1902 Encyclopedia > Diamond > Where Diamonds Are Found

(Part 4)

Where Diamonds Are Found

India is the oldest, and was long the most celebrated, or rather the only, source of diamonds. They have been obtained from a wide district on the eastern side of the Deccan, extending from the Pennar river in 14° N. lat. To near the Sone, in Bundelkund, in 25° N. lat. In the south the chief mines were at Cuddapah, Karnul, and Ellore, near the Kishna, in Madras presidency. In this district some of the largest Indian diamonds were obtained, Godconda, however, not being a mine, but a fortress where the diamonds were collected. There were other mines near Nagpore, and east at Sambhalpur, on the Mahanuddy, and north at Panna, in Bundelkund. At all of these the diamond was sought chiefly in recent deposits, beds of sand and clay, or in some places a ferruginous sandstone or conglomerate, but probably none of them the original matrix. Heyne states that the diamond has hitherto been found only in alluvial soil, or in the most recent rocks; and that the stones are not scattered through the whole of these beds, but confined to one rather harder than the rest. The upper stratum, of 18 inches, consists of sand, gravel and loam; next there is a deposit of stiff black clay or mud, about 4 feet thick; and next the diamond bed, which is distinguished by a mixture of large rounded stones. It is from 2 to 2 _ feet thick, closely cemented together with clay. Sometimes this stratum is covered with calcareous tufa. Here shallow pits are excavated, of a few feet in diameter, in such spots as the practice of the workman may induce him to select; he sinks to a depth of a few feet, and searches the bed which he considers most promising for his purposes; and if he meets with little encouragement, he shifts his situation and proceeds elsewhere. Thus working was chiefly in the hands of certain tribes or castes, but was conducted on no regular plan, and afforded a very miserable livelihood. There has been little change since, and though mines still exist at Panna, Karnul, and a few other places, but comparatively few diamonds are found, and probably scarcely pay the expense of collecting them. Diamonds have also been long collected in Borneo, at Pontiana, near the southeast extremity of the island. They occur in a red clay along with gold and platina, and the rajah of Mattan is said to possess one weighing 367 carats, of the purest water, but uncut.

During the end of last and the beginning of the present century the supply of diamonds chiefly came from Brazil. They were first recognized in 1727 in the province of Minas Geraes, where they had been long used by the Negroes as counters in playing cards. The principal mines are still in that province near Diamantina (formerly Tejuco), and near Diamontino in Matto Grosso. Mines have also been recently worked in the province of Bahia Other diamonds are chiefly obtained from the Cascalho, a loose gravelly deposit mixed with red clay, and containing large lumps of quartz and grains of gold. This rock is probably derived from the itacolumite, a quartzose variety of mica slate, or metamorphosed sandstone, on which it often rests, and in which diamonds are also said to occur. When first brought to Europe the Brazil diamonds were regarded as inferior to those from India, but without reason. Though the mines are strictly watched as Crown property, the produce is not well ascertained. Martius estimated that in the forty-six years from 1772 to 1818 diamonds weighing about 3,000,000 carats, and worth £7,000,000, were exported. Mr Mawe stated the produce at 25,000 to 30,000 carats annually of rough diamonds, equal to 8000 or 9000 carats when reduced to brilliants. After his time it seems to have greatly decreased, the whole value from 1861 to 1867 being given at about £ 1,900,000; an the discovery of the Cape diamonds has further reduced the amount. The stones are mostly small, averaging little more than one carat, and very rarely exceeding twenty carats. The largest diamond from Brazil was long an uncut octahedron of 120 carats, but in 1854a fine stone of 254_ carats was sent to London. It was an irregular dodecahedron, but of brilliant lustre and with no flaws. Since cut it weighs about 124 carats, and is known as the "Star of the South."

Diamonds occur in other parts of America, having been found in the Sierra Madre, south-west of Acapulco in Mexico; and a few also in Georgia and North Carolina. They have also been obtained in California, but all small (under 2 carats); and in the district of Arizona, where one is mentioned of 3 carats.

In 1829 diamonds were discovered on the European side of the Ural mountains in the gold washings near the iron mines of Bissersk. Engelhardt conjectured that they were derived from a dolomite rock, but others state that it is mica slate like that of Brazil. Only about state that it is mica slate that of Brazil. Only about seventy were found in the first twenty years, and all of them small, the largest weighing under 8 carats. The only other European locality is at Dlaschkowitz, in Bohemia, where a single diamond was found in the sand containing pyropes, -- the one said by Murray to have been picked up in a brook in Ireland being very doubtful.

Not more important are those Australia, where they were found as early as 1852, and again in 1859, on the Macquarie river. In 1869 they were discovered in the Mudgee, near one of the tributaries of the Macquarie, by gold-diggers, and worked for a time pretty extensively. They lie there in old river drift covered by basalt said to be of Pliocene age. They occur in a similar position in the Bingera diamond field. In both places they are sparingly distributed and small, the largest mentioned being under 6 carats.

Far more important are the diamond fields of South Africa. In 1867 a Dutch farmer obtained from a boer a bright stone which his children were using as a plaything. This stone was sent to the Cape, where its true nature as a diamond was recognized, and subsequently forwarded to the Paris exhibition and sold for £500. This valuable discovery soon led to further researches, and diamonds were obtained from various places near the Orange and Vaal rivers in Griqua Land West. They were first collected by washing recent alluvial or supposed lacustrine deposits, apparently the detritus of rocks in the vicinity, that are spread over the lower river valleys, but are now rather sought for in "pans," or "pipe," of a circular form running down into the inferior strata, or shale, and filled with a peculiar igneous rock, named diabase, or gabbro, often much changed near the surface. Throughout this rock, which has been penetrated to a depth of from 100 to 200 feet, diamonds are disseminated weighing from over 150 carats down to the 100th of a carat, or less. Many are entire, well-formed crystals, but a large proportion are broken and isolated fragments. Hence it has been inferred that the rock in which they now occur is not the matrix or mother rock in which they were originally formed, but that the "pipes" are rather channels by which volcanic matter has made its way to the surface, bringing the diamonds along with it from some inferior deposit. However this may be diamond-digging has become a regular branch of industry to a large population ; and it is probable, though no very accurate estimate can be formed, that nearly fifteen million pounds sterling worth of diamonds have been obtained from this district since their discovery. The largest diamond from the Cape we have seen mentioned is the Stewart, of 288 3/8 carats, found on the Vaal river in 1872. It was an irregular octahedron of the purest water, and 1 1/4 inch in diameter, and is of a light yellow since cut.

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