Ahh, diamonds. Everyone knows what diamonds are, but most might not realize what they once were--chunks of dark, ugly carbon similar to charcoal, roasting and rumbling around deep within the earth or even in a volcano's red-hot magma. Fortunately, through eruptions and other harsh works of Mother Nature, eventually the diamonds find their way to the surface for man to find, cut, polish, and enjoy. Talk about an ugly duckling turning into a swan!
|Diamonds are the hardest material on earth. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. However, hardness and toughness are not the same thing, and diamonds can crack or chip if they suffer hard blows. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners should be safe for diamonds unless the stone contains a feather inclusion. Warm soapy water and a soft cloth are safe bets for cleaning diamonds and diamond jewelry.|
|In addition to being colorless, diamonds are found in--and/or treated to become--almost every color of the spectrum, including brown (known as champagne and chocolate diamonds), rare green, blue, red, orange, black, yellow, and pink. Natural red, purple, and pink diamonds are among the most rare and valuable of all diamonds. Most diamonds in jewelry are nearly colorless to very light yellow or light brown. |
|Learn more in our Diamond Cuts Guide. |
|The main point to remember when buying diamonds is to choose a stone that looks beautiful to you. Beyond that, there are industry guidelines (known as the four C's) to help you identify the best value as well as a beautiful stone. Every diamond is graded on these same characteristics: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Read more about diamond value factors in our Diamond Grading Guide.|
Name Origin and Meaning
The traditional birthstone for April, diamond gets its name from the Greek word adamas, which means "hardest" or "unconquerable," likely given to diamond because of its extraordinary hardness. Though the early Greeks couldn't have known it, diamond ranks 10 on Mohs' scale of hardness, proof that it is in fact the hardest material on Earth.
Diamond has an extensive human history that dates back thousands of years, and though mankind has known about diamonds for a very long time, diamonds were formed billions of years ago. Yes, billions! They were formed deep within the planet, approximately 90 to 120 miles below the surface, at temperatures and pressure difficult to imagine. We never would have had the opportunity to know these amazing creations if nature hadn't intervened, forging paths to the earth's surface through which the diamond-bearing material (kimberlite or lamproite) could pass. Over time, that material was eroded and carried away into alluvial, littoral, and marine sources--all what geologists refer to as secondary deposits. Secondary deposits were the first to be worked by ancient cultures. Although there are thousands of kimberlitic and lamproitic pipes, only about 15 percent contain diamonds. Of that 15 percent, only about 5 or 6 percent are commercially viable. That equates to about two dozen working mines to meet the world's demand for diamonds.
During its rigorous trip from deep within the earth, diamond-bearing material that was more heavily included would break off and wear away, leaving behind cleaner, more durable pieces. Furthermore, marine deposits (offshore) contain some of the world's finest diamonds due to millions of years of wave movement, which has naturally done away with the weaker, more included stones. Perhaps that's what gives sand its sparkle...
Though diamonds are essentially just carbon (99.95 percent)--which is quite phenomenal if you think about it--diamonds do not exhibit any of the phenomena that some gemstones show.
Most of the world's diamond production by volume is only suitable for industrial purposes. An extremely small percentage of the world's total diamond supply is clean and colorless to near-colorless, making it suitable for jewelry. Approximately one ton of rock is mined for every half carat of diamonds brought to market. To learn more about a diamond's journey to jewelry, read Diamond, King of Gemstones.
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