The quest for gem-quality natural diamonds is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise—and a stern test of human ingenuity. Any investment in a large, modern mine is by necessity strategic, and made all the more complex when the location is remote and subarctic. Thus it is with the Diavik mine, which sits on a small island on pristine Lac de Gras in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Replete with engineering challenges, and the need to accommodate the concerns of the area’s indigenous people, Diavik’s transition to an active mine in 2003 is a landmark development in the fascinating story of Canadian diamonds.
Our lead article, by Jim Shigley, Russ Shor, Pedro Padua, Mike Breeding, Steve Shirey, and Doug Ashbury, offers a review of this mine’s discovery, development, and operations and looks to its planned closure in 2024, when the site will be restored to nearly its original condition. Besides its value as a premier gem diamond source—100 million carats and counting—Diavik is a tantalizing window for geologists into the depths beneath the Canadian Shield. Knowledge acquired from the kimberlites at Diavik allows geoscientists to reconstruct the early history of the North American continent and underscore the supreme value natural diamonds hold for science, beyond their monetary worth as gems.
A landmark development in the fascinating story of Canadian diamonds.
In addition to Diavik, we offer articles on a pair of exquisite Fabergé figures, the current state of the colored gem industry’s supply chain in terms of corporate social responsibility, the fashioning of an exceptional Australian opal, and a trek to Colombia’s Chivor emerald mine in the footsteps of its remarkable manager, Peter W. Rainier.
Our second paper, by Tim Adams and Christel Ludewig McCanless, presents two rare Fabergé hardstone figures depicting the Romanov empresses’ Cossack bodyguards. It discusses the design, construction, and subsequent history of the pieces since their creation using Russian-mined gems and metals in the firm’s St. Petersburg workshop.
Next, Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta reviews ongoing efforts to establish ethical, sustainable mine-to-market supply chains within the multibillion-dollar colored gem industry. She outlines the challenges the industry faces on its journey to toward greater transparency and traceability in a climate of heightened scrutiny from NGOs, governments, and concerned consumers.
In our fourth paper, Ted Grussing reveals the special considerations he applied to cutting a 3,019 ct gem-quality white opal from Coober Pedy, Australia. He describes how care and attention to detail maximized size and quality, yielding a 1,040 ct finished gem with play-of-color across its entire surface.
Finally, join Robert Weldon and his co-authors on a journey through the early twentieth century history of the Chivor emerald mine and revisit the achievements from a productive and colorful era in Colombian emerald mining.
As always, you’ll also find plenty of interesting content in our latest Lab Notes, Micro-World, and Gem News International sections. And don’t forget to visit www.gia.edu/gems-gemology for exclusive photos and videos from this issue.
We hope you enjoy our Summer issue!