The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns
If for some reason, you still think that the commodity markets are predictable, today’s chart provides a nice piece of humble pie.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns, which comes to us annually from our friends at U.S. Global Investors, shows the returns of commodities over each year of the past decade.
As you may have guessed, commodities are a volatile asset class – and as a result, their respective rankings fluctuate wildly each year, making things really interesting for any observer.
The Year in Review
In 2017, we experienced the second full year of recovery from the collapse of commodities that plagued the dreaded stretch from 2011 to 2015.
Aside from natural gas (-20.7%), commodities were basically up across the board. The graphic, which focuses mostly on major commodity markets, has palladium (56.3%), aluminum (32.4%), coal (31.2%), copper (30.5%), and zinc (30.5%) as the big winners over the last year.
It’s worth mentioning that some smaller markets are not included on the table – and battery metals like cobalt (133%) also did exceptionally well in 2017.
If you are not yet thoroughly geeked out, there is an interactive version of this graphic as well. It allows you to sort by category, performance, or volatility.
Surprisingly, the least volatile substance on the table is gold:
While the gold market has been eerily quiet as of late, this is unexpected. That’s because, at least compared to other financial assets like bonds or stocks, gold has quite the reputation for being volatile and risky.
But, when compared to other commodities, gold actually appears relatively tame.
What Real Volatility Looks Like
Here are the charts for natural gas and coal, each which much better represent a Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde relationship.
Natural gas is in weird place.
It’s a better alternative than coal or oil for emissions, but it’s still a fossil fuel. This, along with the natural ebbs and flows of the oil and gas markets, have made gas particularly volatile over the last few years.
Of course, coal is falling out of favor in the long-term global energy mix – but that doesn’t mean it can’t get a shot in the arm from Chinese or Indian demand in the short term.
As a result, coal is all over the map on the Periodic Table of Commodity Returns, as well.
Ranked: The World’s Top Diamond Mining Countries, by Carats and Value
Who are the leaders in rough diamond production and how much is their diamond output worth?
Ranked: World Diamond Mining By Country, Carat, and Value
Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production—also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds—mining for them from deposits within their territories.
This chart, by Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.
Rough Diamond Production, By Weight
Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.
Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.
Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||9,660,233|
|10||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||688,970|
|18||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||3,904|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||3,534|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.
As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.
Diamond Mining, by Country
However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.
|5||🇿🇦 South Africa||$1,538M|
|9||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||$143M|
|19||🇨🇬 Republic of Congo||$0.20M|
|20||🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire||$0.16M|
Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.
Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.
Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.
Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.
Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?
Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.
|Rank||Region||Share of Rough|
Diamond Production (%)
|Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.
By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.
And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.
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