- Dec 10, 2004
This bling is homegrown.
In a made-in-Ontario first, 100 spectacular diamonds mined, cut and polished exclusively in this province will be unveiled at a swank Bloor Street jewelry store beginning Monday.
The extraordinarily clear and colourless diamonds were extracted from the Victor Mine in the James Bay Lowlands, 90 km west of Attawapiskat, and then cut and polished in Sudbury. Each precious gem is specially numbered and sold with a certificate of authenticity from the Ontario government.
Northern Affairs Minister Michael Gravelle described the sale of the first 100 Ontario diamonds as the culmination of a dream. “We now have a true, value-added diamond industry in the province of Ontario,” he said.
The diamonds will be sold only at Birks flagship store on Bloor from April 26 to May 1. The diamonds will be sold loose, and clients will have the opportunity to choose the setting using platinum or Canadian gold etched with a maple leaf logo. After May 1, the gems will be sold along with other Canadian diamonds – which may be mined here but cut and polished out of the country.
The locally produced bling does not come cheap. The retail value of the gems is approximately $1.7 million for 100 cut and polished stones.
“Mother Nature, for whatever reason, has blessed Ontario with diamonds that are absolutely off the scale,” said the province’s chief gemmologist Ron Gashinski.
It is the clarity of the gems extracted from De Beers Canada’s Victor Mine that has fashionistas and the mining industry agog. The diamonds are stunningly clear. They have the second-highest value per carat in the world. Only those from Lesotho, in southern Africa, rate higher.
“We get excited when we see pure diamonds. We don’t see them often,” said Gashinski. The Lesotho diamonds are actually first in value due to their large size but Ontario’s gems are superior, he added. “On average, the Victor Mine is probably the highest grade gem mine in the world for consistency and quality.”
It was a surprise to many when traces of diamonds were discovered in the James Bay lowlands in 1987. University student Brad Wood found kimberlite boulders on the Attawapiskat River while fishing. Kimberlite is a type of volcanic rock that can contain diamonds and indicate they may be present nearby.
In 2005, the federal and provincial governments approved an environmental assessment for De Beers Canada to proceed with a diamond mine. The open-pit Victor Mine cost $1 billion to construct. It opened in July, 2008.
Eager to get into the action, the Ontario government struck a deal with De Beers. Ten per cent of the value of the rough diamonds from the mine must stay in the province to be processed and refined here every year, said Gravelle. The diamonds that go on sale Monday have been cut and polished at Sudbury’s Crossworks Manufacturing Limited.
The mine employs about 500 people. Approximately 40 per cent are aboriginal, Gravelle said. The company says approximately $167 million was spent on aboriginal businesses or joint venture partners.
The very first diamonds to come out of the Victor Mine were given to the province of Ontario and they are now set into the legislature’s mace.
Diamond exploration is beginning to take off in the province in Wawa, Fort Frances and Greenstone. It takes about 10,000 exploration projects to produce a mine. “The long and the short of it is, it is a pretty amazing story on how you end up with a mine,” Gravelle said.
Gashinski signs a certificate sold with each diamond, saying it has been cut and polished in Ontario. Active diamond exploration is also going on around the Victor Mine and the Wawa area, he said.
One of the government’s goals was to make sure Ontario diamonds stayed in Ontario hands, Gashinski said. “To see these diamonds produced in Canada and then worn on the hands and ears of women and men, is a dream come true,” he said. “It is a remarkable journey.”