How Laser Cutting is Transforming the Diamond Processing Industry

Diamonds as the famous song goes is a girl’s best friend, not so much as for its intrinsic value but because a chunk of it on a finger, on the earlobes or around the neck can altogether elevate her personality to a completely different level. The stone is a very precious commodity and loved by all. Never will its value go down, a fact that has made investors buy diamonds as a hedge against inflation or recession. The startling fact is that every diamond mined today was formed as far back as times when dinosaurs roamed the earth. In fact, the newest in the lot will be at a minimum 900 million years old with the oldest about 3.2 billion years.

Diamonds are the hardest material in the world and have over the ages come to represent power, glory, strength and beauty. Organised mining of diamonds as we know today began in the 19th century in South Africa with 80% of the world’s production originating from the mines of Botswana, Russia, South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Australia and Congo apart from South Africa. Processing of diamonds from the rough to the finished stone has traditionally been done by skilled workers that inspected each stone, physically marked the parts that contained impurities and then cut the stone around the markings. This was done in a manner that maximized carat and quality.

At present diamond processing is done in about 30 countries around the world, including India, Antwerp, Australia, New York, Tel Aviv, China and Thailand. It requires skilled labour, many of whom have learnt the art from their forefathers. In Australia, for example, specialized agencies for labour hire in Melbourne supply skilled hands to the trade.

The industry got a boost with the introduction of laser cutting machines. The first benefit of these is that it almost eliminates wastage, bringing it down to 1% from 8% in traditional machines. Human error is more or less fully eliminated in this advanced technology. Most importantly, the cutting process is almost fully automated bringing human intervention down to zero. This results in greater number of rough diamonds being processed in a day.

This is how a laser cutting machine works. First a rough diamond is measured and the user is informed about the optimal yield possible from the stone. Then a clear 3D picture is presented about the weight, shape and clarity of the projected finished stone. After this step, specialized software takes over. It offers the operator such options as selecting the shape of the diamond and the number of sides and percentage of sawing and banding that will optimize market value of the stone.

Once these parameters are selected by the operator, the sawing is initiated and the rough diamond is cut along the lines of the selected plan. The final product is always a work of art, comparable with the hand crafted diamonds that masters processed with love and care but at a rate much faster than what it was.

Intensive research has been conducted over the years on development of these diamond laser cutting machines and today they have the most sophisticated and state of the art technologies in-built in them.