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The History of Diamonds

Fact I:
Up until 1725 diamonds were only found in India. Hence it is not surprising that many of the most famous diamonds were discovered in India: The Blue Hope Diamond, Dresden Green, Wittelsbach-Graff-Diamond, Black Orlov, Koh-i-Noor and others.

Fact II:
Today India is the export champion for polished diamonds: 90% of all diamonds (per volume) and 60% of all diamonds (per value) are cut and polished in India. In 2011 the country even imported more diamonds than were mined worldwide in the same year.

Copyright © 2017 Rio Tinto



Indian Sanscrit texts document their discovery for the first time. Diamonds have a long tradition in India


Arrival in Europe. Through Persia, Syria and Italy the first diamonds found their way to Europe.


Beginning of cutting and polishing


Discovery of sea routes to India by the Portugese. More and more diamonds reach Europe- estimates see their numbers at about two thousand carat per year. This lead to the development of different cut variations. Only by using another diamond one could work on diamonds. In 1600 the art of cutting and polishing was developed also in Germany


First diamonds were discovered outside of India: In Brasil. Within the next 150 years between 100 and 200 thousand carats were exported to Europe


Discovery of diamond fields in South Africa close to the city Kimberley. The volcanic rocks of former vulcanos through which diamonds were transported to the surface from depths of over 150 km is called kimberlite. Bringing these facts to light a new era in the diamond industry began: Production was increased tremendously while diamonds became more available and more popular at the same time. Diamond production increased from 1.8 million carats in 1877 to 6 million carats in 1913


Cecil Rhodes established the company De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., that controlled 90% of the South African diamond production


Two years later the so called „London Diamond Syndicate“ was formed,  a cooperation of 10 English diamond dealers that quasi had a monopoly on selling South African rough diamonds by buying all of De Beer´s production to fixed prices. Sales and distribution of the diamonds was organised by spin-off companies like the Central Selling Organisation (CSO) or the Diamond Trading Company (DTC).


Ernst (laterErnest) Oppenheimer bought shares of De Beers with his company Anglo American and made it to the board of directors. Three years later he was already chairman of the board and led the company´s successfully not only through the economic crisis of the 1930s but also made it dominate the entire market. Oppenheimer himself was born in the small town of Friedberg in Hessia (Germany).


Diamond deposits in Russia were discovered and exploited since 1956


Production of synthetic diamonds for industrial uses


First large synthetic diamond above 1 carat


Global rough diamond production: 50 million carats, i.e. 10 tons


Global rough diamond production: 100 million carats, i.e. 20 tons


Global rough diamond production: 176 million carats, i.e. 35 tons


Global rough diamond production: 168 million carats, i.e. 34 tons

India´s past and present is connected to diamonds
Copyright © 2017 Rio Tinto

Rough diamond production

was reduced in 2008 to 162 million carats and in 2012 to 127 carats. In comparison: Global production of synthetic diamonds in 2011 was approximately 4.38 billion carats. Only about 2% of the industrial demand can be covered by natural diamonds. In many cases industrial diamonds are more suitable for industrial usage because they can be produced on demand and adjusted according to individual specifications. Little do most people know: De Beers is not only a diamond producer and engaged in the jewelry industry. The company invests a lot in research and production of  high-performance materials and is in fact one of the biggest synthetic diamond producers.

Another interesting fact

De Beers (Element Six) runs a production site with 350 workeres near Fulda in Hessia, Germany.Today De Beers is a multi-national company active in diverse lines of business. Over the last 50 years the company lost its monopoly position in the diamond industry. However, up until today De Beers has a market share of about 35%.

Since the 1970s the degree efficiency in the utilization of natural rough diamonds for the jewelry industry increased steadily. More efficient methods of production and manufacturing processes reduced the loss of carat weight. Back in the days only between 20-25% of the rough material could be used in jewelry compared to about 50% of today. In addition to that a diamond cut to round brilliant proportions loses about 60% of its original weight. This reduced the amount of carats that reach the trade every even more.