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6 posts from June 2006

1.11 Carat Diamond Discovered in Arkansas

Craterdiamondgirl_1 It is common for nine-year-old children to dig in the dirt, but how many do you know that find a diamond?  Courtney Condor, of Grantsburg, IL, was digging for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds Park near Murfreesboro, Arkansas on June 11 when she discovered a 1.11-carat white diamond.

The Condor family had been at the park for two days before Courtney found the gem near a sign marking the largest diamond find in the United States: a rose-tinted 40.23-carat “Uncle Sam” diamond found in 1924.  Courtney was using a child’s had shovel when she found the diamond which she named, “The Sparkles Diamond.”  The diamond is an elongated, tear-shaped stone and is Courtney’s to keep because all diamonds found at the park belong to the visitors who find them.

Park superintendent Tom Stolarz said that Courtney’s diamond was the 218 diamond found by visitors at the park to date in 2006.  While it is rare to find diamonds on the surface anywhere in the world, Crater of Diamonds Park is unique in that it is the only diamond mine where visitors can keep the diamonds they find.  The 37.5-acre park is a popular attraction for families where they have the opportunity to find one of nature’s prized possessions, a precious diamond.

Learn more about Crater of Diamonds Park


Diamond Trade Prepares for “Blood Diamond” Film

The film “Blood Diamond,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be advertised in the fourth quarter of 2006.  This will be a major movie release (scheduled January 12, 2007) will widespread publicity highlighting the story of Conflict Diamonds.  Since the fourth quarter also is the key to diamond and jewelry retail sales, the jewelry industry is preparing an awareness campaign to prepare retailers for questions that consumers might ask about conflict diamonds.

The United Nations adopted the Kimberley Process in 2003 with the cooperation of the diamond industry and representatives of 45 countries to reduce the illegal trade of diamonds, which financed terrible wars since 1999 in countries like Sierra Leon and the Congo.  Current estimates are that the Kimberley Process has curbed the illegal trade of the world’s rough diamonds from 4 percent in 1999 to 0.2 percent today.

The concern of the diamond industry with the DiCaprio film is that while it probably presents an accurate portrayal of the terror in Sierra Leone in 1999, it does not address what the industry has done and continues to do with eliminating this situation.

Retailers are encouraged to convey the message that 99.8% of diamonds on the market are not “conflict diamonds” and that diamond industry plays an important and positive role in the lives of industry related workers in many countries in Africa and around the world.


Russian Diamond Exports Reported

Until early 2005, the production and sales of uncut diamonds was considered a state secret in Russia.  Recently customs data was released that provides insight into Russia’s diamond trade.

Alrosa, is the Russian state-controlled diamond monopoly and controls a fourth of the world’s rough diamond market.  In 2005, Russia exported 23 million carats of gem-grade diamonds worth $1.658 billion primarily to Belgium, Great Britain and Israel.

Industrial-grade diamond exports totaled 14 million carats worth $13 million dollars.


Watch for Rise in Palladium Use for Jewelry

One of the stories emerging from the diamond and jewelry trade show in Las Vegas the first week in June, was an increasing awareness that Palladium is poised to be the significant metal in the jewelry industry.

Palladium is a member of the platinum group metal (PGM) and has many of the properties of platinum (white metal, easy to work with, hypoallergenic) but has the added qualities of being more plentiful than platinum, less expensive than gold or platinum, and is very strong but lighter in weight than platinum.  Palladium metal is currently trading at about one fourth the price of platinum.

Palladium has many non-jewelry uses and is used in gold, silver and copper alloys in dentistry. Alloys of palladium are also used for bearings, springs, and balance wheels in watches. Palladium is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of sulfuric acid.  The automotive industry has used palladium in catalytic converters since 1974.  When palladium is alloyed with 40% silver it becomes much tougher and wear-resistant and is used in electrical contact materials. Palladium-silver diffusion membranes are used in the purification of hydrogen.

Platinum became a major factor in the jewelry industry due in large part to the marketing efforts of the platinum industry.  Time will tell if the palladium industry including organizations like Palladium Alliance International (PAI) will be able to create the awareness and demand for palladium that platinum has achieved in recent years.


China Changes Diamond Trade Tax Policy

Effective July 1, 2006, China will impose new policies on diamond trade with the intent of reducing the rampant smuggling of the precious gems.  The plan is to exempt imports of uncut diamonds from value-added tax (currently 17%) and reduce the value-added tax on finished diamonds sold through the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE) from 17% to 4%.

Taxes for diamond processing companies in China to import diamond raw materials were previously cut by some 33 per cent, including tariffs, value-added taxes and consumption taxes, to the current figure of 17 per cent from when the Shanghai Diamond Exchange was set up in mid-2000.

Some estimates suggest that up to 90% of diamonds are currently smuggled into the country.  Expectations are that the changes will encourage more diamond dealers to import diamonds through legal channels.  China has been the world's second-largest diamond manufacturing center in terms of workers, next to India, with more than 22,000 workers processing 3 million karats worth of diamonds a year.


Canadian Diamond Mine in Conflict

Ekati diamond mine is a joint venture between BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. (80%) and geologists Charles E. Fipke and Dr. Stewart E. Blusson (10% each).  Located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and 200 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, Canada, the mine produces 6 percent of the world’s diamond supply in terms of value and 4 percent by weight (3 to 5 million carats per year).

The union representing about 375 workers at the mine has been on strike since April 7.  The union is asking consumers not to buy Ekati diamonds produced under the Aurias and CanadaMark trademarks while the union fights for a collective agreement.  Canadian diamonds gained popularity as they were advertised as the “conflict free” diamonds compared to diamonds from war-torn African countries like Sierra Leone and the Congo.  Now the unions are pushing their own awareness campaign against the “Dirty Diamonds” being produced at Ekati despite a labor conflict.  The newspaper ads can be seen online at the union’s website at: http://psacnorth.com.

In late May, the Ekati diamond mine owner BHP Billiton Ltd. began legal actions to sue the striking union for allegedly threatening and harassing workers who chose to return to the job.  BHP said the mine is operating at full production without the company bringing in replacement workers.

The talks broke off over employee protection clauses, according to mine management who said about 40 percent of employees have continued to work despite the strike.  The union seeks to fine those employees and refuses the company’s requests to drop any fines or recriminations against these employees.

With more dollars flowing into the “Dirty Diamonds” awareness campaign, consumers can expect to hear much more about this Canadian labor conflict in the months ahead.