An extraordinary amount of information has been written about diamonds. I don’t think there is a single person in this world who has not heard about this precious gemstone. It is a gemstone with a lot of history that has been a companion to many people throughout their lives – who isn’t familiar with the mythical engagement ring? The word “diamond” derives from the Greek word “adamas”, meaning “the unconquerable”.
What is a diamond?
A diamond is a crystallised form of carbon that has been formed under great heat (around 1150°C) and pressure (45-60 Kilobars) deep down in the mantle of the Earth (135-180 km). The host rocks for diamonds are kimberlite and lamproite (Australian rock).
The volcanic activity of the last 1200 million years made the ejection of these gemstones to the proximity of the surface possible, but it is believed that diamonds are anywhere between 990 and 4,250 million years old.
In a few cases, water swept up some of the material and transported it to hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from the original place where the eruption occurred.
History and localities
It is believed that the earliest source of diamonds was India, where they were found amongst the gravel in ancient river beds.
The original discovery of diamonds was made by the Dravidians of the Indus Valley civilisation, between 2500-1700 BC.
Man’s first recorded knowledge of diamonds appears in the Sanskrit text “Arthasastra” (Science of Material Grain), which was written shortly after 321 BC.
The diamond is described as the unique of all gemstones due to its incredible hardness and optical properties.
Even in ancient times, this gemstone was used in jewellery and industry, and it was believed to have magical powers.
Hindus believed that by swallowing the powder of the highest quality diamonds, they would gain great energy, strength, beauty, happiness and a long life.
In another publication written around the 14th century, it was stated that only rough diamonds would retain the magical powers. Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689), a French jeweller, relayed a lot of information about diamonds and diamond mining that he gathered during his trips to India and Borneo over the course of 30 years. In “The first voyage of Jean Baptiste Tavernier”, for example, he recounts that Borneo was paying its tribute to the Chinese emperor in diamonds. Africa, too, came to the attention of diamond hunters, although somewhat later in 1866.
This happened when the child of a poor farmer found the now famous 21 carat Eureka diamond, and when a few years later the 83.5 carat Star of South Africa was found the diamond rush in Africa began.
Just around the time that diamond production began to decline in India, a new locality, Minas Gerias in Tejuco, Brazil, was discovered. Similarly, the Ural Mountains in Russia, were discovered to produce diamonds, and they are now the main source of diamonds in the country.
Colour and clarity in diamonds
Unlike other gemstones, most diamonds are valued for their lack of colour.
However, the majority of diamonds mined are brown or yellow, with only a few displaying a complete lack of colour.
Many diamonds are treated to enhance or remove their colour, with the purest diamonds generally being a type IIa.
Diamonds are graded by comparing them with a set of master stones (usually a set of diamonds or cubic zirconia with colours from D to tinted). The most well-known and trusted laboratory is at present the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). Their system of alphabetical grading starts with “D” (for the finest “white” or colourless stones) and finishes with “Z” colour. After this, a diamond would be sufficiently yellow to start being considered as a “fancy diamond”.
Colour is the first of the four “C’s” that determines the price of a diamond. For example, an internally flawless 5 carat E colour diamond will cost approximately 70% of the price of a D colour diamond of a similar purity, an “F” colour 50% and an “L” colour 17%.
The second “C” that determines the price of a diamond is “clarity” – namely impurities, or the absence of impurities in a stone. Diamonds with no flaws or inclusions are graded “F”(flawless) or IF (internally flawless). Those with minute inclusions are graded VVS1 or 2, with larger inclusions VS1 or 2, and those with inclusions visible to the naked eye SI1 or 2. These inclusions will still be extremely small. Beyond visible inclusions, stones are usually graded as imperfect, as their brilliance can be affected.
Cut and carat in diamonds
The other two “C’s” that influence the price of a diamond are Cut and Carat (weight). The most well known and popular cut among diamond engagement rings is the round brilliant cut. A round brilliant cut diamond exhibits the best optical properties due to its perfect proportions, and, in diamonds of less than ten carats, fancy cuts may often be worth less than round brilliant cuts. In larger diamonds over 20 carats, many people prefer step cuts, pear-shaped, or oval-shaped diamonds. New technology (laser manipulation) has also allowed manufacturers to perfect cutting so there is the minimum amount of waste, allowing a greater amount of the original gemstone to be used.
The Diamond Trading Company (the rough diamond distribution arm of De Beers) mines in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, and sells approximately 40% of the world’s supply of diamonds to its clients, “Sightholders”, 10 times per year.
The rest of the producers sell to their own suppliers. Each manufacturer who buys rough stones specialises in a particular shape and size. Nowadays, to develop more work opportunities, the places where the diamonds are mined have also cutting and polishing centres. Besides the well-known centres in the US, Belgium, Israel, China and India, new ones have prospered in South Africa, Thailand, Canada, and Russia.
How to take care about your diamond?
Diamond is the hardest natural material in the world, but it is not the toughest. A sharp shock or direct hit in certain directions in the crystal structure can cleave (part) a diamond. This was originally the method of cutting diamonds, as well as testing them, and I couldn’t imagine how many were wasted in this way, however, even though we no longer cut diamonds in this way, this feature is important to remember. A rare, but not unheard-of occurrence, is when the diamond in an engagement ring is knocked hard, in one case against the door of a car, and the resulting shock fractures the diamond. This is incredibly unlucky, as the diamond does have to be hit in exactly the right place and way, but it does happen.
Diamonds are also oleophilic. This means that they love grease. Your diamond may quickly look a bit dull because any cream or oil stays on the surface of the gemstone. The best way to clean it is by using a soft brush and water with soap. After rinsing, make sure to dry it with a soft cloth.
Which are the best simulants for diamonds?
The best simulants for diamonds include:
- Natural white sapphire
- White topaz
- White beryl
- White zircon
- Cubic zirconia
- Synthetic spinel
*All images are from pinterest.com