Jan 11

Dominic Mok to Address AGA Tucson

 Press Release: All the way from Hong Kong—the jadeite evaluation capital of the global market— comes jadeite expert Dominic Mok to address the Accredited Gemologist Association’s (AGA) Tucson 2012 conference.  Come and participate as this highly regarded expert shares insight into the exciting world of jadeite identification and quality factors. This session is a must for anyone following current trends in gemology.

Jade is making headlines in the press and at auction!

On December 29, in The New York Times, a full page devoted to “China Watch” ran the headline: “Jade Craze Grips the Market”! And jadeite keeps setting new records at major auction houses, and is moving center stage at the world’s most prestigious jewelry shows. At the same time, it has also been noted by gemologists and other experts that there appears to be an unusually large quantity of what appears to be exceptionally fine-quality jadeite in the current market.

Some have commented that it brings to mind the incredible “padparadscha sapphire” that was suddenly appearing too often and was subsequently found to be beryllium diffused…and are wondering about jadeite.

Whatever your knowledge level, you won’t want to miss the presentation by geologist Mok, FGA, FGAA and director of the Asian Gemmological Institute and Laboratory, Hong Kong. A limited number of  Mok’s jadeite color wheels will be distributed to attendees during the conference.

The conference will be held Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at the Marriot University Park Hotel.  For more information about the full conference program and gala award dinner, visit www.accreditedgemologists.org or call Jan Giamanco at 619.501.5444.

Jan 10

Jeremy Ractliffe Not Guilty in South Africa Diamond Case

JOHANNESBURG — Jeremy Ractliffe, a South African businessman left holding a bag of mysterious diamonds given to him by the supermodel Naomi Campbell, was found not guilty here on Wednesday of charges that he violated laws against possessing uncut gems.

So ended a sideshow to a far more serious matter, the trial at The Hague of the former Liberian dictator Charles G. Taylor, accused of murders, rapes, kidnappings, mutilations and the use of child soldiers during brutal wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1989 to 2003 that killed 250,000 people.

The diamonds were gifts, given in the afterglow of a delightful evening. In September 1997, Nelson Mandela, who was then the president of South Africa, gave a charity dinner at the presidential residence in Pretoria. Among the notable guests were Ms. Campbell; Mr. Taylor; the actress Mia Farrow; the musician Quincy Jones; a Pakistani cricketer and politician, Imran Khan; and the future Mrs. Mandela, Graca Machel.

Late that night, two unidentified men came to Ms. Campbell’s room, awakening her to present a small pouch. Testifying at The Hague last August, she said that she did not open the gift until morning and that she had been unimpressed with the few “very small, dirty-looking stones” inside.

Ms. Farrow remembered things somewhat differently, testifying that Ms. Campbell had arrived at breakfast the next morning “excited and happy” about receiving “a huge diamond” from Mr. Taylor.

The testimony was relevant because Mr. Taylor is accused of carrying “blood diamonds” as he traveled throughout Africa, hoping to exchange the uncut stones for weapons, an accusation that Mr. Taylor denies.

Celebrity appearances at the trial in The Hague were a contrast to the many victims of atrocities who told their stories in court, showing how their limbs were amputated or describing how loved ones were eviscerated. Ms. Campbell, not a major witness for the prosecution, was nevertheless a huge draw for the news media.

Among the revelations in the testimony were the disposition of the diamonds. Ms. Campbell said she gave them the following day to a friend, Mr. Ractliffe, who was then chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Put on the spot, Mr. Ractliffe said he had secretly stowed the three gems in a safe for 13 years, afraid that the gift would damage reputations and that it might be illegal. He eventually turned the diamonds over to the police and resigned as a trustee of the charity. In October, he was arrested for having held the uncut jewels.

But on Wednesday the prosecutors did not seem well prepared to pursue their case. As evidence that the stones were indeed diamonds, they entered an affidavit from an expert. But Magistrate Renier Boshoff insisted that the testimony be rendered in person. “You can’t cross-examine a statement,” he said, according to local news reports.

The magistrate declared that the state had not proved its case.

Afterward, Mr. Ractliffe, 74, told reporters, “I did what I did for what I felt were totally valid reasons,” adding that “I have always thought I was innocent, and it was very nice to have this proven.”

The diamonds now belong to the South African government. Mr. Taylor remains on trial at The Hague.

Barry Bearak reported from Johannesburg, and J. David Goodman from New York.

Jan 10

Laurence Graff Sees Demand for Big Diamonds in China

But none of the gems actually belongs to them.

At the May gala of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute, these A-listers are simply borrowing their baubles from some big names in diamonds, a common P.R. tactic in the high-glitz business of gems.

Yet jewels from Laurence Graff, perhaps the biggest dealer in seriously big stones, are rare this evening.

“The people who wear Graff jewelry own it,” says Henri Barguirdjian, who heads Mr. Graff’s United States sales operation. “I think it is a bit of an insult to our clients who actually purchased our jewelry,” he adds, referring to the notion of non-owners wearing Graff jewels. “If you spend $1 million, that is a lot of money. Do you want a little model wearing it?”

It might seem remarkable that anyone would spurn a little free fashion buzz, particularly in a business like diamonds, and particularly in tough economic times. Lending jewels to boldface names is standard practice.

Standard, perhaps — but not at Graff Diamonds. The retail business, however, is only part of an empire that extends from luxe showrooms in London to gritty diamond mines in southern Africa to cutting rooms in Antwerp, Belgium, and beyond. It is a world that at times seems impervious to the fortunes of mere mortals, though not, it turns out, to the shifting sands of the global economy.

Beneath the headquarters of Graff on Albemarle Street, in the Mayfair section of London, is a warren of workrooms. There, 170 people produce the jewelry that Graff sells worldwide.

But now Mr. Graff is pushing into China, where the number of billionaires is climbing annually — and ranks second only to that of the United States. Everyone else is piling in, too. The exploding market for diamonds in China, it seems, is yet another sign of its rising economic might, or at least the willingness of its ultrarich to spend — and spend big.

“We make more sales to newer money than to older money,” Mr. Graff says in explaining China’s appeal. “Americans are not attracted in the same way in spending money on jewelry as in the Far East.”

Let others fret over a mere carat or two. Mr. Graff’s purchases of giant gems awe the diamond world. Over the decades, he has sold many major stones, including the Magnificence, a 244-carat white diamond, and the Maharajah, a 78-carat yellow diamond. Graff Diamonds hit the headlines in 2009 when robbers made off with $65 million of gems from its shop in Mayfair, in the largest jewel heist in British history. (The jewels have not been recovered.)

His customers have included Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Denzel Washington, Victoria Beckham and Danielle Steel. In the past three years, Mr. Graff spent more than $100 million on four diamonds. That’s right: $100 million to buy just four stones. For one of them, a flawless, 24.78-carat pink diamond, he paid a record $46 million last year at a Geneva auction.

And he is not likely to lend it to anyone for the evening.

Today, Mr. Graff’s offerings include a necklace of 26 stones cut from the Lesotho Promise, a 603-carat rough stone that he bought for $12.4 million from the Letseng Mine in the African country of Lesotho. The company now values the necklace at more than $60 million. Also for sale is the Graff Constellation, a 102.79-carat flawless round diamond that was cut from the $18.4 million, 478-carat Light of Letseng.

Not that he buys only rough stones. He paid $24 million for the 35.5-carat Wittelsbach diamond, a fancy blue stone that is a rival to the Hope Diamond. In a controversial move, he recut the diamond to remove imperfections, prompting criticism that he had essentially painted over a Rembrandt. The Wittelsbach Graff sold recently for an undisclosed amount.

Mr. Graff oversees a network of 32 stores worldwide, and owns 12.14 percent of Gem Diamonds, a publicly traded mining company. Through a 51 percent stake, he controls the South African Diamond Corporation, which cuts and polishes diamonds; Safdico has 520 employees in places like Johannesburg, Antwerp, Mauritius and Botswana.

Though Hollywood celebrities are often photographed wearing big gems, “they are not big purchasers,” Mr. Graff, 73, says. “They don’t have that sort of money.”

Increasingly, the sort of money that moves this market is Chinese. Though buyers rarely disclose purchases, experts agree that the Chinese appetite for diamonds — particularly for colored diamonds — is growing.

The American diamond market, like the American economy, has slowed in recent years. Mr. Graff plans only one new store in United States, in San Francisco, a city that has many visitors from Asia. Graff already has three stores in East Asia, and plans to open one in mainland China and one on Taiwan.

The swing to Asia, and China in particular, has startled even Graff’s veteran management. “If you had told me five years ago that the biggest buyers would come from the People’s Republic of China, we would have laughed,” says Mr. Barguirdjian, Mr. Graff’s longtime lieutenant. “It took us by surprise. America used to be the No. 1 market. Now that is being challenged.”

Jan 10

Zimbabwe Diamond Exports Approved Over Objections

Decisions of the body known as the Kimberley Process are supposed to be made by consensus, according to its “core document” — a standard that has been interpreted to require unanimity among participating countries.

But in Zimbabwe’s case, the chairman of the Kimberley Process, Mathieu Yamba Lapfa Lambang of Congo, issued a brief notice Thursday night saying that the body had endorsed exports by two principal companies operating in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields, despite open opposition from some member nations. His notice said that monitors would have access to data about exports after they were shipped, but provided for no monitoring before the stones were exported.

“We have made a breakthrough,” Zimbabwe’s mining minister, Obert Mpofu, was quoted as saying in the state-controlled Herald newspaper on Friday. Mr. Mpofu, a vociferous supporter of Zimbabwe’s 87-year-old strongman, President Robert Mugabe, has long depicted efforts to impose tough monitoring requirements on Zimbabwe’s diamond exports as part of a Western ploy to enact “illegal regime change” in the country.

Zimbabwe has gotten strong support from other African countries for its drive to export Marange diamonds, but in the final meeting of the Kimberley Process on Thursday in Kinshasa, Congo, representatives of Canada and the European Union objected to the position the chairman advocated. An official from the United States raised a placard to speak but was not called on, according to a person close to the process who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the body’s confidential deliberations.

The State Department on Friday issued a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” with the decision on Zimbabwe and noted that there had been no consensus among the participants.

Zimbabwe’s own finance minister, Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, which is in a troubled power-sharing government with Mr. Mugabe’s party, questioned whether the decision to give Zimbabwe permission to export diamonds was valid.

“There was no unanimity,” Mr. Biti said in an interview Friday. “The question is: Is the decision valid? It’s supposed to be by consensus, not by majority.”

Mr. Biti — under pressure to come up with more revenue to increase the paltry salaries of civil servants — stopped short of saying that he, too, opposed the Kimberley Process’s decision.

But civic groups and leaders in Mr. Biti’s party are deeply concerned that the military, still entrenched in the Marange diamond fields and loyal to Mr. Mugabe, will use diamond profits to finance a campaign of violence against the Movement for Democratic Change in elections that seem likely to be held next year.

Whatever danger Zimbabwe’s diamond wealth might pose to its democracy is not clearly covered by the Kimberley Process mission statement. It was set up to stop the illicit trade in diamonds that finances rebel groups, but did not contemplate sales that finance an army or a government that attacks its own people.

Advocacy groups that have sought to make the process relevant in cases like Zimbabwe walked out of the meeting in Kinshasa on Thursday, to protest what they called “its failure to address human rights abuses associated with the diamond trade.”

“The crisis around the Zimbabwe issue has highlighted the systemic failures of the Kimberley Process,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness. “There’s not enough political will to hold countries to account.”

Jan 10

Crystal Visions, Revealed: Mining ‘Herkimer Diamonds’

IT was a hot June day in Central New York, hardly a time to think of swinging a pick and sledge for recreation. But there they were: dozens of children, parents and retirees at the Herkimer Diamond Mines’ three sites, hammering through dolomite limestone like prisoners happy at hard labor, scrutinizing each cobble and crevice for a glistening treasure.

“That’s my very first one,” said Tim Hines-McLeod, 62, from Seattle, pointing to a water-clear quartz crystal he had found a year ago at the mine that now hung from a pendant around his neck. “I was hooked,” he said.

Julie Johnson, a 45-year-old therapist from Catskill, N.Y., said she visited the mines just about every weekend. She and her boyfriend were working a rock ledge under a blue tarpaulin. “I get into great condition, and I get crystals,” she said.

Roy Breitenbach, 47, from Rochester, was there with his 9-year-old son, Sam, who allowed that his normal interests were reptiles and amphibians.

What drew these people to this town, 80 miles northwest of Albany, were “Herkimer diamonds” — doubly terminated, 18-sided quartz crystals that come out of pockets in the dolomite as perfectly formed and polished as if they had been to a jeweler. Often flawless, they are found in a number of places here in the central Mohawk Valley and — for quantity, quality and accessibility — in few other places, unless one considers Tibet and Afghanistan accessible.

They sell from a few dollars each to a few thousand for an assembly of giant crystals. New Agers believe in the healing properties of the crystals’ purity; the crystals are also used in some Wiccan ceremonies. Collectors just like to admire them. And jewelers wire-wrap them as pendants.

After the dolomite limestone — calcium magnesium carbonate — was laid down beneath a shallow sea about 500 million years ago and then compressed, it was infiltrated by water at least twice, geologists theorize: once by salt water, which ate cavities into the limestone, and later by silica-rich liquid, possibly from the erosion of the rising Adirondacks to the north and Appalachians to the south. The silica accreted into quartz crystals.

What makes them so special is that quartz doesn’t readily adhere to limestone. Instead of growing out of other quartz, Herkimer diamonds are completely formed at both ends, lying loose in their pockets, waiting to be found.

Four independent digging sites in the region are open to the public for a fee, and each has its own personality. Just to the north of Herkimer Diamond Mines in neighboring Middleville is the smaller Ace of Diamonds Mine. While it welcomes families, serious diggers often go there, camping out for months and hammering their way through as much as eight feet of dolomite to reach the “mud line,” where the big pockets lie, sometimes containing hundreds of crystals.

Both sites sell and rent digging tools. At all the fee digging sites guests may not use electric- or gas-powered machinery, only fairly light hand tools. To give an idea of how much work this is, Ace of Diamonds has a special service: It will use heavy equipment to remove almost all the gravel, clay and overlying rock and will then help you open your own crystal pocket, for $1,500. By mid-June Ace of Diamonds had more than 10 of these “guided mineral hunts” scheduled, said Ted Smith, a co-owner. The company has another rule, intended to spread the wealth and ensure its longevity: Hit a big pocket and, you can keep the crystals; but you are barred from the mine for two weeks.

In St. Johnsville the Crystal Grove Diamond Mine and Campground has digging pits both out in the open and in the woods. The site is known less for big crystal pockets than for its specimens still enclosed by their rock matrix, which is often full of “drusy”: cavities lined with tiny quartz crystals, blackened by a carbon material called anthraxolite. The anthraxolite is believed to be the remains of ancient plants, a kind of sea cabbage that lived when the limestone was forming and that may have played a role in creating the diamond pockets.

Jan 10

Zimbabwe Faces Call to Investigate Abuses in Diamond Fields

On Monday, the BBC’s documentary program “Panorama” said the camps hold workers who were recruited by the police and the military to dig illegally for diamonds for them, but who then demand too large a share of the profits. The camps also hold civilians caught mining for themselves, the program said.

According to the report, a released prisoner who was not named said guards at the camps were beating prisoners three times a day, with 40 lashes at a time. Dogs were loosed to bite shackled inmates, and imprisoned women were frequently raped, the program said.

The Zimbabwean authorities offered no immediate comment.

The government of President Robert Mugabe has been working to increase its legal sales of diamonds. Mr. Mugabe’s political opponents fear that he will use diamond income to finance a violent campaign to win elections that are likely to be held next year.

One of the torture camps identified, Diamond Base, is about a mile from the Mbada mine, which the BBC says is run by a friend of Mr. Mugabe. Witnesses cited by the program described Diamond Base as “a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor-wire enclosure” to hold the prisoners.

The network said a European Union document showed that the union was ready to accept the monitoring group’s June decision to allow exports from two Marange mines, including the Mbada mine. The monitoring group, known as the Kimberley Process, is a global body set up almost a decade ago to halt the sale of so-called blood diamonds.

In a statement on Monday, Britain’s minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said his country supported exports from two Marange mines that met Kimberley standards, “subject to ongoing monitoring.” One is the Mbada mine, the BBC reported.

The Marange fields were discovered in 2006 and violently taken over by Zimbabwe’s military in 2008. Mr. Bellingham’s statement called the takeover “a harrowing and brutal chapter.”

“We utterly condemn all extrajudicial killings and call on the Zimbabwean authorities to transparently investigate both the dreadful events of 2008 and the disturbing allegations” in the BBC documentary, he said in the statement.

“The U.K. is absolutely committed to eradicating the trade of conflict diamonds,” Mr. Bellingham said, noting that Britain had “played a leading role” in creating the Kimberley Process.

The group embraces governments, the diamond industry and advocacy groups. A year ago, it allowed limited sales from the Marange fields to resume; its decision in June to expand export rights raised questions because of the deep Western objections. Decisions by the body are supposed to be made with broad consensus.

Jan 10

Diamond Maker and Hearst Unite to Reach Consumers

Instead of hiring a traditional advertising agency, the company has collaborated with an in-house creative team at Hearst Magazines for a new campaign with customized messages in digital and print ads. The company says it also hopes to increase awareness of its brands by building a social media community.

The campaign will be rooted in 82 print spreads that will run in seven Hearst magazines over 16 months. One of the main goals is “to show the power of print and how it moves consumers into the funnel and brings them all the way down to the purchase,” said Michael A. Clinton, the president, marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines.

The content of the print ads will vary slightly in each magazine based on its target audience. For younger fashion-conscious readers of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Redbook, ads will highlight lower-priced items. The more affluent readers of Harper’s Bazaar, O, The Oprah Magazine and Town Country will see higher-priced items.

“It’s not unusual for someone from Town Country to pick up the phone and buy a $32,000 piece,” Judith Bookbinder, the vice president of creative communications at Hearst, said, referring to readers of the magazine.

Male readers of Esquire will be encouraged to buy diamonds for the women in their lives. The campaign also seeks to entice women to purchase items like diamond hoop earrings or pendants for necklaces for themselves.

Before the new Hearst campaign, Ms. Bookbinder described previous ads by Hearts On Fire as “very traditional, everything you’ve ever seen in a jewelry ad.” Instead of featuring a simple image of the product, Ms. Bookbinder said, the new ads show real quotations from the brand’s Facebook page describing jewelry as “bling-tastic” and “a menagerie of twinkles.”

The ads showcase quotations about the jewelry from two fashion bloggers, Christine Cameron of My Style Pill and Stephanie Johnson of SJ’s Style Compass. They also will write about the diamonds on their blogs.

Each month, users who “like” the Hearts On Fire Facebook page will be entered in a contest to win a piece of diamond jewelry. And users who need a little guidance before committing to a jewelry purchase can call one of the company’s “Perfection Stylists” to help them select the right bauble. In anticipation of the campaign, the company expects to expand the number of phone agents on call to about 25, from three, and will counsel customers seven days a week. In addition to aiding potential consumers with diamond purchases, the stylists can also act “as a platform to let people tell us what they’d like to be seeing in terms of products and price points,” said Caryl Capeci, the vice president of marketing for Hearts On Fire.

The ads will also feature Web addresses linking each ad to its corresponding publication (HeartsOnFire.com/Esquire) and Quick Response, or QR, codes that consumers can use to go to HeartsOnFire.com. Once on the site, the users will be asked to share their own diamond stories and will be entered into a contest to be featured in one of the ads.

The use of QR codes and specific Web addresses will allow the company to learn more about its customers. “We can see who’s coming, what are they buying,” Ms. Capeci said. “We can optimize media and designs. It gives us an opportunity to really look more closely at our consumers.”

Consumers who may not have all of the money for a diamond purchase up front can enroll in the company’s payment plan, which asks for a 35 percent down payment and six monthly installments.

“We wanted to be competitive in the payment plan area,” said Glenn Rothman, the founder of Hearts On Fire. “If we can give people an opportunity to get into the brand with a down payment through the payment plan, then that would add to the success of the program.”

Another feature of the campaign is a revenue sharing model where Hearst will get a percentage of the sales generated through the campaign, though representatives from Hearts On Fire and Hearst declined to say what the terms would be. The model could represent a new revenue stream for the publisher.

“That’s part of it,” Mr. Clinton said. He was the chief creator behind, “The Power of Print” a recent advertising campaign extolling the virtues of print over digital content. The campaign was supported by Hearst, Time Inc., Condé Nast, Meredith, Wenner Media and the Association of Magazine Media.

The Hearst team says it hopes the Hearts On Fire campaign will drive home the point that print is still a major consumer vehicle, even if that consumer ultimately ends up on the Web. “Effective creative in print today needs to have a lot of digital enablers,” Mr. Clinton said, referring to advertising.

According to the Kantar Media unit of WPP, Hearts On Fire spent $3.8 million on advertising last year. For the first quarter of 2011, it spent $1.6 million, Kantar reported.

The partnership between Hearst and Hearts On Fire also represents a small evolution in the way brands interact with agencies. The Hearst Creative Communications team is handling all aspects of media planning and buying in addition to producing the creative elements of the campaign. Traditionally, those tasks would have been handled by several companies.

“Marketers are interested in partnering with us in much more and different ways,” Ms. Bookbinder said. “We’ve known the power of print. This is just a way of really making sure how that manifests.”

Jan 10

In Diamonds’ Flaws, Clues to Earth’s Carbon Cycle

The diamonds, during their formation, captured evidence that slabs of the ocean floors descend deep beneath the earth’s surface, recycling carbon between the oceans and the earth’s mantle, the shell of rock, about 1,800 miles thick, that lies directly beneath the earth’s surface.

Understanding the fate of the slabs will help scientists better understand the earth’s carbon cycle and all the processes that depend on it, from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the carbon compounds in living organisms and the formation of hydrocarbons in oil and gas.

Objects that resemble ocean slabs can be seen in seismic recordings, but they lie far too deep for any drill to sample. Impurities in the diamonds contain chemical signatures of the extinct ocean floor, evidence that the slabs have been cycled deep into the earth’s mantle, says a research team led by Michael J. Walter of the University of Bristol in England.

These microscopic impurities, derived from rock and from organic material in creatures that once lived on an ancient ocean floor, have undergone an amazing journey. The ocean floor rock, basalt, along with the sediment that built up on top of it, was drawn down at the edge of an ocean as part of the conveyor-belt mechanism that moves the continents.

When the slab of ocean floor had plunged 435 miles beneath the surface, minerals from the basalt were encapsulated inside the diamonds that formed at these depths.

The diamonds continued to descend with the slab of ocean floor until they experienced two elevator rides back to the surface. A rising mass of solid rock known as a mantle plume carried them slowly back toward the upper mantle, and the heat of the plume then propelled to the surface an explosive jet of molten kimberlite, a volcanic rock that preserves diamonds.

Eons later, the diamonds were mined by the Rio Tinto Group from Juina in Brazil. The company allowed members of the research team to sift through stones not deemed to be of gem quality. After examining thousands of diamonds, the researchers found just six that seemed to be of superdeep origin.

Despite their deep origin, the Juina diamonds are comparatively young as diamonds go. They were formed only 100 million years ago. Most gem-quality diamonds are 1 billion to 3.5 billion years old, and originate at shallower depths, in the keels beneath the cratons, the ancient blocks of rock that form the hearts of the earth’s continental masses.

The impurities that make the superdeep diamonds useless to the jeweler are invaluable to the scientist. From the inclusions in the six Juina diamonds, Dr. Walter’s team was able to infer the existence of two minerals that form only in conditions that exist 435 miles or deeper below the earth’s surface. The composition of the two minerals matched the basalt of which the ocean floor is made, showing that slabs of ocean floor had reached this depth, the researchers reported online on Thursday in the journal Science.

In another test, they showed that the carbon in the impurities contained less than usual of the isotope known as carbon 13, a signature of organic carbon at the surface of the earth that has been processed by living organisms.

Researchers are delighted that so much information about major geological processes can be gleaned from the microscopic impurities in the superdeep diamonds. “The superdeeps will probably emerge in the next 10 years as some of the strongest evidence for deep movements and pathways in the earth’s mantle,” said Steven B. Shirey of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, a member of Dr. Walter’s team.

Thomas Stachel, an expert on diamond geochemistry at the University of Alberta in Canada, said, “Here you have a beautiful demonstration that the oceanic plate cycle is not relatively shallow, as many people assume, but that the subducted plate makes it down to the deep mantle and is brought back to the surface by a mantle plume.”

In Dr. Walter’s laboratory, the superdeep diamonds are polished with a jeweler’s polishing wheel until the precious impurities within them are exposed. With a variety of spectroscopic tests, the researchers then measure the composition of the minerals within the impurities.

The discovery that carbon from the ocean floor can be mixed so deep within the mantle raises the larger question of how much of the ocean floor and sediments are carried to the deep mantle. Given the importance of carbon to life, scientists seek to understand the major reservoirs of carbon in the earth and the exchanges between them, both in space and in time.

“The mantle is the biggest reservoir of carbon, and we know very little about it,” Dr. Walter said.

“This won’t affect climate tomorrow, but what our results tell you is that carbon from the surface can go all the way into the lower mantle, which may be a long-term sink for carbon.”

Jan 10

In New Control Over Diamonds, Smugglers Pay in Mozambique

(RAPAPORT) New York Times: The most recent time Mike Phiri was on his hands and knees, clawing through the rough rock of the diamond fields just across the border in Zimbabwe, he dared a soldier to shoot him.

Phiri and his fellow diamond smugglers had gotten into an argument with the soldier because, for the second consecutive night, he had directed them to a patch of the rich fields where there were no diamonds to be mined. And so they refused to pay him a bribe for allowing them onto the fields, in an area known as Marange. The soldier threatened force.

“If you want to shoot, shoot,� Phiri recalled barking at the soldier. “But I’m not paying.�

Phiri and his comrades walked away unharmed, but in more than three months he has not dared return to the fields, an acknowledgment of the increasing dangers for the black-market miners who once dominated an area that may be one of the world’s most lucrative diamond troves.

Ever since President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe began to tighten his grip about three years ago on the mines in Marange, where security forces and companies with ties to him are mining at least hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stones, the illicit diamond business here has all but dried up. Border towns like this one have become echoes of what they once were.

In November, an international coalition created to prevent the trade of rough diamonds that fuel conflict approved the unlimited export of stones from Marange, giving Mugabe even more incentive to consolidate the diamond wealth, primarily for himself and his allies, according to human rights groups and Western officials.

Now the people in these diamond towns, who have made their living smuggling stones from Marange since the fields were first tapped more than five years ago, say that the dangers presented by Mugabe’s forces and private security teams make it far too risky for them to sneak through the barbed-wire fences patrolled by soldiers, police officers and private security guards with attack dogs.

The result for places like this sleepy village of dirt roads, as well as for Manica, a more developed border town several hours north, has been a stripping of what little vibrancy and economic activity they had, legal or otherwise. Here in Espungabera, tucked in rolling green mountains, former smugglers have been left with little to do. The one nightclub in town has closed, and people pass their days playing snooker at one of several taverns.

“It has become a ghost city since last year,� said Ibraimo Mereia, 27, who made his last trip to Marange in April.

In the town of Manica, the days of foreign buyers and traders openly haggling over stones and inspecting them at local restaurants and businesses have given way to empty dining rooms. Former diamond smugglers can now be found plunging into deep holes, smeared with red clay, as they pan for gold on the edges of town.

The reduction in smuggling is the product of more than a security crackdown at Marange itself, Mozambican authorities said. After a meeting over the summer with Zimbabwean security officials, local authorities introduced measures to rein in the practice from the Mozambican side, said Belmiro Mutadiua, a spokesman for the provincial police of Manica, which is about the size of West Virginia and includes Espun gabera.

Local authorities have increased the number of border guards and are training new ones,  Mutadiua said. They also are relying more heavily on informants and doing intelligence work. Although he could not give an exact figure,  Mutadiua said that the police had intercepted more shipments of minerals and stones in 2011, including diamonds, emeralds and quartz.

Naturally, many here may not see the evaporation of their underground industry as a good thing.

More than half of Mozambique’s adults are below the poverty line, and the country is one of the 20 poorest in the world, according to Unicef. Many people survive on subsistence farming. The country’s mineral wealth — gold, copper and iron — is largely untapped. The narrow shoulders of busy highways are full of people walking miles for water from wells or food from fields. People nonchalantly balance bundles of branches, stuffed bags or other items on their heads as they walk.

But the police cannot worry about whether smuggling helped the economy, Mutadiua said.

“The smuggling of precious stones is illegal,� he said. “We are just doing our job.�

There is little doubt that smuggling contributed to development in the town of Manica, where sturdy, multiple-story concrete houses decked with satellite dishes went up, a contrast to the numerous makeshift mud and tin shacks in the area. The houses were rented and enhanced to their glorified states by wealthy diamond buyers and dealers from Lebanon, the Great Lakes region of Africa and elsewhere.

Diamond dealers gave so much business to the Manica Lodge, a hotel in the town, that the proprietors used to chase some away because they were making a scene.

Until late 2011, dealers could be found examining stones with magnifying lenses and haggling ove r sales at the restaurant, Maria Cook, the manager, said.

“It was a good thing for us, because we made money,� she said, “but in another way it was a risk, because people used to fight. We had a very bad reputation.�
Espungabera, 26 miles from the main area for artisanal digging in Marange, was never a hotbed for diamond buyers and dealers because getting there from inside Mozambique is challenging — a bumpy two-and-a-half-hour drive on a dirt road. But it was a haven for smugglers who spent money at the taverns, however fickle the smuggling business could be.

At the height of his smuggling days in 2008 and 2009,  Mereia said that he used to make $2,000 to $3,000 during a two- or three-week excursion at Marange, a hefty sum here.

But smugglers’ luck can vary. Nelson Chuquera, a 20-year-old resident, said that he earned $1,500 in two days of digging the first time he went to Marange. The second time, he spent a week there, he said, but earned just $150. Working in teams of about five, smugglers said, they would camp near the fields and dig at night to avoid detection. To get into the fields, they said, they had to pass barbed-wire fences, plus soldiers, police officers and private security guards. The smugglers would find unmonitored parts of the fence and cut through it. Other times, they would bribe the security forces, paying $10 to $100 per person, they said.

When they left, the security officials would search them. If the smugglers had the most valuable stones, the security forces would confiscate them to keep. The smugglers would sell what they had mined to buyers stationed in Zimbabwe or Mozambique.

Experts say that smuggling was indirectly beneficial to  Mugabe because the security forces working there benefited personally. It was a way to keep them happy and loyal. But the private companies now mining in Marange just want to protect their profits, and they have introduced stricter security, the smugglers said.

“If the situation improves, I will go back,� said Mereia, sitting outside of his one-room mud-brick home while his daughter and wife smashed cornmeal to make porridge.

“I’m so used to making easy money,� he said. “I have no hope of getting a job.�

©NYT 2012

Copyright © 2012 Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

Jan 10

Surat Diamond Association Honors KARP Impex Chairman

RAPAPORT… Kishrobhai Virani, the chairman of KARP Impex, was appointed as the Honorable Consul of the Kingdom of Lesotho, according to the Surat Diamond Association (SDA).

The SDA, together with the Gujarat Gaurav Samman Samiti, celebrated Virani’s appointment at a ceremony held in his honor on January 7, 2012 at the Hari Krishna campus.

Virani entered the diamond business in 1980, following in the footsteps of his father who was involved in the industry beginning in 1964. His company became a Diamond Trading Company (DTC) sightholder in 1993 and he received the National Export Award for Outstanding Performance among small-scale industries for three consecutive years from 1993 to 1996. KARP Impex has a global presence and 5,000 employees worldwide.