Are Diamonds, one of the most important gemstones in history actually rare?
This is a very commonly asked question, with many people quick to say that they aren’t but what do the facts actually say?
Well, I’ve done the digging (not literal digging), crunched the numbers a come up with the answers.
How Many Diamonds Are Mined Every Year?
Diamond production varies year on year but the average weight of Diamonds mined between 2013 and 2022 was 129 million carats, which I am sure you will agree is a lot and the chart below shows to Diamond production for each of those years.
In 2022, there were 117 million carats of Diamonds mined and this equals 23.4 metric tons, which still sounds like a lot and is somewhat difficult to visualize (at least it is to me), so this might be helpful:
The average semi-truck can haul between 19 and 21 tons, so you could fit all the Diamonds mined each year into two semi-trailers with plenty of room to spare.
And while this is a significant volume of Diamonds, the problem is that there is very little information out there about how many carats of other gemstones are mined every year and this makes rarity comparisons a bit difficult.
But I did find figures for the amount of Gold and Platinum that was mined in 2022, which does help to give a little perspective as to the amount of Diamonds that are mined:
- Platinum: 190 metric tons
- Gold: 3,100 metric tons
Even Rhodium, which is considered to be one of the rarest metals on earth (it is used to plate White Gold and make it really shiny) averages around 20 metric tons a year.
And even though we are comparing Diamonds to metals here, it still shows that not that many Diamonds are mined each year.
How Many Diamonds Are Produced Each Year?
The volume of Diamonds that are mined each year only tells half of the story as not all these rough Diamonds go on to become the sparkly diamonds that are set into jewelry as the majority of diamonds that are mined every year aren’t gem quality.
According to the World Diamond Council, only around 30% of Diamonds each year are of gem quality (this number does vary and some estimates have been as low as 19%) but what happens to the other 70%?
The majority of these will be used for industrial purposes for things like diamond-tipped drill bits or saw blades amongst many other things.
Using the 30% figure, only 35.1 million carats of the 117 million that were mined in 2022 are sent off to be cut and polished and rough diamonds don’t produce the best yield, with anywhere from 30-50% being common depending on the style of cut and the shape of the rough diamond.
Being very generous and saying that they produce a 50% yield, this would result in 17.5 million carats of cut and polished gemstones being produced in 2022, which is just over 3.5 metric tons or 7700lbs.
Diamond Size and Quality
17.5 million carats is still a lot of Diamonds (it is quite a generous estimate though) but not all of these Diamonds are going to be the same weight and quality, with many of these Diamonds being:
- Lower quality (I-K color, SI1-I3 clarity) in various weights
- Higher quality but weighing less
Many will be cut as very small Diamonds (known as melee diamonds) that are used in pave style or channel settings and only a small number of these 17.5 million carats will have good color and clarity and have a decent weight.
Don’t believe me? To prove this, I went and took a look at BlueNile’s current offering as they have one of the biggest Diamond inventories online and just looking at round brilliant cuts as they are the most popular, I found:
- 250,000 of all color, clarity, cut quality and carat weight
- 95,000 G color, all clarity, cut quality and carat weight
- 52,000 G color, VS2 clarity, all cut quality and carat weight
- 45,500 G color, VS2 clarity, Excellent Cut and all carat weights
- 8,100 G color, VS2 clarity, Excellent Cut and weighing over 1ct
So, as you can see the heavier the stone and the better the quality, the fewer Diamonds there are available and just out of interest I bumped this up to D color, Flawless clarity, Excellent Cut and weighing over 1 carat and there were a total of… 51!
And as you can see with my example above, just over 3% of their inventory are what I would class as fine gem quality Diamonds and when you apply that to the 17.5 million, that means that there would be 525,000 carats of fine gem quality diamonds produced each year and this is less than 0.5% of the total Diamonds mined.
Fancy Color Diamonds
I have to talk about colored diamonds at some point as these are extremely rare and according to the GIA: “Only one out of 10,000 carats of fashioned diamonds displays fancy color” and this drops to one in 25,000 that displays intense color!
So out of the 525,000 carats of fine gem quality Diamonds that I generously quoted above only 21 would be fancy intense! And some colors are rarer than others, with Pink, Blue, Orange and Red being a lot rarer than Yellow or Brown.
And I don’t know about you but that seems pretty rare to me.
So, Are Diamonds Rare?
As a natural material, Diamond is pretty rare but as a gemstone, not so much as there are a pretty large number of Diamonds produced every year but there are rare Diamonds, such as:
- A D Flawless Diamond weighing more than 10 carats
- A fancy intense Blue, Pink or Orange over 1 carat
- A pure red Diamond
So it isn’t a straightforward yes or no as the small pave set Diamonds you have in your ring aren’t rare but The Hope Diamond is and I hope that this helps demonstrate my point above.
But there is another thing to consider when answering this question and that is that rarity is always relative and you need to have something to compare it to because on its own, it is impossible to say whether or not something is rare.
Diamond Rarity vs Other Gemstones
As I said earlier, there is very little information about how many carats of other gemstones are mined every year and there are a couple of reasons for this:
- Diamond mining is controlled by a small number of companies, which makes it easier to record numbers whereas colored gemstones are often mined by smaller companies or artisanal miners
- All Diamonds have a use, either as industrial or for gemstones whereas with other gem materials, non-gem quality are discarded
But there are still some comparisons that I can make, even though I don’t have exact figures:
Diamond vs Quartz
Diamond is significantly rarer than Quartz and this is because Quartz is very abundant and found all over the world, whereas there are only a few significant Diamond mining locations around the world.
Looking at some examples also reinforces this as the largest Diamond crystal ever mined is the Cullinan Diamond, which weighed 3,106 carats and the Smithsonian has a Quartz Crystal that weighs 8,000 pounds (just over 3.6 tons) and there are other examples of Quartz crystals weighing over 1 ton.
Diamond vs Garnet
Garnets are another gemstone that is very commonly found around the world and interestingly, pyrope garnets are found in the same deposits as Diamond and sometimes as inclusions in Diamonds.
But there are many different varieties of Garnet and some, like pyrope garnets are very common but there are rare varieties such as Tsavorite and Demantoid that are only found in a small number of locations around the world.
Diamond vs Ruby and Sapphire
Ruby and Sapphire are part of the corundum family of gemstones and are actually a good comparison vs Diamonds and corundum as a material is pretty common and like Diamonds, most of the material that is mined is used for industrial purposes as it makes a great abrasive and is used in things like sandpaper.
But gem quality corundum is quite rare and even though Blue is the most desirable and expensive color for Sapphire, it is the most commonly found color with things like Padparadscha being significantly rarer. Ruby is also very rare, especially fine gem quality and is a lot rarer than Diamond or Blue Sapphire.
Diamond vs Emerald
Emerald is the most desirable member of the Beryl family of gemstones but it isn’t the rarest (that honor belongs to Bixbite) but Emeralds are still rare gemstones, especially fine gem quality ones and these are only found in a few locations around the world and as a gem material, they are rarer than Diamonds.
Are Diamonds rare? Diamonds as a natural material are pretty rare, especially when compared to things like precious metals but as a gemstone, they aren’t as rare as some other gems but there are some very rare Diamonds.
I hope this answers your question as it isn’t a straightforward yes or no and each Diamonds rarity comes down to its individual characters, such as the 4 C’s as a 2mm H/SI1 isn’t a rare Diamond but a 15ct D/Flawless Diamond or a 5ct Fancy Intense Pink are rare.