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From antiquity to 2015, about 5.4 billion carats of diamonds have been mined from the Earth's surface. While marketing suggests diamonds are rare, production and related sales trends globally suggest otherwise. During the last two decades, global diamond production averaged 134.6 million carats per year, a total production that exceeded what had previously been produced from the first diamond production records through 1993. In addition, despite relatively weak production of 125 million carats in 2014, industry analysts anticipate diamond production will increase to approximately 141 million carats by 2025. At this rate, won't we soon dig up all of the Earth's diamond reserves?
Participants in the global diamond market
The global diamond market is defined by the production and sales of rough diamonds. Rough diamonds are produced from 25 countries - an exclusive group dominated by African countries - although 93 percent of global diamond production is concentrated in just seven countries: Russia, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Australia, Canada, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. In terms of global diamond value, three countries - Russia, Botswana, and Canada, a new entrant - account for 60 percent of total value.
Who dominates the market?
Rough diamonds are classified according to one of three categories based on quality: gem quality, near-gem quality, and industrial quality. Natural diamonds of the first two categories are used in precious jewelry while those of the third category are used in industrial applications, including oil and gas drill bits. Gem-quality and near-gem quality diamonds account for about 98 percent of the total annual diamond production value, explaining why producers' footprint by category is critical to relative market strength. So while the DRC produces around 20 million carats annually, it has a limited impact on the diamond market since only 25 percent of its production footprint is made up of gem-quality and near-gem quality diamonds. In contrast, Canada, Botswana and Russia can significantly affect the diamond market because diamonds from these countries are typically gem quality and near-gem quality.
Demand for rare diamonds
Supply-driven factors generally overwhelm demand-driven factors in the global diamond market, because of producer's decisions related to exploitation of their limited reserves of the sparkling stones. Demand becomes much more relevant in the niche segment of exceptionally rare diamonds. The demand for these types of stones has always been determined by consumer buying power. During the last two decades, the income share held by ultra-wealthy individuals has increased significantly, boosting demand (and prices) for rare diamonds.
Future projections - Will we run out?
The question is whether, like the oil and gas industry, demand coupled with new exploration and mining technology will yield new, commercially-exploitable supplies in years to come and if current trends in demand will shift as expected to favor currently accessible reserves. Diamond reserves have been stable in recent years at 2.3 billion carats, a sufficient level to sustain current annual production for the next 18 years.