It’s normal for us to see diamonds in shops and jewellers all around the country, but when you stop and think about it, most will have travelled a long way from their source. Whether buying jewellery or just purchasing a diamond as a form of investment, they are generally widely available – you just need to know where to look. So how do they travel from the mine to jewellers and auction houses around the world?


Diamonds are mined in two ways, firstly a method known as pipe mining and secondly via what’s referred to as alluvial mining. The first way involves placing pipes down tunnels in order to extract the diamonds. The second method is completed on riverbeds and beaches and involves creating a temporary wall structure to move the sand and reach the area for mining diamonds. The walls will eventually be removed once the excavation work is complete, returning it to the original state.   


Through both methods, the diamonds are normally found within larger rocks or amongst the sand and so they are taken to a special screening location to see how many diamonds were collected and also the quality of each individual stone. With pipe mining the diamonds can take a little longer to be removed as they are sometimes found within each extracted rock segment. Alluvial mining is a little easier in this sense, as the diamonds can be separated from the sand without machinery or tools. 

Registration and certification

Once the diamonds have been sorted, they will need to be registered and certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This is done by an internationally renowned grading system which looks at the four key elements of the diamond (cut, colour, clarity and carat). These areas are referred to as the 4Cs. If a diamond has a genuine GIA certificate then this will make it easier to sell to anyone who shows an interest. 

These certificates are very important as they can be used to compare the qualities of two individual diamonds if you are buying or selling. It’s worth providing any form of information in this case as it will make the selling process easier. 


After the registration and certification stages, the diamonds can be sold independently to auctions, a diamond investment company or an investor jeweller. The whole process from mining to selling can take a number of weeks, with timing largely dependent on the characteristics of the individual stone.


It’s a remarkable process when you think that each diamond is dug up, sorted, registered and then sold. A diamond that has been mined in South Africa could find its way into a shop on the high street in the UK, while others from the same batch could be sold at a top auction in New York. This is the beauty of the journey of the diamond, in the sense that once they are sold on they could end up anywhere in the world.        

Mining for Diamonds