By RandallAnthony Communications for The Globe and Mail’s Custom Content Group

Perspectives on the colourful history and bright future of the world’s most coveted gem

Beyond their brilliance, Canadian stones are also prized for Canada’s ethical diamond mining and trade practices.  Photo: Stornoway Diamonds

Beyond their brilliance, Canadian stones are also prized for Canada’s ethical diamond mining and trade practices.  Photo: Stornoway Diamonds

In 1991, when the first Canadian diamond mine was discovered just 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Lac De Gras, it seemed inconceivable that just 15 years later Canada would be one of the world’s most influential diamond producers. By 2006, Canada had three world-class diamond mines in production and was ranked the world’s third largest diamond-producing nation by value.

Over this 15-year span, Canada’s diamond production contributed to series of industry events that led to the eventual breakdown of the De Beers cartel, which for almost a century controlled the industry and diamond prices. Coinciding with the unfolding of the De Beers monopoly, the global media shed light on political and civil unrest in the African diamond trade, casting a dark shadow on an already enigmatic industry historically muddled with opacity.

Canadian diamonds made their way to the global market in 1998, a time when the damaged industry needed them most. Transparent in origin and brilliant in clarity, they were welcomed with open arms by the jewelry community. Canadian diamonds quickly established a unique brand as select manufactures labelled their diamonds with microscopic laser inscriptions – Maple Leafs and Polar Bears among them – to distinguish their gems from the rest sourced from elsewhere in the world.  

Today, Canada host’s four world-class diamond mines producing about 13 per cent of global diamond supply by value, according to the Kimberley Process, an international watchdog that oversees the world’s diamond production and trade. However, with two of the three largest new diamond mines in the world scheduled to commence production in the next five years based in Canada, Canada’s contribution is set to rise even further.

On a global scale, the demand for diamonds, the gem synonymous with love, remains robust. Helping fuel sales, first generation consumers in some of the world’s fastest growing economies are giving diamond engagement rings for the first time.  

According to a recent report by De Beers, eight out of 10 brides-to-be in the U.S. are given a diamond engagement ring, seven out of 10 in Japan, but only four out of 10 in China. If the U.S. and Japanese markets are any indication of the potential market penetration of diamond engagement rings, there is room for the Chinese market to almost double from where it is today.  

In addition, more and more diamond retailers are appealing to ethically conscious customers by exclusively offering gems with a Canadian origin, and in doing so fuelling demand for Canadian diamonds. “We have required that our suppliers comply with the Kimberley Process certification since its inception and are now taking this commitment further with sourcing all centre stones from Canadian mines,” says Eva Hartling, spokesperson for jewelry retailer Birks Group.

Contrary to the rise in demand for diamonds, global supply is forecasted to remain stagnant as new economic deposits historically found in Africa and Russia are few and far between. As the seemingly perpetual desire for diamonds remains firm, Canada is opportunistically positioned to accelerate output at a time when most of the world’s production is faltering.

To view this feature as it appeared in Report on Business magazine, please click here.