This is probably the image most people would associate with diamonds but the
one below represents the reality of their true value for, without their hardness and
cutting quality, there would be no modern high tech industry.
As Saul explains in “Against The Tide”,
‘Without these little buggers you would have no manufactured goods, no aircraft engines, no gyroscopes, electronic parts, torpedoes, tanks, artillery —’
Magnified many times this is a drill bit with a matrix of industrial diamonds on its cutting surface.
Here, precision grinding on a lathe.
To produce bombers and fighters for the Third Reich
The strategic importance of diamonds became acutely clear to both the Allies and Axis powers with the approach of the Second World War in 1939. Yet, nearly all the diamond mines remained closed, and De Beers controlled the world supply of diamonds. Obtaining these industrial diamonds thus became a paramount objective for both the United States and Hitler's Germany.
In Washington, D.C., the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt began to hold emergency meetings about diamonds in 1940 when Hitler's armies swept across Europe in a blitzkrieg and threatened to invade England. The possibility had to be at least considered that England, like France, might be overrun or surrender. In that event, the world diamond stockpile would fall into Hitler's hands. Since the United States had less than one year's supply of industrial diamonds, the loss of De Beers' stockpile would make it difficult, if not impossible, to continue the war. The economic planners for the war estimated that the United States needed at least 6.5 million carats of industrial diamonds to convert its factories to war production.
As all mines in South Africa were closed, there was only one place on earth from which the Germans could get industrial diamonds in sufficient quantity to maintain their military-industrial complex: the Belgian Congo.
The Belgian Congo was, however, administered by the Belgian government in exile, which was in London and completely under British control. The mines themselves were supervised, and policed, by the De Beers syndicate.
The Americans had been investigating De Beers for sometime in an attempt to break its monopoly of the trade and discovered that diamonds were still reaching the Axis powers from the Congo.
Its agents, posing as illegal buyers found that industrial diamonds were being sold for $26 a carat, which was thirty times the official price. It became increasingly clear that enormous profits were being made on the millions of carats that were being smuggled into Germany.
Tracing their way back through the chain of illegal sellers, a American agent, code-named Teton, reported back from Leopoldville that "the major source of leakage was the Forminiere Mines," which had been under the control of De Beers ever since they were developed.
These facts form the basis for the diamond sub-plot in “Against The Tide”.
De Beers control over the entire diamond market is a fascinating story of skulduggery, corruption and the brutal exercise of economic power, which makes it almost stranger than fiction!
There are many books on the subject but I can recommend the following:
“Diamond – The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair” by Matthew Hart
“Glitter & Greed” by Janine Roberts