unique and as a result the value of a particular diamond is partially determined by the eye of the beholder. The diamond industry generally uses a set of criteria called the four Cs to help determine the potential value of a diamond: clarity, cut, carats and colour.

Most diamonds have major deficiencies in one or more of the above categories. For example, while a diamond may be clear and large in size, it may have a less desirable colour and shape. In a previous infographic, we explained the importance of these characteristics in more depth and we’ve also previously posted on the significance of rare coloured diamonds.

The most famous diamonds in the world are exceptionally rare: they tend to excel in all four of the above categories. They are a desired colour and shape, have great clarity and are giant in size.

The most famous diamonds

The stories behind six of the most famous diamonds in brief:

The Cullinan Diamond: Perhaps the most well-known, the Cullinan Diamond was discovered in 1905 in South Africa. Weighing in at 3,106.75 carats, the Cullinan is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever discovered. The diamond was ultimately cut into nine smaller stones including the 530.2-carat Star of Africa, which is valued at over $400 million alone.

The Hope Diamond: The Hope Diamond is a grayish-blue diamond that was discovered in India at an unknown date. It has a long history, in which it changed hands numerous times between countries and eventually ended up at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

The Centenary Diamond: The Centenary Diamond is considered to be one of the most flawless diamonds, both internally and externally. Discovered in South Africa, it was unveiled in its final form by De Beers in 1991. The current owner is unknown.

The Regent Diamond: This pale blue diamond was discovered by a slave in India in 1698. After eventually making it to the crowns of Louis XV and Louis XVI in France, it is now on display at the Louvre in Paris and weighs 140.64 carats.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond: Meaning “Mountain of Light” in the Persian language, this diamond was discovered at a mine in India. It is of the finest white colour and made its way from a Hindu temple eventually to the UK crown in 1850.

The Orlov Diamond: Discovered in India at an unknown date, this jewel retains its traditional Indian rose-style cut. The Orlov, which weighs in at 189.62 carats and is white with a faint bluish-green colour, now rests in the Kremlin in Russia.

The world’s most famous diamonds all have intriguing stories behind their discoveries. However, a diamond prospector doesn’t need to find a diamond to strike it rich. Check out the infographic story of Diamond Fields, a diamond company that ended up finding and auctioning off one of the world’s richest nickel deposits for billions.

Original graphic by Gear Jewellers.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

August 28th, 2015

by Greg Klein | August 28, 2015

It all started when a vacationer spotted a nice-looking rock lying in the dirt. That turned out to be a truly exceptional diamond that’s to be transformed by a Saskatchewan master cutter in a four-day public event. Next month Mike Botha, a renowned craftsman based in Prince Albert, travels to Little Rock to apply his skills to the Esperanza, an 8.52-carat gem found last June by Bobbie Oskarson in Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. After setting up a mini-factory at Stanley Jewelers Gemologist he’ll offer the public “a unique opportunity to watch a master craftsman’s precision as he cuts and shapes the rough stone to bring out its inherent beauty, value and luminosity,” according to the retail store.

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

Mike Botha
(Photo: Embee Diamonds)

Speaking to, Botha extolled the qualities of Oskarson’s chance find. “The stone is absolutely colourless,” he enthuses. Quite unusually, an analysis found zero parts per billion nitrogen. “So we have reason to believe this is one of the most colourless diamonds you could ever find. And the clarity is phenomenal. There are absolutely no inclusions [impurities] from what we could see.” Further analysis found no stress zones, “which is also a good indicator of it being absolutely inclusion-free. It’s a pretty pure stone.”

His craft calls for “planning, planning, planning,” he explains. “It’s like doing wood, but measure 10 times, cut once. It’s very painstaking.

“We did 3D solid modelling of the rough crystal and out of that we chose a design called the triolette that would maximize the visual appeal as well as maximize the material. It’s like an elongated teardrop but it has angles instead of being a smooth curve, unlike the briolette. But the angles are very obtuse and there’s a mixture of emerald and trapezoid configurations in the diamond.”

Could there be any risk? “Through stupidity, yes,” Botha responds. But with no apparent stress zones, “we have reason to believe it’s a very healthy diamond so we do not foresee problems with the stone breaking spontaneously.”

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

The Esperanza
(Photo: ©AGS Laboratories, Peter Yantzer)

The result will inevitably weigh less than the original. But he anticipates finishing up with the “magic five” carats, considered an optimal size for jewelry.

The gem then goes to a lab for final grading before being mounted in a custom-designed pendant. It’s expected to go on sale this autumn.

Oskarson sold Esperanza to a consortium in which she retains an interest, Botha says. “We believe there’s a lot of blue sky in the project.” He’s not at liberty to discuss his own remuneration, however.

As for having an audience throughout four days of painstaking work, “it doesn’t bother me, as long as I don’t have to do the talking. We’ll have some spokespeople to do that.”

Botha began his career in South Africa and briefly worked in Russia before coming to Canada in 1997. His first contract here had him cutting some exceptionally large stones, “a 314-carat and a couple of 100-carat diamonds” from Brazil. The Northwest Territories, the world’s third-largest rough diamond producer by value, recruited him to write a curriculum and provide training, as well as do consulting work for the government.

Renowned Saskatchewan diamond cutter to shape tourist’s chance find

Bobbie Oskarson
(Photo: Arkansas State Parks)

There had been some diamond cutting in Yellowknife “but I don’t know what the status on that is,” he says. Although the territory tried to encourage home-grown professionals, “it’s not cost-effective,” Botha maintains. “Just to run an operation in the Arctic is senseless. Everything’s so expensive. You cannot compete with countries like India and China in that respect.”

Canada currently has “one outfit in Vancouver, one in Montreal, more than one in Toronto. But these are not large facilities. The largest at the moment is HRA in Sudbury.” His family business, Embee Diamonds, describes itself as a “world-class diamond cutting and polishing atelier” located in Prince Albert. “The reason we’re surviving is most of our business is with United States jewellers, so we don’t go through a middleman. It’s direct to the retailer.”

As for diamonds mined in this country, almost all go to Antwerp. “The Diamond High Council in Belgium did a phenomenal job to recruit all the mining companies to put up distribution and sorting facilities in Belgium.” From there, “probably 90% of Canadian stones go to India for cutting and polishing.”