Australia: industrial-grade diamonds at your service
Of the 133 million carats of diamonds produced every year, less than half of them find their way to jewellery. More find their way to industrial uses. These are typically stones that are smaller in size and lesser in value. After all, when they’re being used to cut or grind, they don’t exactly need to look good in order to do the job. Today, of course, the majority of industrial diamonds are made via synthetic process. Natural diamonds have a value in jewellery because of their story and look, but synthetic diamonds do the job just as well when it comes to industry.
A world of industrial uses
Because diamonds are very hard, they’re used for abrasive purposes in industry. Diamonds can be used in saws when they’re embedded into the teeth. They can be used in grinding wheels so that they don’t wear down. They’re also included in drill bits. Essentially, anything that can be worn down through direct contact can be made stronger with diamonds.
Now, these aren’t the kinds of saws you’ll see used on wood. Instead, they’re made this strong for cutting into roads and runways, or even stone. Finer saw blades may be used for cutting brittle metals used inside our electronics. The drills we talk about are used in oil and gas exploration, or drilling into concrete and masonry. These are specialised tools, but tools that shape our daily lives in a variety of ways.
Diamond powders are used to help create fine finishes on optical surfaces as well. Components for many larger, complicated machines – such as aircraft engines – may also make use of diamond polishing in order to ensure the best, most efficient, and safest surfaces are used in putting them together.
Many beautiful diamonds come from Australia, but are specialised in output. Australian mines don’t always specialise in the way we’re used to. Because its mining profile is unique, a number of precious gemstones are produced here. More than this, though, Australia has a wealth of diamonds that are somewhat unique. This can create incredibly beautiful diamonds without direct parallel, and it can mean that a number of industrial-grade diamonds are found as well.
The open-pit mining operation in Argyle specialises in a kind of ‘all-sorts’ mining process. All mines will produce a mixture of jewellery-quality and industrial-grade diamonds, but Argyle has an extremely efficient process for producing both. Crushed ore is fed into a heavy media of dense liquid. Ore with diamonds sink to the bottom, while lighter rock rises to the top.
X-ray scanners at the diamond recovery plant are used to identify minerals. Diamonds glow under X-rays. They’re then washed in acid and shipped for sorting and valuation. There are more than 7,000 categories a diamond can fall into depending on shape, colour and quality. The best diamonds are classified under gem categories. The poorer ones that may not look as pretty but are just as hard? These are sent for industrial use. Australia has a long history of producing many unique, quality gemstones. That long history also includes a hidden contribution: of producing a number of the industrial-grade diamonds that help to make our world go round.