Martapura Traditional Diamond Mining, Borneo

Martapura is well known as “the Diamond City” due to the production of extremely precious stones which is able to attract most of the accessories collectors through all over the world. Situated approximately 45 Kilometers east of Banjarmasin, Martapura is a sparkling little city factually to the top with diamonds and all the precious rocks delved from inside Borneo’s earth. Administratively, Martapura is the hub of the Banjar Regency. The city is well-known as the focal point of the diamond industry as well as the foremost diamond cold and polishing venue in Kalimantan, in addition to being producers of top quality jewelry.

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The city has played a valuable role in history since it was the continue seat of the Banjar Sultanate all through the reign of Sultan Adam from 1825-1857. The first name “Martapura” itself is understood to be inflicted with been agreed by the 4th Sultan of Banjar, Sultan Mustain Billah in 1630.

Martapura has always something to do with diamond. The town has been an object for the miners of precious stones. Several mining villages exist, such as Lukaas and Sungai Tiung, lying five kilometers from Martapura. Furthermore, the Dutch colonialists once attempted to occupy this land due towards the ample natural descent discovered there.

For those who fancy jewelry and accessories such as necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches, and various others made from pure diamond, gold, zircon, silver, various other gemstones, and even plastic or glass imitation, then Martapura is the place to be. The quality of Martapura’s jewelry is globally recognized as one of the best in the world. These sparkling treasures of Martapura are best found at the city’s iconic landmark in the diamond and jewelry market of Cahaya Bumi Selamat.


This market could well be one of the most unique diamond markets  the world, since instead of featuring exquisite and elegant stores, Cahaya Bumi Selamat Diamond and Jewels Market is merely a  conglomeration of simple stores and a few hawkers. It is even not uncommon to sometimes see millions of rupiahs worth of transaction conducted between two men passing in the street, instead of in an established store. The choice of uncut gems, silver and gold jewelry and threading beads-both strung and unstrung- are excellent here.

The biggest fact that widely emerged thus lifted up Martapura as precious stone land was the discover of the hugely valuable stone called Trisakti in 1965. The place of the discovery was in Cempaka. Some said that the diamond had a 166.75-carat stone worth. Additionally, another important discovers occurred in 2008 where a 200 carat stone worth called “Puteri Malu” (The Shy Princess) found there.

The diamond mining activity nonetheless occurs until now. Through relying on some traditional ways and tools such as wood tray, the miners do the athletics. There are just a few miners who use sophisticated equipments. In addition, the place becomes one of tourism attractions in Martapura.

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The diamond mining hobby seems not simply “belong” on the miners nevertheless furthermore the tourists since the place was established as tourism destination put via the local government. For example, like what happened in Cempaka Village, where many travellers could watch the mining directly even do the mining hobby together. It’s a fascinating experience.

People can be seen panning for diamonds at villages in the Cempaka district, eight kilometers from Martapura. Panners usually work in groups. Each group consists of the 16 to 18 people. The oldest person is usually named the head of the group. Before starting to work, they ask for guidance from “the expert one” the spirit of the village – so they will be led to the richest mining grounds.

First, the panners have to come to an agreement with the owner of the land, who has the right to 10 percent of the diamonds found. Then, several people are chosen to dig a hole, while others remove the soil or remove any water from the hole with buckets or with a pump. The holes are usually six to 10 meters deep. The sides are propped up with logs to prevent them from collapsing. As long as no diamonds are found, the digging continues in a horizontal direction so that tunnels are formed.
They work without schedule. It can start in the morning and continue until midnight, under the light of lanterns. Deposits are usually found at depths of 10 to 15 meters, in rocky earth layers. The dirt is taken out and washed. If diamonds are found, the head of the group must immediately be notified. The right to offer the diamond for sale belongs the group leader only.

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In the past, it was strictly prohibited to talk to the person washing the gored. According to the local belief the diamonds become frightened and hide among the grains of sand. Women are strictly forbidden to step over the pits. The rough diamonds are referred to as “virgins”.

South Kalimantan diamonds are classified into four types: petrous diamonds (yellow and of low quality), black diamonds (black and believed to posses mystical powers), white diamonds and pink diamonds (the best sparkling with the colors of a rainbow). The Trisakti diamond was the most expensive diamond ever found in this region. It weighed 160 carats and belonged to the pink diamond category.

The other face of Martapura is its highly religious ambience that radiates throughout the city and has given the city a similar name to that of Aceh: “the veranda of Mecca”. Therefore it is not uncommon to see Arabic characters alongside regular Latin lettering in road or building signs. Probably the most iconic landmark and symbol of Martapura as an Islamic city is the Al Karomah Grand Mosque (previously Masjid Jami’ Martapura) which is the oldest and largest mosque in Martapura. With touches of European architecture, the mosque features a huge and colorful onion shaped dome that radiates an exquisite ambiance.


To get to Martapura one has to fly in through Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan province. There are many domestic airlines flying to Banjarmasin. Martapura is approximately 45 Km east from Banjarmasin. From here the city can be reached by public transportation or rented car for about an hour’s drive. From the town of Banjarbaru, the trip will take roughly 15 minutes. From Banjarmasin’s Syamsudin Noor Airport, the drive will take approximately 20 minutes.

Going to Cempaka Village is relatively easy. Via Banjarbaru or Banjarmasin, it takes for approximately 45 minutes driving distance.

For further information and tour arrangements write us

4 thoughts on “Martapura Traditional Diamond Mining, Borneo

  1. Peter Eagling


    I am looking to design a holiday together that centers around diamond panning.

    This would involve children as well as adults.

    I will expect the real experience and not just a few hours with a pan in a typical tourist stopover place.

    Please send me some details of what you could offer and some idea of adult or kids costs. Do not include hotel or flights to Martapura.

    An idea for the best months of the year to pan for gems.

    We are living in Jakarta and have a reasonable idea of the normal costs and expenses.

    Best regards


      1. surren jura

        Hello I sent you an email about a tour in martapura/Champaca/banjarburu district and have no received a response.Is there a problem as you keep deleting my messages.

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