Interesting Facts About Diamonds

Interesting Facts About Diamonds

Diamonds have long fascinated humankind with their stunning brilliance and enduring hardness. For centuries, diamonds have been admired as gems of utmost beauty and coveted as symbols of love, power and wealth.

The word “diamond” comes from the ancient Greek word “adamas,” meaning “invincible.” Diamonds are the hardest known natural material on Earth and can only be cut or polished by another diamond. Their superior hardness and high refractive index give diamonds their unmistakable fire and brilliance.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal and industrial uses, diamonds also have a rich scientific and cultural history. Read on for some fascinating facts about the origin, properties, types and lore surrounding one of Earth’s most prized minerals.

Origin of Diamonds

Diamonds are formed deep underground, where tremendous heat and pressure transform carbon into the most tightly bonded crystal known to man. Diamonds typically form 90 to 120 miles (150 to 200 km) below the Earth’s surface, where temperatures reach 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit (900 degrees Celsius) and pressures exceed 45,000 pounds per square inch.

These extreme conditions exist in the mantle layer of the Earth. Here, carbon atoms are compressed under intense heat that causes them to crystallize into diamonds over billions of years. Diamonds originate closer to the Earth’s surface in volcanic rock formations known as kimberlite and lamproite pipes. Diamonds are carried up from the depths as kimberlite magma erupts and solidifies into rock formations.

Kimberlite deposits are found across the world in ancient, stable cratons of the Earth’s crust. Major sources include Siberia, Australia, Brazil and several African countries, as well as Canada and the United States. The majority of diamonds come from southern Africa, India and Russia.

Types of Diamonds

Diamonds are categorized into four main types, based on their chemical purity and crystal structure:

Type I diamonds have measurable traces of nitrogen atoms scattered throughout the crystal matrix. They make up 98% of all natural diamonds.

Type II diamonds have no measurable nitrogen impurities. They constitute about 1-2% of gem diamonds.

Type I and II diamonds are further divided into sub-categories. Type Ia diamonds have clustered groupings of nitrogen atoms while Type Ib have scattered, isolated nitrogen atoms. Type IIa diamonds have no detectable nitrogen impurities while Type IIb contain trace boron elements.

Less than 0.1% of diamonds exhibit the Type IIb blue boron coloration. The most famous is the Hope Diamond, weighing 45.52 carats.

Diamond Colors

Most diamonds appear colorless or white due to their highly compact crystal structure. However, trace elements can influence their coloration:

Yellow Diamonds – Contain measurable nitrogen impurities distributed throughout the lattice structure. Most common diamond color.

Brown Diamonds – Rich concentration of nitrogen defects.

Pink to Red Diamonds – Caused by irregular crystal lattice with highly concentrated stresses and strains.

Blue Diamonds – Trace boron elements influencing electron valence bonds. Extremely rare.

Green Diamonds – Result from exposure to natural radiation over long periods. Also rare.

Black Diamonds – Contain dark inclusions of graphite or sulfide minerals.

Clarity in Diamonds

Diamond clarity refers to the presence of identifying features inside the stone called inclusions, along with surface irregularities called blemishes.

Diamond clarity is graded on a scale from flawless to imperfect:

  • Flawless (F) – No inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF) – No inclusions, only minor surface blemishes
  • Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2) – Inclusions difficult to see under 10x magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2) – Minor inclusions visible at 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI1, SI2) – Noticeable inclusions visible at 10x magnification
  • Included (I1, I2, I3) – Obvious inclusions visible to the unaided eye

Diamond Cut Quality

How skillfully a diamond is cut determines its brilliance and fire. Excellent diamond cut quality involves precise faceting proportions and angles to maximize light return through the crown and pavilion.

Cut quality is analyzed through measurements of:

  • Cut – Outline shape of the girdle, culet size, girdle thickness, symmetry
  • Proportions – Crown height, pavilion depth, table width
  • Finish – Polish and symmetry of all facets

Well-cut diamonds exhibit outstanding brilliance, fire and scintillation, with no leakage of light through the pavilion or girdle.

Diamond Carat Weight

Diamond carat weight measures the mass of the stone. One carat equals 200 milligrams, or 1/5 gram. Larger diamonds are exponentially more rare and valuable based on the following factors:

  • Much higher pressure and heat needed to crystallize larger stones
  • Low probability of large diamond formations surviving geologic disruptions and transport to the surface
  • Large rough crystals often cut into multiple smaller gems
  • Greater degree of skilled precision cutting for ideal proportions

Diamond carat sizes:

  • 0.50 ct = 1/2 carat
  • 0.75 ct = 3/4 carat
  • 1.00 ct = 1 full carat
  • 1.50 ct = 1 1/2 carat
  • 2.00 ct = 2 carat

A 1-carat diamond may cost over 6 times more than a comparable quality 0.50 ct diamond. Premium prices arise for “magic sizes” under one carat like 0.75 ct or 0.90 ct diamonds.

Unique Diamond Facts

  • Diamonds don’t display their full brilliance until they are cut and polished by expert gemologists. In the rough, they resemble dull chunks of glass.
  • The “Four C’s” determine a diamond’s value: Carat, Clarity, Color and Cut. Cut quality is considered the most important for maximizing light performance.
  • Mined in ancient times in India, diamonds were once believed to possess healing powers. In medieval Europe, diamonds were thought to hold medicinal properties.
  • In 1947, the iconic slogan “A Diamond is Forever” was created by De Beers marketing executive Frances Gerety. It remains one of the most successful advertising campaigns of the 20th century.
  • The round brilliant cut diamond has 57 precisely angled facets. This timeless shape maximizes light return and sparkle through the top of the diamond.
  • The most famous diamond in the world is the 530-carat Hope Diamond exhibited at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It was formed over 1 billion years ago and originates from India.
  • On average, 250 tons of rock need to be mined to produce a 1-carat polished diamond. Annual global production is around 130 million carats.
  • Russia’s Mir Mine is the world’s largest and deepest open pit diamond mine. In operation since 1957, the mine has produced over 250 million carats.
  • The rarest and most expensive diamonds are colored vivid red. These unique red diamonds are formed from irregular lattices transmitting red light. The 5.11-carat Moussaieff Red sold for $8 million in 2001.
  • Diamond crystals form through immense heat applied over billions of years. This allows carbon atoms to gradually rearrange into perfectly aligned cubic structures.
  • Lasers are now used by diamond cutters to achieve remarkably precise faceting on modern round brilliant and fancy cut diamonds. This further optimizes light performance.
  • Queen Elizabeth II owns a vast collection of diamonds, including the world’s largest cut diamond: the legendary 105-carat Koh-i-Noor gem, mounted in the Queen Mother’s crown.

Conclusion

From their fiery beginnings in Earth’s mantle to the height of human admiration, diamonds hold an enduring allure and significance. Their unparalleled hardness makes them highly useful in industrial applications, while their exceptional brilliance has captivated people throughout history. Diamonds continue to enchant as symbols of eternal love and reminders of the tremendous forces of nature. Understanding their long geological history and strict grading parameters provides deeper appreciation of diamonds in all their scintillating glory.

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