The Diamond Trading Company, or DTC, is a subsidiary of De Beers and
markets rough diamonds produced both by De Beers mines and other
mines from which it purchases rough diamond production. DTC performs
sophisticated sorting of rough diamonds into over 16,000 categories,
and then sells bulk lots of rough diamonds to a limited number of
sightholders a few times a year.
Once purchased by sightholders, diamonds are cut and polished in
preparation for sale as gemstones. The cutting and polishing of
rough diamonds is a specialized skill that is concentrated in a
limited number of locations worldwide. Traditional diamond cutting
centers are Antwerp, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, New York, and Tel
Aviv. Recently, diamond cutting centers have been established in
China, India, and Thailand. Cutting centers with lower costs of
labor, notably Surat in Gujarat, India, handle a larger number of
smaller carat diamonds, while smaller quantities of larger or more
valuable diamonds are more likely to be handled in Europe or North
Demonstrating this, India produces 90% of all cut and polished
diamonds by number, but only 55% by value. The recent expansion of
this industry in India, employing low cost labor, has allowed
smaller diamonds to be prepared as gems than was previously
Diamonds which have been prepared as gemstones are sold on diamond
exchanges called bourses. There are 24 registered diamond bourses.
This is the final tightly controlled step in the diamond supply
chain; wholesalers and even retailers are able to buy relatively
small lots of diamonds at the bourses, after which they are prepared
for final sale to the consumer. Diamonds can be sold already set in
jewelry, or as is increasingly popular, sold unset ("loose").
According to the Rio Tinto Group, in 2002 the diamonds produced and
released to the market were valued at US$9 billion as rough
diamonds, US$14 billion after being cut and polished, US$28 billion
in wholesale diamond jewelry, and retail sales of US$57 billion.
Synthetics, simulants, and enhancements
It is important to distinguish that a synthetic diamond is a true
diamond created by a technological process, whereas a diamond
simulant is defined as a non-diamond material that is used to
simulate the properties of a true diamond.
The gemological and industrial uses of diamond have created a large
demand for raw stones. A portion of this demand is now being met by
synthetic diamonds, man-made diamonds which have similar properties
to natural diamonds. This process has historically produced
industrial-grade diamonds, but synthetic diamond producers have
recently begun to produce diamonds with high enough quality to
penetrate the gem diamond market. Diamonds have been manufactured
synthetically for over fifty years.
A diamond's gem quality, which is not as dependent on material
properties as industrial applications, has invited both imitation
and the invention of procedures to enhance the gemological
properties of natural diamonds. Materials which have similar
gemological characteristics to diamond but are not real mined or
synthetic diamond are known as diamond simulants. The most familiar
diamond simulant to most consumers is cubic zirconia (commonly
abbreviated as CZ); recently moissanite has also gained cachet as a
popular diamond simulant. Both CZ and moissanite are synthetically
produced for use as a diamond simulant. Diamond enhancements are
specific treatments, performed on natural diamonds (usually those
already cut and polished into a gem), which are designed to better
the gemological characteristics of the stone in one or more ways.
These include laser drilling to remove inclusions, application of
sealants to fill cracks, treatments to improve a white diamond's
color grade, and treatments to give fancy color to a white diamond.
Currently, trained gemologists with appropriate equipment are able
to distinguish natural diamonds from all synthetic and simulant
diamonds, and identify all enhanced natural diamonds. The
established natural diamond industry has a vested interest in
maintaining the distinction between natural diamonds and other
diamonds, and has made significant investments toward that end.
However, as manufacturing technology improves, synthetic diamonds
may become indistinguishable from natural diamonds, and new
techniques for creating and treating simulants (such as coating them
with a very thin diamond-like layer of carbon) are making it
increasingly difficult to distinguish simulants from real diamonds.
SymbolismBecause of their extraordinary physical properties, diamonds have
been used symbolically since near the time of their first discovery.
Perhaps the earliest symbolic use of diamonds was as the eyes of
Hindu devotional statues. The diamonds themselves were thought to be
endowments from the gods and were therefore cherished. The point at
which diamonds began to be associated with divinity is not known,
but early texts indicate that it was recognized in India since at
least 400 BCE. It is said the Greeks believed diamonds were tears of
the gods; the Romans believed they were splinters of fallen stars.
Many long dead cultures have sought to explain diamond's superlative
properties through divine or mystical affiliations.
In Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle),
diamonds are an important symbol, and the Diamond Sutra is one of
the most popular texts.
In Western culture, diamonds are the traditional emblem of
fearlessness and virtue, but have also often associated with power,
wealth, crime and misfortune. Today, diamonds are used to symbolize
eternity and love, being often seen adorning engagement rings and
sometimes wedding rings as well. The popularity of this modern
tradition can be traced directly to the marketing campaigns of De
Beers, starting in 1938. Prior to the De Beers marketing campaign,
engagement rings had no one particular stone associated with them.
The first diamond engagement ring can be traced to the marriage of
Maximilian I (then Archduke of Austria) to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
Other early examples of betrothal jewels incorporating diamonds
include the Bridal Crown of Blanche (ca. 1370–80) and the Heftlein
brooch of Vienna (ca. 1430–40), a pictorial piece depicting a
wedding couple. Inaccessibility of diamonds to the vast majority of
the population limited the popularity of diamonds as betrothal
jewels during this period.
The LifeGem company further taps modern symbolism by purporting to
synthetically convert the carbonized remains of people or pets into
"memorial diamonds." However, many people feel very uncomfortable at
the thought of wearing the carbonized remains of people as jewelry.
The diamond is the birthstone for people born in the month of April,
and is also used as the symbol of a sixty-year anniversary, such as
a Diamond Jubilee (see hierarchy of precious substances).
Diamonds are a common focus of fiction. Notable pieces of fiction
include Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever (1956), Arthur C.
Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three (1988) and Neal Stephenson's The
Diamond Age (1995). In addition, diamonds are the subject of various
myths and legends.