Up to two-thirds of the world’s diamonds by value originate from southern and central Africa, while significant sources have been discovered in Russia, Australia and Canada. Annual diamond output amounts to approximately 156 million carats.
Most diamonds come from the mining of kimberlite deposits. Another important source of gem diamonds, however, has been secondary alluvial deposits formed by the weathering of primary kimberlites and the subsequent deposition of released diamonds in rivers and beach gravels.
Rough or uncut diamonds are broadly classified either as gem diamonds or industrial quality diamonds, with gem representing by far the larger of the two markets by value. The primary world market for gem diamonds is in retail jewellery where aspects such as size, colour, shape and clarity have a large impact on valuation. De Beers, through DTCI, supplies its clients – known as sightholders – with parcels of rough diamonds that are specifically aligned to their respective cutting and polishing needs.
De Beers and Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton have established a high-end retail jewellery joint venture, through De Beers Diamond Jewellers, with stores in the most fashionable areas of some of the world’s great cities, including New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow and Dubai, with aggressive plans for expanding the global network in future.
De Beers, through Element Six, is a major producer of synthetic industrial diamond material; applications include cutting, grinding, polishing, wire making and other technical and scientific uses. Element Six has a significant share in the oil and gas drilling business and has expanded recently by building an industrial diamond plant in China and the acquisition of a majority stake in a plant in Ukraine. In 2007, Element Six further enhanced its hard material portfolio by successfully completing the acquisition of Barat Carbide in Germany. With this step, Element Six acquired significant materials competence in carbide as well as market channels and application know-how in mining, road construction and for wear parts. With sales of well above $100 million, Barat Carbide is a large addition to the Element Six group, resulting in total annual sales of over $500 million for the combined entities.