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All About Diamonds

Viewing the range of diamond rings through the window of any high street jeweller can make it all too easy to take the intrinsic value of these remarkable stones for granted. The carefully cut, polished and set gemstone that adorns an engagement ring may have taken several months to be perfectly designed and mounted, but the diamond itself has already been many millennia in the making.

What is a Diamond?

Removing all romance from these highly desirable stones and viewing it in terms of chemistry is the best way to understand precisely what a diamond is. In the simplest terms, a diamond is a particularly pretty form of carbon. At a molecular level, the type of carbon used in diamond formation is identical to that which forms graphite or coal, however science has debunked the theory of coal being the first stage of a diamond – the carbon used to form these gemstones is in fact far, far older than the plant-based types used for coal.

How are Diamonds Formed?

Science has tried to determine the precise process of diamond formation, however the thousands of years required to produce a fully formed stone makes it almost impossible to map this with absolute accuracy. What is certain is that high temperatures and vast amounts of pressure (approximately 725,000 pounds per square inch) are required, both of which can only be achieved at a position far under the earth’s surface, calculated to be at least 90 miles deep. After thousands of years of turning from carbon to the beginnings of a diamond, the stone is then rushed quickly to the earth’s crust via deep-source volcanic eruptions, allowing for rapid cooling and the most unique of all diamond properties: incredible durability.

Human Intervention

Naturally forming diamonds remain the most sought-after, and therefore expensive, type of these precious stones, but it is now perfectly possible to create synthetic diamonds, many of which are indistinguishable from their organic counterparts. Two process are used to form laboratory-made diamonds, ‘High Temperature, High Pressure” (HTHP) and ‘Chemical Vapour Deposition’, which place carbon under extreme heat or pressure to form diamonds almost overnight.

Facts about Diamonds

Many people are satisfied to know the carat, clarity or financial worth of their selected stone, but the diamond is a truly remarkable feat of nature. Just some of the properties of those glistening gems are listed below, proving that your beautiful engagement ring is even more awe-inspiring than you first thought:

  • Most naturally mined diamonds would have begun their formation at least one billion years’ previously
  • Temperatures of 1200°C+ are required for natural diamond formation
  • The hardness of the stones is unparalleled, the only tool capable of scratching/polishing a diamond is another diamond
  • Only 30% of the diamonds mined are of high enough quality to become gemstones
  • Considered too precious for the common man, 13th Century French laws decreed that only the king could wear a diamond