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Diamond Mines of the World
India: The most famous diamond mines in India were those of the Golconda region between the Godavari and Krishna rivers in what is today the Eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. Diamonds were discovered in India as early as the 4th century B.C. and were mined in Golconda as well as Landak and Raolconda. For close to 2000 years, this was the only source of diamonds in the world apart from a small, private mine in Borneo. Though the mine is now exhausted, the diamonds found there are held in high regard all over the world for their exceptional brilliance and transparency, and include the famous blue Hope diamond, donated by Harry Winston to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and the Koh-i-Noor of the Crown Jewels of England.
The origin of the Golconda diamonds begins as long as millions of years ago and as far away as North India when the Tethys Oceanic Crust collided with the Asian Continental plate to form the Himalayan mountain range. The collision of the two continental plates also triggered volcanic activity that created molten igneous rock known as kimberlite, which are carriers of diamonds from deep within the earth. Erosion of the surface rock over millions of years transported these diamonds to their eventual destination in the Golconda region.
One of the few active diamond mines in India is located in the Panna region of Madhya Pradesh and is owned by the National Development Mineral Corporation, a Government of India undertaking. The mines remained closed for two years in the wake of environmental litigation, but the Supreme Court of India in August 2008 allowed the mines to reopen and resume operations under new guidelines.
The other mine currently under operation in India is the Bunder mine operated by mining giant Rio Tinto in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.
South Africa: The earliest known South African diamond was found in 1866 in the Northern Cape Province's capital city Kimberley, and was said to be a 21 carat stone. A large number of hopeful diggers soon flocked to the region in what was known as the diamond rush. The largest company to operate a mine in South Africa at the time was the world famous De Beers Company, the last of whose mines was closed in 2005.
The famous South African diamond mines today are the Baken Diamond mine in the Northern Cape Province and the Venetian and Oaks Diamond mines in the Limpopo province. The Letseng mine, located in the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho, an independent republic within South Africa, is located 3,100 meters above sea level and is one of the highest diamond mines in the world.
Botswana: The Jwaneng Diamond Mine, located in the Kalahari Desert in South Central Botswana, is one of the richest diamond mines in the world, by value. In 2003 the mine produced 14.3 million rough diamonds, and it has been estimated that the mine will not be exhausted until at least 2032. The other important mine in the region is Orapa, Damtshaa, and Letlhakane.
According to the United Nations, conflict diamonds are '...diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.' These diamonds are more commonly referred to as 'blood diamonds' and are particular to the war-torn nations in western and central Africa.
The African nations of Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, and Ivory Coast saw decades of civil war, instability and power struggles during which insurgents and leaders alike exploited the countries resources to fund widespread violence. The money earned from the sales of the diamonds of these countries was used to finance wars that led to the brutal torture and killings of tens of thousands of innocents and displacement of even more from their homes. Although most of these nations are now at peace, Ivory Coast still remains in a state of turmoil, and there is no official diamond mining carried out in the country. A United Nations Security Council Resolution prohibits the import and export of diamonds from Ivory Coast.
A global agreement known as the Kimberley Process was developed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond markets and certifies that diamonds are not from conflict nations. These diamonds are closely monitored at every point, from mining to retail. Today, over 99% of all diamonds available in the market are certified by the Kimberley Process as being free from conflict. There are currently 74 countries that are participants of the Kimberley Process, including those countries aforementioned. India too is a Kimberley Process participant.
The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous coloured diamonds ever known to the world and was found in the Kollur mine in Golconda. The fancy coloured diamond today is a 45.52 carat dark-greyish blue gem, which, when discovered as a rough stone, was alleged to weigh 112 carats. The diamond earns its name from Henry Philip Hope, who bought it in the 1830s after the death of its previous known owner, King George IV of England.
The Hope Diamond has seen many owners over the centuries before it was donated by the jeweller Harry Winston to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the USA, where it is now displayed. The gem is the focus of a pendant and is surrounded by 16 colourless diamonds on a string of 45 colourless diamonds.
Arguably the most controversial diamond in the world, the Koh-i-Noor is also likely the most famous. The earliest known accounts of the diamond are said to be in the writings of Mughal Emperor Babur, and the stone is reputed to have been acquired by his son Humayun in 1526. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who wrote about the stone in Travels in India II in 1925, alleged it to weigh 186 carats.
Also found in Golconda, the stone travelled through the hands of rulers across India and Afghanistan before it was taken to England by Sir John Lawrence, where it has been part of the Crown Jewels for over 150 years. It has been set in the royal crowns of the British Queens Victoria, Mary and Elizabeth I. The crown of Queen Elizabeth I, the Queen Mother, which currently holds the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, is on display at the Tower of London.
The Cullinan, the largest rough diamond ever found, was discovered in 1905 at the Premier Mine in South Africa, and was presented to King Edward VII of England. The Cullinan weighed 3,106 carats (1.37 lb) prior cutting and is believed to be part a considerably larger stone that broke off one of its cleavage planes. The Cullinan was cut into a total of 105 diamonds, weighing a total of 1,063 carats. The largest of these was the 530.2 carat Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the second largest cut diamond in existence, which is currently set in the British royal scepter.
The largest known faceted diamond is a fancy yellow-brown stone called the Golden Jubilee, weighing 545.67 carats, which was cut from a 755 carat rough discovered in the Premier Mine, South Africa. The stone was presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his coronation.
The Vargas diamond, weighing 726.6 carats uncut, was mined in Brazil in 1938. When it was cut in 1945, the rough yielded 29 diamonds weighing a total of 411 carats. Earlier, in 1934, the Jonker Diamond, weighing approximately the same as the Vargas Diamond, was discovered near the Premier Mine in South Africa, and was cut into 12 diamonds, the largest weighing 125.4 carats.
Napoléon Diamond Necklace: In 1811, Napoléon Bonaparte gifted a glorious necklace to his second wife, Marie-Louise, Empress of France, as a celebration of the birth of their son. After Napoléon's exile, Marie-Louise, who hailed from the Hapsburg family in Austria, returned to Vienna with her jewels, including the necklace. After Marie-Louise's death, the necklace was inherited by her cousin Archduchess Sophie and later by the Archduchess's son. In 1929, the necklace was sent to the USA to be sold, but several frauds and conspiracies later, was returned to the Hapsburg family in Austria.
The necklace's last known owner was Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post, who in 1962 donated it to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where it remains displayed to date. The necklace currently consists of 234 colourless diamonds and weights 263 carats. Archduchess Sophie is said to have removed two diamonds, which she set as earrings, but their current owner is unknown.