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Ch. 10: Diamond

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ing diamond-mining render it to a great extent a gambling
operation. The business is attended with immense labor and
expense, and sometimes with great risks, making the profits*
at best, very precarious. The methods of working the mines,
called the " wet " and the " dry " processes, are similar in
different countries ; therefore a description of the Brazilian
operations will give a pretty correct idea of those in other
regions. At the time of Mawe's visit to these mines, during
the early part of the present century, the diamonds were
usually obtained from the beds of rivers and deep ravines,
though they were occasionally found in cavities and watercourses on the summits of the loftiest mountains.
By turning the streams from their natural courses, the
diamonds deposited in the gravel (called cascalho) constituting
the beds were obtained by a process of washing the sand for
the large specimens, after which the pulverized earth was
placed on the "depositing ground," and worked over for the
smaller stones. One river alone, according to this traveller,
had been a fruitful source of supply for half a century before
his visit.
"The dry method of working the mines," writes Burton,
whose travels were more recent than those of Mawe, "long
known in India, is not practised in Brazil," but the manner
of "washing" for the gems as described by him was that
similar to the oriental, and pretty much the same as Mawe
relates it. Numerous ablutions were necessary before all the
diamonds were assorted, and it required from half an hour to
one hour for a good washer to finish one panful of cascalho.
The work is said to be very severe for the eyesight, which, in
a few years, is greatly impaired ; therefore, children, whose
vision is more keen than that of adults, are considered the
best washers.
Ch. 10: Diamond Page of 401 Ch. 10: Diamond
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