Diamonds are a natural, non-renewable resource. As a result, they’re inherently rare – especially when it comes to where you can actually find them. For example, there are 195 countries in the world, but only a small handful produce them in quantities large enough to sell commercially. These nations include Russia, Botswana, Canada, Angola, South Africa and Namibia. A few others produce them, but at rates that are generally below 1 million carats per year, such as Australia, Brazil and Zimbabwe, according to estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Red diamonds are ‘rarest of them all’
Given their rarity, you may wonder about the very rarest diamonds of them all. For the most part, the hardest to find are coloured diamonds. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), these include blue, green, orange, yellow, brown and red. Rarity is particularly true of red diamonds. Naturally red diamonds are highly unusual and only a select number of them have ever been sold. As reported by CNN, Rio Tinto – which operates three mines in the world, one of them in Western Australia – has sold fewer than 20 carats of certified fancy red diamonds in the nearly 150 years that the company has been in business. In 2017, Rio Tinto unveiled its Argyle Everglow, which was roughly 2.2 carats. That’s the equivalent in terms of size to a one cent coin.
“Red diamonds are the rarest of them all,” Graeme Thomson, head of jewelry in Asia for Bonhams, an international auction house headquartered in the United Kingdom, told CNN. “Whoever gets to hold one in his hand is very lucky indeed.”
In the 1990s, a red diamond that was more than double the size of the Argyle Everglow – 5.11 carats – was discovered in Brazil, CNN reported. South America’s largest country in population and land area produces around the same amount of diamonds annually that Australia does, based on the most recent data available from the USGS.
Thompson noted that while these gems appear to be red to the naked eye, a better description for them is a “highly saturated vivid pink. They can vary slightly in terms of their shade, including pinkish red, brownish red and orangey red. How unusual they are relative to other hues impacts what they sell for on the open market, particularly at auctions.
“A fancy red is the rarest of all diamonds,” Thompson further explained.
Australia a leading nation for coloured diamond supply
According to Australian Mining, even though pure red diamonds are virtually non-existent, Western Australia – particularly the Argyle mine owned by Rio Tinto – is the only mine in the world that serves as a “consistent source” of pink, red-tinted and violet coloured diamonds.
While red diamonds are truly unique and extraordinarily infrequent in their numbers, coloured diamonds in general are also quite rare. IBISWorld reports the Argyle mine in Western Australia is responsible for 90% of the world’s overall supply of coloured diamonds. However, given that the Argyle mine is slated to end operations at some point in 2020, its closure has raised questions as to where miners will dig next in hopes of finding more.
That destination may be in Kimberley. Approximately 3,000 kilometres outside of Perth, one of the Kimberley mines was scoped out by the Lucapa Diamond Company in 2018. The search proved successful, as the supplier was able to recover over 1,100 diamonds in August of that year.
Lucapa Diamond Company Chairman Miles Kennedy told ABC Rural that in his nearly 30 years of working in the diamond mining industry, he’d never come across so many in a single drill.
“It is three times as good as the first sensational find, so these two results together basically confirm that we certainly have one diamondiferous lamproite,” Kennedy explained.
The other “result” Kennedy referred to was a separate lamproite drilling effort that took place at Little Spring Creek in early February. As Mining.com reported at the time, Lucapa unearthed more than 100 diamonds from Little Spring Creek, which is also located in the Kimberley region.
High expectations for Kimberley
Industry experts believe the Kimberley mines may be the most fertile places to go to for coloured diamond extraction, both for pink diamonds as well as yellow diamonds. Gibb River Diamonds is also expanding its mining activities, a company that currently holds mining and exploration leases throughout much of Australia, including Ellendale. Roughly 120 kilometres east of Derby, Ellendale is perhaps best known for its supply of yellow diamonds, which were first discovered in this portion of Australia in the mid-1970s by Ashton Joint Venture, Mining Technology reported.
Aside from being hard to come by, diamonds go through many levels of production and distribution, including – but not limited to – traders, cutters and polishers. In other words, new discoveries may take years before they reach jewellers’ store shelves and cabinets.
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