The next step in the commodity chain of the diamond is the cutting and polishing of the diamonds. Diamond cutters, or lapidarists as they are commonly referred to as, must get as large and as beautiful of a gem as possible without losing a large amount of material. Diamonds can be cut several ways; cleaving, chiseling, and grinding. Cleaving involves splitting the diamond with a chisel, a method which is rarely used today (Hays 5). Sawing involves a circular copper blade embedded with diamond dust particles (Hays 5). Grinding is a method that involves pressing the diamond against “…a covered diamond-dust-covered steel wheel that spins at 3,000 rpm,” (Hays 6). In fact, the only thing that will cut a diamond is another diamond. Though diamonds are very hard they are relatively easy to cut along lines in their crystalline structure (Hays 7).
Traditionally, the cutting and polishing of diamonds has been centered in Belgium but has since moved to India, Thailand, and Israel. The diamond trade accounts for four billion dollars a year and is six percent of Belgium’s total exports. The smaller stones are polished in India and China were less experience, cheaper workers are located (Hays 8).
India’s diamond industry can be traced back to 1970’s when an operation was established in Bombay and began to cut very small diamonds to export. Today, India employs about 800,000 people in its cutting and polishing (Hussian 1). Many of them work ten hour days at plants in Surat for $80 a week (Hussian 1). “About 10 to 20 percent of the workers are children…” many of whom eat and sleep at the factory (Hussian 1). Indian diamond cutters have traditionally used cutter wheels in poorly-lit sheds. Not only is child labor a major concern, but half the workers in India suffer from kidney disfunction, tuberculosis, and lung disease (Hussain 1). Most of the cutters are not protected by India’s Factory Act, and there is little enforcement of the Child Labor Act (Hussain 1). As India gain more international trade opportunities the diamond industry is desperately attempting to shed their grimy past. As wage increase is on the rise, some reports claim a diamond worker can earn $2,500 a year, and working conditions become safer there is hope that India’s future in the industry will be as bright as the diamonds they cut.