BRIEF HISTORY OF AFRICAN DIAMOND DISCOVERIES.
Diamonds are an important material in the craft of our claddagh rings. The following article is for the purpose of diamond education.
In 1906 a Belgain company began exploring in the area formerly known as the Belgain Congo, now Zaire. The following year a prospector found a minute bright stone in the gravel of the 'Kimimini River'. Shortage of facilities to test his belief that the stone was a diamond, the party's geologist sent it with other panning samples to the company's office in Brussels. Due to care and thoroughness in making diary entries, this find might have gone unnoticed - the label came off the bottle during its journey. Two years later, prospectors returned to the area and in a month collected 258 diamonds along the Kasai and Kabambaie rivers.
There are two diamond fields in Zaire, the production of each displaying very different features. The first, in the Kasai district also the site of the original find, is situated near the border with Angola, although half of its output consists of industrial diamonds, it includes gem diamonds of small but good quality. The other field is 480km to the north-east of Kasai; its huge production consists principally of boart, a necessary component in industry. Boart is the most inferior quality of industrial diamond, so badly flawed and constructed that it is suitable only for being crushed into abrasive powders for a great number of industrial purposes.
In 1912 diamonds were found in the north-east of the neighbouring area of Angola. The prospecting was a continuation of that already being undertaken in Zaire. Belgian officials supplied the base camps due to the total lack of facilities in Angola. However, unlike its neighbour, Angola's deposits produce a large percentage of gem as opposed to industrial quality stones.
Seven years later, in 1919, the chain of discoveries was stretched to West Africa when geologists found diamonds near Abomuso, on the Birim River, in Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast. For many years Ghana remained the second largest diamond producer, being surpassed only by Zaire; its output has consisted for the most part of very small stones, many of them averaging 400 to the carat. Only about 15 per cent have been of gem quality.
West Africa's rating as an important producer was further established by the finding of diamonds in Sierra Leone in 1930. The initial discovery was made about 225km east of the capital, Freetown. The deposits are alluvial but pipes have been found so that it is hoped to prolong the country's output by mining them. The greater part of Sierra Leone's production has consisted of gem quality stones which have included some exceptional finds. Two of the neighbouring territories, Guinea and Liberia, have also yielded diamonds from alluvial sources.
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