Diamond Facts and Diamond Myths

Here are some fun facts to amuse you about diamonds. They are used either as parts, or in the creation, of many products you use every day.

The great story of diamonds began about 1 billion years ago under 200 miles of rock, deep within the Earth. Diamonds can only be formed under such extreme pressures, and temperatures must reach 5,000 degrees Centigrade. Conditions must also remain relatively stable for thousands or perhaps millions of years for a crystal to form and grow to any significant size. Just recently (a few million years ago), a few volcanoes pushed the diamond-bearing ore up to the surface where it can be found and mined. Erosion flattened the volcanic swells, often taking diamonds many miles down river beds or to the oceans. A few direct volcanic pipes have been discovered and mined, such as the Kimberley, the first great diamond mine in South Africa.
A diamond is composed of almost pure carbon, one of the Earth’s most common substances, just like graphite and pencil lead. But… millions of years under consistent extreme heat and pressure deep inside the Earth changes the bonding between the atoms — making it extremely dense and giving it unique properties.
The unique properties of a diamond make this precious gem material crucial for everyday life. Diamond is used to coat drill bits at your dentist’s office, for making filaments in your light bulbs and for protecting delicate circuitry that transmits the signals to your TV and radio.
If you have ever been to a dentist to have a cavity filled or get a root canal, you have experienced the hardest substance on earth. Every drill bit in a dentist’s office is coated with microscopic diamonds to make it tougher than your toughest bones (your teeth).
Diamonds are so tough, and so resistant to heat, that they are the perfect substance to extract tungsten filaments for most light bulbs. A hole is drilled into a small, wafer-shaped diamond. Then the heated metal for the filament is drawn through the tiny hole to make the thin filament.
Diamond transfers heat more efficiently than any other material known. Critical wiring in powerful radio and TV transmission equipment is coated with crude diamond dust to take away built-up heat and protect the delicate circuitry.
Yes… they can break. Do not confuse hardness with toughness. Diamond is the hardest substance on earth– measuring 10 out of a possible 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. In fact, diamond is four times harder than its nearest competitor, which is corundum (sapphire and ruby are both corundums). However, hardness (ability to resist scratching) should not be confused with toughness (durability or ability to resist Chipping or breaking). Many gems, such as jade, are actually tougher than diamond. Because diamond has a very pronounced simple cleavage (plains of molecules that can be split apart with relative ease), you can damage a diamond with a careless sharp blow at just the right (or wrong) angle. But a diamond cannot be scratched or cut except with another diamond.
Diamonds were first recorded in India over 5,000 years ago, but were exclusive to royalty for thousands of years. Popular use of diamonds began with the discovery of rich reserves in South Africa in the late 19th century. The top seven diamond-producing countries today are: Botswana, Russia, South Africa, Angola, Nambia, Australia and Zaire. These nations account for 80% of all diamonds in the world. Mining to a smaller extent is conducted in Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Central African Republic, Tanzania, China, Indonesia and India. Still, diamonds are anything but commonplace.
On average, over 200 million ounces of diamond-bearing ore must be transported, crushed, sifted and sorted to glean just a single ounce of diamonds. Eighty percent of all diamonds mined are industrial-grade stones called “bort,” which are not of sufficient quality to use for jewelry. Of the 20% remaining, only one in about 10,000 diamonds is 1 carat or more in weight. When cut and polished, the average yield is only 52% for round shapes.
The largest rough diamond ever found — in South Africa in 1905 — was the Cullinan, a fine white stone weighing 3,106 carats. The Cullinan was about the size of a man’s fist, with one flat side indicating it was actually just a chip off a larger diamond that was never found. Other large roughs include the Excelsior at 995 carats, also found in South Africa in 1893, the Star of Sierra Leone, found in 1972 at 969 carats, and the Great Mogul, found in India in 1650 at 787 carats.
This has probably changed a lot since I was in teh field, so I will look it up again later, but for now, this is from memory: The largest cut stones include the Cullinan I (from the Cullinan rough) at 530 carats, now in an elaborate scepter of the British Crown Jewels on display in the Tower of London. The Cullinan II, from the same rough, weighs 317 carats. The Great Mogul was cut to 280 carats, current whereabouts unknown. The Nizam diamond, 277 carats, was known to be in India in 1934. The Jubilee is owned by Robert Mouawad of the famous Mouawad gems and jewelry family, and weighs 245 carats. The Orloff is in the Russian Diamond Fund in the Kremlin, weighing 189 carats.
The world’s most famous gemstone, the Hope Diamond, is not one of the largest diamonds at all. It is a beautiful and rare, fancy dark-grayish-blue diamond of “only” 45.52 carats in weight.
Diamonds are one of the most concentrated forms of wealth in the world. Let’s compare the price of gold with the price of diamonds… Gold is considered quite valuable at about $1500 per ounce. Now let’s consider diamonds, which are sold in carats. This will require a little math for conversion. A nice-quality, 1-carat diamond sells for about $5,000, and there are 142 carats in one ounce. That means 1-carat diamonds sell for $5,000 x 142, or about $710,000 per ounce!! In one hand, you can easily hold several million dollars in diamonds.
Diamonds are cut in many countries, but the major cutting centers are in New York (USA), Antwerp (Belgium), Tel Aviv (Israel), and Bombay (India). Each area has its specialty. For instance, India specializes in small to very small diamonds because labor costs make it financially viable for the tedious process of cutting small gems. New York and Antwerp specialize in larger and finer goods.
Diamonds were first discovered and mined in ancient India, at least as far back as 5,000 years ago. It was not until 1866 that diamonds were authenticated in South Africa, with the finding of the Eureka Diamond near Hopetown in Cape Province. This was the beginning of the big rush to mine diamonds, and the beginning of the modern-day market, bringing diamonds outside the exclusive domain of royalty and the extremely wealthy.
According to ancient Vedic traditions in India, diamonds (called Heera in the ancient astrological texts) represent the planet Venus (called Shukra). Venus is the planet that represents love and all comforts in life both now and in ancient times. Wearing a diamond increases this force of nature in your life.
We owe the modern tradition of the diamond engagement ring to the Archduke Maximillian of Austria, who presented a rough diamond set in elaborate gold for his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy, at the end of the 15th century.
The word diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, meaning the hardest steel.

Formula: C (pure carbon)

Colors: Colorless, gray, shades of yellow, brown, pink, green, orange, lavender, blue, rarely red.

Luster: Adamantine (highest luster of any material on earth)

Hardness: 10 on the Mohs scale (hardest of all materials on earth)

Density: 3.515

Cleavage: Perfect in one direction. Considered brittle along its octahedral crystal planes.

Optics: Isotropic, index very constant: N = 2.417

Dispersion: 0.044. This high dispersion creates the prismatic “fire” responsible for much of a diamond’s historic beauty.

Pleochroism: None