Expertise Events
advertisement
Expertise Events
advertisement
Expertise Events
advertisement
Goto your account
Search Stories by: 
and/or
 

Feature Stories

Articles from DIAMONDS BY CUT - BRILLIANT (ROUND) (286 Articles), DIAMOND CUTTING SERVICES (16 Articles)

Sorting the rough at the DTC
Sorting the rough at the DTC
 









 

Big game in Botswana

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow a diamond from ‘rough to retail’, via the DTC Botswana, was too good for Nationwide director Barry Jackson to pass up.
Thousands of tourists visit Botswana each year to catch a glimpse of the impressive array of wildlife in remote locations such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. However there is other game in Botswana and the biggest of them all is diamonds.

Since gaining independence from the British in 1966, the country has transformed itself into one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Much of this growth has been fuelled by diamond mining, which accounts for a third of GDP, 70 to 80 per cent of export earnings, and about half of the government’s revenue.

As director of the biggest jewellery buying group in Australia and somebody who has worked in the jewellery industry for almost 50 years, I am well acquainted with consumers’ fascination with nature’s perfect gem. However, to follow a diamond from ‘rough to retail’ would really be something. With that in mind, a rare invitation to visit Tolkowsky’s Hearts & Arrows Cutting Works factory in Botswana was too good to pass up.

Only a month earlier I had toured H & A’s Bangkok factory, so I was set to become the only retail client of Tolkowsky to inspect both of its major international diamond cutting factories.

Not only that, I was to get a complete overview of the diamond activity in Botswana; on top of the cutting factory, it was promised that a tour of De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company (DTC) in Gabarone could also be arranged.

I had been declined a tour of a diamond mine on this occasion and, frankly, I didn’t expect to be given a tour of this high security complex either. Gaining access to the DTC is difficult – you can’t just call them and ask for an appointment. I don’t think I would have stood a chance without being vouched for by H & A Cutting. This company, along with Tolkowsky, is a division of Exelco – an important De Beers sightholder. I was even to be admitted into the inner sanctum of the DTC – the sorting and grading floors.

The DTC complex is most impressive, but perhaps even more impressive is the foresight of the Botswana Government who, by virtue of their arrangement with De Beers, created employment opportunities for their people. De Beers has trained Botswana citizens to sort and value the rough, operate the pre-sorting machinery and to fill the majority of the administration positions from senior management down.

The H & A cutting factory
The H & A cutting factory

Diamonds play an important role in the Botswana economy; 16 DTC sightholders now have cutting works in the country, and more are on their way – I drove past the site of a factory under construction for US jewellery giant Tiffany & Co.

This small African nation – it is the size of Texas – is at present the major gem quality diamond producing country in the world and the partnership formed by De Beers and the Botswana government has been pivotal in reaching that position. They jointly operate five mines, owned by a 50-50 joint venture called Debswana, which are currently producing a huge slice of the world’s gem quality diamonds. The mines include Jwaneng – the richest diamond mine in the world – and Orapa pipe, the second largest diamond-producing Kimberlite pipe.

On the day of my visit I was escorted by Sam Mothibi, the managing director of H & A Cutting Works Botswana. I was only allowed to enter the DTC on the condition that Mothibi accompanied me throughout my visit. We had to pass through two security gates before gaining access to the building. In the entrance foyer there was a third security check and before we could proceed from that position we were met by the major account manager who escorted us to a low-security (by comparison) office section.

At this point we were joined by the head of security. He was not introduced, but I am told – reliably – that he was previously a senior policeman in Botswana before being seconded to his present position. He was never more than a meter from my side as we visited the sorting and grading floors – unobtrusive and co-operative, but an ever-present reminder of the millions of dollars that flow through this site each year.

The rough diamonds are put through three machines designed and built in England by De Beers. These machines roughly pre-sort the diamonds by size and quality before they are handed on to the sorters, who examine every stone with a lens and sort them more accurately. On the day of my visit, I would guess that there were 50 to 60 workers on the sorting floor.

Having watched the rough go through the sorting process in the DTC Botswana building, Mothibi then took me to the Hearts & Arrows Cutting Works to see the rough become a faceted diamond. Here I was shown around the entire factory by expat Belgian Gary Gutfreund, director of rough diamonds for the Exelco group.

Barry Jackson, pictured far right with DTC execs
Barry Jackson, pictured far right with DTC execs

This is a new factory, unique in its design because it incorporates traditional African styling. The collection of buildings was inspired by the traditional African homestead – the Lolwapa. The roofs are faceted in the shape of a diamond and are meant to be a manifestation of the diamond meeting Africa.

The factory’s layout was described by technical director Elon Calhorra as being similar to that of an orange; the diamonds go through one of their many processes and then return to the centre of the ‘orange’ for a further quality control check before being passed out to another ‘segment’ for yet another stage in this complicated and labour-intensive process.

My mission to see the diamond from rough to retail was completed by a trip to another factory, thousands of kilometres away. I had watched the rough being sorted at the DTC Botswana complex and followed it to the Hearts & Arrows factory where it was transformed from a pretty pebble to a magnificent gem. Now, I watched as goldsmiths lovingly created a setting to house nature’s perfect gem and I saw the finished product being dispatched to selected Nationwide Jewellers’ shops. To finish my ‘safari’ I am anxious to see one of the prizes from Botswana adorning the finger of a very satisfied customer.

I have now succeeded in tracking the real big game in Botswana.

As the name implies, the factory in Gabarone – as with Tolkowsky’s other in Bangkok – only cuts hearts and arrows diamonds and their production is used exclusively in the famous Tolkowsky diamond jewellery range. These diamonds are available in Japan under the Exelco brand and Tolkowsky jewellery is marketed via major jewellery retailers internationally. The brand launched in Australia and New Zealand at last year’s JAA International Jewellery Fair in Sydney, and is exclusive to Nationwide jewellers.










Expertise Events
advertisement





Read current issue

login to my account
Username: Password:
Nationwide Jewellers
advertisement
Expertise Events
advertisement
Expertise Events
advertisement
© 2023 Befindan Media