Diamonds are found in alluvial (loose earthy material deposited by running water) formations and in volcanic pipes, filled for most of their length with blue ground or kimberlite, an igneous rock consisting largely of serpentine. At the surface the blue ground is weathered to a clay called yellow ground. Diamantiferous (or diamondiferous), or diamond-yielding, earth is mined both by the open-pit method and by underground mining. After being removed to the surface, it is crushed and then concentrated. Sorting is done by passing the concentrated material in a stream of water over greased tables. The diamond, being largely water repellent, sticks to the grease, but the other minerals retain a film of water, which prevents them from adhering to the grease. The diamonds are then removed from the grease, cleaned, and graded for sale.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.