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Gemstones from Botswana

Botswana Map
Botswana Map

Botswana is a dry country, which is mostly covered by the Kalahari Desert. Yet, below the arid earth lies significant deposits of diamond and other precious minerals. It is perhaps for this reason along with its longstanding multi-party democracy that Botswana is known as one of the most stable African countries. The country was previously a British colony known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate until it became the Republic of Botswana in 1966. The new Republic was one of the poorest African nations, but after diamond was discovered a year later, its fortune changed and Botswana rose from the ashes of poverty to being one of the leading diamond producers.

Botswana has seen some extremely large diamonds, for example, a 239-carat piece of diamond rough was found in 2013 and a 341.9-carat piece was found in April 2015, which sold for $20.6 million. However, in November 2015, these large stones were eclipsed when 813-carat and 374-carat stones were found in the same week of November 2015, and a whopping 1,109-carat rough diamond was unearthed; the second-largest gem-quality diamond ever found. The largest rough diamond in the world was the Cullinan, which weighed 3,106 carats when it was found in South Africa in 1905. The Cullinan Diamond was cut into several smaller gems, the largest of which weighs 530 carats and is known as the Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa. It is mounted in the Scepter of the Cross in the British Crown Jewels. Not only large diamonds can be found in Botswana; the country also has the world's largest diamond mine with regard to area. The mine is in Orapa in Central Botswana and produced over 11 million carats of diamond in 2013. It is the oldest diamond mine of Botswana. The Jwaneng mine is just a couple of hours' drive from the capital and was dug after the discovery of diamonds there in 1973, just two years after the discovery in Orapa.

Rough White Diamond
Rough Diamond

Botswana is the world's leading diamond source with regard to value, and has been a source of rough diamonds for many years, but has only recently become a processing and trading center. The cutting, polishing and selling of diamonds takes place in the capital, Gaborone, which is near the South African border. Additionally, finished diamond jewelry is also traded there. In a joint venture, De Beers and the government of Botswana set up a diamond processing center called Diamond Trading Company (DTC) Botswana, in 2013, moving the international center for diamond trade from London, where it has been for around a century, to Gaborone. The move not only brought diamond trade to Botswana, but also boosted the economy with tourism and other goods and services required of international gemstone traders. Alongside DTC Botswana sits the accompanying Diamond Technology Park (DTP), which was successfully rented, and due to the demand for space the government added a new building in 2014. The DTC and DTP are conveniently situated between the airport and city center. The country is still developing its international business infrastructure, such as transport, communications, accommodation, and so on.

Diamond production at the rate at which Botswana has been accustomed to is not sustainable in the long term, and production has fallen in the last year. Yet, further discoveries of kimberlite have been made, indicating the presence of more diamond. The diamond processing and trade center will also help to sustain the future economy of the country. Additionally, Botswana is developing further mining of elements, such as uranium, copper, gold, palladium, nickel, platinum and cobalt.

Botswana Banded Agate Cabochons
Botswana Banded Agate Cabochons

Apart from diamond, Botswana also has so-called "semi precious" gems. Per year, around 30,000 kilograms are produced. These include aquamarine, amethyst, azurite, carnelian and agate. Agate has been mined from Botswana for many years and since the 1970s, only processed agate is permitted for export from Botswana. The agate from this country is said to possess particularly attractive banding and colors, such as pink, which is why it is a valued source. It is sometimes carved into beautiful ornaments.

While Botswana faces the challenges presented by poverty, HIV/AIDS, lessening diamond production, poor agricultural output and limited water, it has been taking certain steps to ensure that its future will remain as bright as the past 45 years. Further development of infrastructure, sustainable energy, processing and trade of diamonds, tourism and diversification of goods and products will help to cement Botswana's place in the world for many years to come.

  • First Published: May-19-2016
  • Last Updated: January-22-2017
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