Diamonds in Africa: A historical overview

Diamonds from Africa have a history that dates back nearly two centuries - spanning from the first find in the 1800s in South Africa, to current day finds and production that sees diamonds from Africa currently contributing 55% of the world's most prized gems.

To date, Africa has produced 75% of the world's diamonds, amounting to 1.9 billion carats in value. Africa, however, still has much more to offer the diamond world with many more carats lying hidden beneath the vast expanse of the continent.

South African diamonds - leading the way

The first diamonds in Africa were discovered in South Africa in 1867 on the banks of the Orange River. Since then, diamonds were also discovered in Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

To read more about the history of South African diamonds specifically, go to our 'Diamonds in South Africa ' page that is dedicated to telling the tale of how 15 year old Erasmus Jacobs picked up the first diamond on South African soil, right up to an overview of South Africa's modern day diamond mining industry.

Diamonds in Namibia

Namibia's first diamond find took place in 1908 when a railway worker picked up a shiny stone near Kolmanskop in the Namib Desert.

Experts who flocked to Namibia discovered that the surface diamonds there were quite plentiful - to such an extent that they were 'mined' by workers crawling on their hands and knees, on the scorching sand, and all they needed to do was simply pick them up.

Today, the majority of diamonds in Namibia are produced offshore and 98% of diamonds from Namibia are of gem quality and suitable for use in jewellery.

Botswana: Africa's diamond treasure pit

Botswana is Africa's biggest diamond producer in terms of value.

Diamonds in Botswana were first discovered in 1967 at Orapa, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. The OrapaKimberlite pipe is the second largest in the world; and it is mined using the open pit method.

There is no doubt that the discovery of diamonds in Botswana has led to the country thriving economically and socially and contributing substantially to its growth. Three quarters of the country's export profits and 45% of the government's revenue come from diamonds alone. These profits and revenue have lead the way to Botswana having the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the highest standards of living on the continent.

Lesotho - diamonds in the mountains

In the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho diamonds are mined at the Letseng mine at an almost unbelievable 3,100 m above sea-level - making the Letseng mine the world's highest diamond mine.

Lesotho is a relatively new player in the African diamond industry as the mine only started operating in 2004. The diamonds mined at Letseng are sold at the highest 'per-carat' price of any kimberlite diamonds in the world; and some of the biggest diamonds, a few of which exceed 400 carats, have been found here.

The Positive Effects of Diamonds in Africa

Diamonds are, and will for a long time remain, a huge economic driver in many African countries. They give hope and hold the promise of creating wealth and aiding development and as a result, improve countless lives.

There are of course regions where diamonds fund conflicts and instability, however since the introduction of the Kimbereley Process, this trade of conflict diamonds has dropped from 4% to a fraction of a percent. At DiamondsInAfrica.com we do not source any 'conflict' stones and strictly oppose dealing with any suppliers who do. Read more about our conflict-free policy here.

When you are ready to find the perfect diamond, search through over 75,000 diamonds here.

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