Is there more to diamonds than their shiny, pleasing-to-the-eye appearance? Do they not look most beautiful when perched upon a necklace or ring?

The average female consumer would say yes, the average male would probably say no, writes Inside Mining editor Laura Cornish. And me? While I cannot deny that diamonds are stunning, rough and clean cut, my appreciation for what was once just a piece of carbon extends considerably deeper than their surface appearance.

Last month, I spent two days in the arid Northern Cape, visiting Rockwell Diamonds’ alluvial operations along the Middle Orange River. It was wonderful stepping out of the Johannesburg rush and into a world far removed from mad city life. This, however, was not what made my trip such a great one.

Not only did I discover the wonderful gems this company is recovering, but the real gems that are making it happen – Rockwell’s employees. Never have I come across a group of people who are so ‘in love’ with their industry and what they do. It didn’t take long for me to realise how devoted they are to their diamonds and doing what needs to be done to recover them successfully. I think this is because alluvial diamond mining could be considered one of the most rewarding mining sectors. It largely comprises juniors with limited cash, which can never be 100% certain about where the diamonds are or what their grades will be. They also need to find innovative solutions to problems. This makes determination, dedication and commitment essential prerequisites for any alluvial employee. And Rockwell Diamonds has those in abundance.

The mentality is not unique to Rockwell; it is shared by many junior alluvial miners in South Africa as well as kimberlite developers working furiously to make things work in remote African regions – like Stellar Diamonds in Sierra Leone or Lucara Diamonds in Botswana. Difficulties and challenges simply cannot be deterrents for success. In fact, they should be drivers.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the true beauty of a diamond lies in the hearts and souls of those who persevere and pledge allegiance to their mine, giving it their all to make it work. A diamond wouldn’t be the same if the work to recover it was easy.

A diamond’s beauty can also be attributed to its formation. Ground condition, heat and pressure must all come together over billions of years to form a diamond. This is partly the reason why they are so rare and so special.

A bit of internet scrolling has, however, led me to discover a new type of diamond – referred to as ‘impact diamonds’ – labelled according to the formation process. Did you know that Russia is said to be sitting on a deposit containing trillions of diamonds, formed due to an asteroid collision in Siberia some 35 million years ago. Apparently, the asteroid hit the earth with such impact, causing substantial pressure in a graphite-rich area, providing the right conditions for diamonds to form.

The Popigai crater containing the diamonds is said to be huge, and from this point on information varies it appears. The most impressive number appears to be its width, which is over 100 km. Some say the gems are of poor quality, while other sources (the Siberian Times to be specific), recently stated that these diamonds are completely unique. They have a much higher abrasiveness, to the point where they show no scratches after polishing. True, not true? One thing is for sure, it is pretty hard to believe.

Call me old-fashioned but I prefer diamonds that were developed in the ‘conventional’ way. It is undoubtedly part of their attraction and sheer beauty that make them truly magnificent.