“Modern Marvels: Diamond Mines” is a surprisingly comprehensive documentary about everything you ever wondered about diamonds. Formed deep inside the Earth, diamonds come to the surface through so-called kimberlite pipes. While many diamonds are used in industry, humans have a weird magpie-like obsession with these shiny objects and frequently use them as jewelry (suitably enhanced by a diamond cutter).
“Modern Marvels” show the entire process of production and distribution: mining, testing, cutting, marketing (Marilyn Monroe is featured). For a long time, a single corporation, De Beers, controlled almost the entire diamond market in the world. The company was founded by the notorious Cecil Rhodes but later taken over by the Oppenheimer family. South Africa was its main base of operation. Synthetic diamonds are also featured – today, technology makes it possible to make diamonds out of peanut butter, although I suspect the machine making this possible is more expensive than the actual diamonds! Blood diamonds are mentioned only in passing, the documentary briefly showing a rather nasty mining operation in Sierra Leone.
Chemically, diamonds are just lumps of carbon, and hence made of the same element as coal, pencil lead or most of your body. This sometimes makes me wonder what on earth all the fuzz is about, but it seems I´m quite alone in that thinking! And why are “legal” diamonds better than blood diamonds? The diamond mining operation in Botswana visited by “Modern Marvels” openly admits that their goal is to minimize any contact between the workers and the actual diamonds – so the workers can´t steal them, obviously.
A potentially sensational piece of information on this show is that diamonds might be everywhere in the universe! A scientist has discovered almost microscopic pieces of diamond-like matter in meteorites, and claims to be “soaked in diamonds” after a good days work at the laboratory, to which the narrator responds “few would complain about such a condition”. So far, neither De Beers nor any other actor has found a commercial application for these space diamonds, said to be older than the Earth itself, so unless a Koh-i-Noor comes tumbling down from the skies, I think the obviously rigged diamond market is safe…
Recommended, if you know nothing about volcanically fermented carbon.