Abstract The ground state and magnetization process of the mixed spin-(1,1/2) Ising diamond chain are exactly solved by employing the generalized decoration–iteration mapping transformation and the transfer-matrix method. The decoration–iteration transformation is first used in order to establish a rigorous mapping equivalence with the corresponding spin-1 Blume-Emery-Griffiths chain in a non-zero magnetic field, which is subsequently exactly treated within the framework of the transfer-matrix technique. It is shown that the ground-state phase diagram includes just four different ground states and the low-temperature magnetization curve may exhibit an intermediate plateau precisely at one half of the saturation magnetization. Our rigorous results disprove recent Monte Carlo simulations of Xin et al. [Z. Xin, S. Chen, C. Zhang, J. Magn. Magn. Mater. 324 (2012) 3704], which imply an existence of the other magnetization plateaus at 0.283 and 0.426 of the saturation magnetization.