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Diamonds ascend to the Earth's surface in rare molten rock, or magma that
originates at great depths. Carrying diamonds and other samples from Earth's
mantle, this magma rises and erupts in small but violent volcanoes. Just
beneath such volcanoes is a carrot-shaped "pipe" filled with volcanic rock,
mantle fragments, and some embedded diamonds. The rock is called kimberlite
after the city of Kimberley, South Africa, where the pipes were first
discovered in the 1870s. Another rock that provides diamonds is lamproite. The
complex volcanic magmas that solidify into kimberlite and lamproite are not the
source of diamonds, only the elevators that bring them with other minerals and
mantle rocks to Earth's surface. Although rising from much greater depths than
other magmas, these pipes and volcanic cones are rare and relatively small, but
they erupt in extraordinary supersonic explosions. Kimberlite and lamproite are
similar mixtures of rock material. Kimberlite magma rises through Earth's crust
in networks of cracks or dikes. The pipes only form near the earth's surface.
This cross-section of a kimberlite pipe shows the carrot-shaped profile
produced by explosive eruption. The root zone starts in fissures, where gases
are released from the rising magma and drive the eruption; they blow out the
fragment-laden kimberlite to form the volcano's tuff ring and fill the pipe.
Depth measurements show the level of erosion for various kimberlite pipes in
Today diamonds are mined in about 25 countries, on every continent but Europe
and Antarctica. However, only a few diamond deposits were known until the 20th
century, when scientific understanding and technology extended diamond
exploration and mining around the globe. For 1,000 years, starting in roughly
the 4th century BCE, India was the only source of diamonds. In 1725, important
sources were discovered in Brazil, and in the 1870s major finds in South Africa
marked a dramatic increase in the diamond supply. Additional major producers
now include several African countries, Siberian Russia, and Australia. It is a
modern misconception that the world's diamonds come primarily from South
Africa: diamonds are a world-wide resource. The 1867 discovery of diamonds in
the Cape Colony, now a province in South Africa, radically modified not only
the world's supply of diamonds but also its conception of them. As annual world
diamond production increased more than tenfold in the following 10 years, a
once extremely rare material became more accessible to Western society with its
growing wealth, science learned that diamonds came from volcanoes, and everyone
learned of Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato, Kimberley, and De Beers. Today
South Africa maintains its position as a major diamond producer.
The story of diamonds in South Africa begins between December 1866 and February
1867, when 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs found a transparent stone on his father's
farm, on the south bank of the Orange River. Over the next 15 years, South
Africa yielded more diamonds than India had in over 2,000 years. This great
outpouring of diamonds coincided with depletion of Brazilian deposits and with
a great rise in wealth, particularly in the United States. Geologic processes
create two basic types of diamond deposits, referred to as primary and
secondary sources. This diagram shows the trail of diamonds left by geological
processes. The primary deposits, or diamond pipes, are the vertical portion.
Secondary or alluvial deposits may be found far from active means of transport,
in the fossilized channels of now-vanished rivers or under fossil beaches.
Composition and Properties
Diamond is renowned for its hardness. Hardness is the measure of a substance's
resistance to being scratched, and only a diamond can scratch another diamond.
Diamond is the hardest substance known. The Mohs scale, a hardness scale
developed in 1822 by Austrian Friedreich Mohs as a criterion for mineral
identification, can help us appreciate the hardness of diamond. The scale ranks
10 minerals; harder minerals, with a higher number, can scratch those with a
lower number. A diamond rates a 10 on this scale, the hardest of any mineral tested.
Diamonds repel water, an unusual property for a mineral. Diamond's strong
bonding and carbon composition cause its surface to repel water but to readily
accept wax and grease. These two properties provide an effective means of
separating diamonds from other minerals that come out of mining operations.
Washed gravel containing diamonds is flushed with water over a sloping surface
covered with a mixture of wax and grease, a "grease table." The diamonds stick
to the table, while the wetted waste minerals wash over it. Gem diamonds
readily pick up a greasy film, but cleaning with ammonia or a good detergent
restores their brilliance.
Density is a ratio of a substance's mass to its volume. For instance, density
explains why a certain amount of lead feels heavier than an equal volume of
salt. Diamond is amazingly dense given the low atomic weight of carbon. At 3.51
grams per cubic centimeter, diamond is much denser than graphite, which weighs
in at only 2.20 grams per cubic centimeter. This comparison offers an important
clue to diamond's origin: the fact that diamond's carbon atoms are "squeezed"
together tighter than in graphite, which forms near Earth's surface, implies
that diamond is formed under high pressure conditions. This magnitude of
pressure is difficult to comprehend. An example of the enormous amount of pressure required to
make a diamond would be the Eiffel Twoer (7000 metric tons) resting on a 5 inch plate. It is 55,000
atmospheres necessary to make a diamond at 1400 degrees C (orange hot).
Diamond's brilliance and luster are two of its most valued attributes. The
science behind such phenomena is diamond's great ability to refract light; that
is, to bend or slow the light that passes through it. Diamond also displays the
maxim amount of reflectance for a transparent substance, displaying what is
called an "adamantine" luster. Our standard conception of diamond is as a
colorless stone. However, colors of diamonds come in countless variations, from
dazzling pinks and yellows to stunning blues and violets. While perfect crystals of colorless diamonds are
chemicallly pure, with the presence of nitrogen, the diamond will be yellow. With the presence of
boron, a diamond will be blue. Colors from red to
violet, real white, and black are possible and can be complex to understand
scientifically. The glinting spectrum or "fire" from a colorless diamond, one
of its most prized attributes as a gemstone. This property results from its excellent
dispersion. Dispersion is the separation of white light into its component
rainbow colors. The greater the dispersion, the greater the separation between
the spectrum of colors that are refracted from a gem, a characteristic
described as a gem's "brilliance." An interesting property of some diamonds is
that they can glow in the dark. When illuminated by ultraviolet light, certain
diamonds can absorb the high-energy radiation and re-emit it as visible light.
These diamonds are called fluorescent. Diamonds that continue glowing after the ultraviolet source is
turned off are called phosphorescent. Diamonds
are called "ice" with good reason. Objects feel cold not only because they are
at a lower temperature than our bodies, but also because they can extract or
conduct the heat away from us. When you touch a diamond to your lips, it feels
ice-cold because it robs your lips of their heat. The capacity of diamond to
conduct heat distinguishes it readily from other gems and exceeds that of
copper, an excellent thermal conductor, by about 4 times.
The word diamond derives from the Greek word "Adamas," meaning unconquerable and indestructible.
Diamonds have been sought the world over, fought over,
worshipped and used to cast love spells.
For the last 3000 to 4000 years, diamonds have held special magic for Kings,
Queens and their subjects. Diamonds stood for wealth, power, love, spirit
and magical powers. Kings in ancient times would wear heavy leather
breast plates studded with diamonds and other precious stones into battle. It was believed
that diamonds were fragments of stars and the teardrops of the Gods. The
diamonds possessed magical qualities of the Gods and held powers far beyond the
understanding of the common man. Because of these beliefs, the warriors stayed
clear of the Kings and others who were fortunate to have the magical diamonds
in their breast plates. Until the 15thCentury only Kings wore diamonds as a
symbol of strength, courage and invincibility.
Over the centuries, the diamond acquired its unique status as the ultimate gift
of love. It was said that cupids' arrows were tipped with diamonds that had a
magic that nothing else could equal. Since the discovery of diamonds they have
been associated with romance and legend. The Greeks believed the fire in the
diamond reflected the constant flame of love. For millions of people around the
world, the mystery and magic, along with the beauty and romance shining out from a simple
solitaire says all the heart feels but words can not express.
The first river-bed (alluvial) diamonds were probably discovered in India, in
around 800 B.C. The volcanic source of these diamonds was never discovered, but
the alluvial deposits were rich enough to supply most of the world's diamonds
until the eighteenth century. It was then that dwindling Indian supplies probably spurred
the exploration that led to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil, which became
the next important diamond source. Beginning in l866, South Africa's massive
diamond deposits were discovered, and a world-wide diamond rush was on.
Throughout much of history, diamonds were mined from the sand and gravel
surrounding rivers. But in South Africa in 1870 diamond was found in the earth
far from a river source, and the practice of dry-digging for diamonds was born.
More sophisticated mining techniques allowed for deeper subterranean digging, as
well as more efficient river (and, more recently, marine) mining, than ever
before. The South African diamond output was unrivaled until major deposits
were found in Siberian permafrost in l954. Currently, Western Canada is the
site of the world's newest diamond rush.
Diamonds were once believed to hold many magical, mystical and medicinal
properties. The phosphorescence of certain diamonds (their ability to glow in
the dark) was considered a proof of the stone's extraordinary powers. Diamonds
were thought to calm the mentally ill, and to ward off devils, phantoms and
even nightmares. They were supposed to impart virtue, generosity and courage in
battle, and to cause lawsuits to be determined in the wearer's favor.
A house or garden touched at each corner with a diamond was supposed to be
protected from lightning, storms and blight. The ancient Indians believed the
human soul could pass through various incarnations, animating gemstones as well
as plants and animals.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, shared the belief that gems were living beings,
produced by a chemical reaction to vivifying astral spirits. Later philosophers
divided precious stones into male and female specimens, and even claimed that
they could "marry" and reproduce! Minerals were among the first medicinal
ingredients. In the middle ages it was believed that a diamond could heal if
the sick person took it bed and warmed it with his body, of breathed upon it
while fasting or wore it next to the skin. A diamond held in the mouth would
correct the bad habits of liars and scolds. And diamonds were worn as a
talisman against poisoning.
Diamond powder administered internally, however, was a legendary poison. The
Turkish Sultan Bajazet (1447 - 1513) was perhaps murdered by his son, who
slipped a large quantity of powdered diamond in his father's food. In l532, his
doctors dosed Pope Clement VII with fourteen spoonfuls of pulverized gems,
including diamond, which resulted in death for the patient, as well as a very
high bill for his treatment. In the same century, Catherine de Medici was
famous for dealing out death by diamond powder, and Benvenuto Cellini, the
famous s Italian goldsmith, described an attempt on his life by an enemy who
ordered diamond powder to be mixed in his salad. But the lapidary responsible
for grinding the diamond filched the stone, replacing it with powdered glass
(thereby saving Cellini).
The association of diamonds with poison may have been promoted to discourage the
practice of stealing diamonds by swallowing them, particularly during mining.
POINT CUT TABLE CUT ROSE CUT OLD MINE BRILLIANT CUTTING The cutting of diamonds
into the complex faceted forms we now associate with these gems is actually a
relatively recent practice. For centuries, rough diamonds were kept as
talismans, and often not worn at all, though natural octahedral (eight-sided
stones) were sometimes set in rings. A Hungarian queen's crown set with uncut
diamonds, dating from approximately l074, is perhaps the earliest example of
diamond jewelry. We know that the royalty of France and England wore diamonds
by the 1300's. In sixteenth century England, fashionable lovers etched romantic
pledges on window-panes with the points of their diamond rings, known as
"scribbling rings". The earliest record of diamond-polishing (with diamond
powder) is Indian, and dates from the fourteenth century. There are
also contemporary references to the practice of diamond polishing in Venice.
The earliest reference to diamond cutting is in l550 in Antwerp, the most
important diamond center of the period, where a diamond-cutters' guild was soon
to be established.
Diamond Routes and Centers
Indian diamonds reached Venice by two Mediterranean routes: the southern route
was by way of Aden, Ethiopia, and Egypt, and the northern route was through
Arabia, Persia, Armenia, and Turkey. Then, thanks to the Portuguese discovery
of the direct sea route to India, Antwerp flourished as a diamond center, as
the city was well-situated to receive vast supplies of rough diamonds from Lisbon as
well as from Venice. After Spanish attacks on Antwerp in1585, many diamond
cutters relocated to Amsterdam. The Netherlands, with its liberal civil
policies, attracted diamond craftsmen (including many Jews) who were fleeing
religious persecution in Spain, Portugal, Germany and Poland. In the
late1600's, as the English fortified their interest in India, which was still
the world's central diamond source, London became an important cutting center.
Later, London became the primary world market of diamond rough. Today, there
are cutting centers all over the world, most notably in Belgium, India, Israel,
South Africa, and the USA.
Famous diamonds often have complex and even controversial histories because of
the secrecy that surrounds the stones.
The Cullinan I or Star of Africa diamond, at 530.20 carats, is
the largest cut diamond in the world. Pear-shaped, with 74 facets, it is set in
the Royal Scepter (kept with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London). It
was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan, the largest diamond crystal ever found.
The Cullian was discovered in Transvaal, South Africa in l095 on an inspection
tour of the Premier Mine. The Cullian was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of
Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before
determining how to divide it. It eventually yielded nine major, and 96 smaller
brilliant cut stones. When the Cullian was first discovered, certain signs
suggested that it may have been part of a much larger crystal. But no discovery
of the "missing half" has ever been authenticated.
The Excelsior, the second largest stone was found in l893 by a South
African mine worker who picked it out of a shovelful of gravel. This high-clarity,
blue-white stone was cut into 21 polished stones, because of its irregular
shape, of which the largest was a marquise of 69.80 carats. A smaller, 18-carat
marquise stone cut from the Excelsior was displayed at the l939 World's Fair by
The Great Mogul, the world's third largest gem-quality diamond was named
after Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. It was found in the mid-seventeenth
century in Hyderabad, India. Its whereabouts are not presently known, and it
may no longer exist as a single large stone. It has been confused with several
other famous diamonds, most importantly the Orloff, which has also been
described as a faintly blue rose-cut stone. It is said that the stone was so
badly cut that the lapidary, instead of being paid by the Shah, was forced to
pay a heavy fine. When Tavernier saw the Mogul, he described it as looking like
an egg, and weighing 280 old carats.
The Darya-i-Nur is a flawless, transparent pink stone, estimated at 175
to 195 carats. It is the largest and most remarkable gem in the Crown Jewels of
Iran, and was one of the spoils of Persia's attack on Delhi in l739. It is now
set in a gold frame with other diamonds, topped by a crown bearing lions with
ruby eyes, holding scimitars. It was worn by the last Shah for his coronation
The Koh-i-Nur diamond means "Mountain of Light", its history, dating back
to1304, is the longest of all famous diamonds. It was captured by the Rajahs of
Malwa in the sixteenth century by the Mogul, Sultan Babur and remained in the
possession of later Mogul emperors. It may have been set in the famous Peacock
Throne made for Shah Jehan. After the break-up of the Persian Empire the
diamond found its way to India. It may have traveled to Afghanistan with a
bodyguard of Nadir Shah, who fled with the stone when the Shah was murdered, to
be later offered to Ranjit Singh of the Punjab in exchange for military help
(which was never delivered). After fighting broke out between the Sikhs and the
British, The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity, and
then presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850. When the stone came from India, it
weighed l86 carats; it was later recut to l08.93 carats. It was first worn by
the Queen in a brooch. It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen
Alexandra and Queen Mary, and 1937 was worn for by Queen Elizabeth for her
coronation. It is kept in the Tower of London, with the other Crown Jewels.
The Hope Diamond's history began when the French merchant traveler, Jean
Baptiste Tavernier, purchased a 112 3/16-carat diamond. This diamond, which was
most likely from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, was somewhat triangular in
shape and crudely cut. Its color was described by Tavernier as a "beautiful
violet". Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. In
1673 the stone was recut by Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler, resulting in a 67
1/8-carat stone. In the royal inventories, its color was described as an
intense steely-blue and the stone became known as the "Blue Diamond of the
Crown," or the "French Blue." It was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon
that the king wore on ceremonial occasions. King Louis XV, in 1749, had the
stone reset by court jeweler Andre Jacquemin, in a piece of ceremonial jewelry
for the Order of the Golden Fleece (Toison D'Or). In 1791, after an attempt by
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to flee France, the jewels of the French Royal
Treasury were turned over to the new government. During a week-long looting of
the crown jewels in September of 1792, the French Blue diamond was stolen. In
1812 a deep blue diamond described by John Francillion as weighing 177 grains
(4 grains = 1 carat) was documented as being in the possession of London
diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Strong evidence indicates that the stone was
acquired by King George IV of England. At his death, in 1830, the king's debts
were so enormous that the blue diamond was likely sold through private
channels. The first reference to the diamond's next owner is found in the 1839
entry of the gem collection catalog of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, the
man from whom the diamond takes its name. Unfortunately, the catalog does not
reveal where or from whom Hope acquired the diamond or how much he paid for it.
Following the death of Henry Philip Hope in 1839, and after much litigation,
the diamond passed to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and ultimately to the
nephew's grandson Lord Francis Hope. In 1902 Lord Francis Hope obtained
permission from the Court of Chancery and his sisters to sell the stone to help
pay off his debts. It was sold to a London dealer who quickly sold it to Joseph
Frankels and Sons of New York City, who retained the stone in New York until
they, in turn, needed cash. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it
up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold
soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that same year. In
1910 the Hope diamond was shown to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington
D.C., at Cartier's while on her honeymoon in Paris, but she did not like the
setting. Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to the U.S. where he left it
with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful. The sale was made
in 1912 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of
large white diamonds. Sometime later it became the pendant on a diamond
necklace as we know it today. Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased
Mrs. McLean's entire jewelry collection, including the Hope diamond, from her
estate in 1949. For the next 10 years the Hope diamond was shown at many
exhibits and charitable events world wide by Harry Winston Inc., including as
the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition. On November 10,
1958, they donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost
immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction. The weight of
the Hope diamond for many years was reported to be 44.5 carats. In 1974 it was
removed from its setting and found actually to weigh 45.52 carats. The Hope
diamond phosphoresces a strong red color, which will last for several seconds
after exposure to short wave ultra-violet light. The diamond's blue coloration
is attributed to trace amounts of boron in the stone. In the pendant
surrounding the Hope diamond are 16 white diamonds, both pear-shapes and
cushion cuts. A bail is soldered to the pendant where Mrs. McLean would often
attach other diamonds including the McLean diamond and the Star of the East.
The necklace chain contains 45 white diamonds. In December of 1988, a team from
the Gemological Institute of America visited the Smithsonian to grade the great
blue stone according to present day techniques. They observed that the gem
shows evidence of wear, has remarkably strong phosphorescence, and that its
clarity is slightly affected by a whitish graining that is common to blue
diamonds. They described the color as a fancy dark grayish-blue and clarity as
VS1. An examination on the same day by another gemologist using a very
sensitive colorimeter revealed that there is a very slight violet component to
the deep blue color, imperceptible to the naked eye. Still, one can only wonder
that the original 112 3/16-carat stone bought by Tavernier was described as "un
beau violet" (a beautiful violet).
The 4 C'S of Diamond Grading
The factors that determine the value of a diamond are: color, clarity, cut
and carat weight.
Color: The most sought-after diamonds are completely colorless
in natural light, with absolutely no undertones of any color. The most
colorless diamonds are D grade, with the range of increased color going on
through the alphabet to Z. Diamonds with body color greater than Z are termed
Fancy Color. In addition to white, diamonds occur in every color of the
rainbow. The biggest price jumps here are near the top of the scale, with a
rather significant jump between F and G, since F is categorized by the GIA as
"Colorless" and the luxury of being able to officially say you own/wear a
colorless diamond commands a price. However, it is difficult to see the
difference in color between an F and a G stone without removing the stones from
their settings and holding it up to reference stones. Most people begin to
notice color around H and I, with near 100% recognition at color J.
Fluorescence occurs in about 35% of gem-quality diamonds, and is most
frequently blue. In very white stones, fluorescence can actually make the
diamond appear milky or cloudy and detract from the beauty of the stone; on the
other hand, fluorescence may also make a more yellow diamond appear whiter. The
type of metal used for the setting of the diamond may have an effect on the
color in that differently colored metals will treat the diamond differently. If
you bought a very white stone and wished to showcase that color, platinum is an
excellent choice, or white gold. Yellow gold is kinder to a stone's color and
gives it the illusion of being whiter. There are enhancement techniques used to
whiten or color diamond, such as irradiation and high pressure/high temperature
Clarity: Since diamonds are naturally created in nature all
diamonds have inclusions and blemishes. Diamonds are rated for clarity by their
appearance under a 10X (10 times) magnification. This finds flaws that cannot
be seen by the naked eye but for grading purposes if it cannot be seen at 10X
it doesn't exist. Inclusions are internal flaws while blemishes are external
flaws. The grading scale goes from FL (Flawless, for diamond with no visible
inclusions or blemishes) through VVS 1&2, VS 1& 2, SI 1&2, to I 1,
2&3 (Imperfect, with very noticeable flaws). All the types of inclusions
and blemishes and their plotting symbols are given in the chart below:
Inclusions are irregularities within the stone itself, and can actually render
the stone less durable if they are in the wrong place. Feathers, for example,
are tiny fractures in diamond which look, surprisingly enough, like feathers. A
good diamond cutter will make sure these feathers, if they must be there at
all, are completely inside the stone. If the feather breaks the surface of the
diamond, the diamond's durability may be questionable. An enhancement to the clarity of the
stone can be completed using a method called lasering, in which a laser is
used to remove an unsightly inclusion. On the surface, there will be a tiny hole and a tunnel that will
look like a needle. Fracture filling is enhancement in which a glass like
substance is use to fill a fracture breaking the surface of a diamond, it makes
the fracture less noticeable and in some cases invisible. Laser holes may also
be filled. Blemishes are less serious, and are usually caused by human error in
cutting the diamond. A stone might also have extra facets which were intentionally cut to
remove some inclusion from the stone. Other blemishes are polish lines and
marks, which occur during polishing. The marks may sometimes appear like
clouding on the surface of the diamond. The girdle might appear pitted or
grainy as a result of poor workmanship.
CUT: Cut, as used in grading is not the shape (Round, Marquise
etc.) but rather the symmetry, proportion, and make of the stone. The table is
the flat surface at the very top of the diamond. The crown is the mass of
facets between the table and the girdle. The girdle is the skinny band around
the widest part of the diamond. When the girdle is faceted, its facets are not
counted in the stone's total facet count. The pavilion stretches from the
girdle all the way to the very bottom point, called the culet. A Round
Brilliant cut diamond will have the table, 8 star, 8 bezel, and 16 upper girdle
facets on the crown. The pavilion should contain 16 lower girdle, 8 pavilion
facets and the culet. A well cut diamond takes light from all around and shoots
it straight up out of the crown and table, creating brilliance (total light
reflected), dispersion (the tendency of the diamond to create rainbows), and
scintillation (how much it sparkles when moved). Pear, marquis, and oval shaped
diamonds are graded also on the presence of the undesirable bowtie effect.
These shapes have a tendency to show an unattractive dark spot in the shape of
a bowtie across the center of the diamond; this reduces the stone's value. The
grades assigned to cut run from excellent, very good, good, fair to poor.
Diamonds come in many shapes. In addition to Round, Marquise, Oval, Princess,
Pear etc. it seems every year a new shape or cut is being developed.
Carat weight: 1 carat = 200 milligrams. 100 points = 1 carat.
The carat weight is simply that - the stone's weight. Much like the color,
there tend to be large price breaks around the various categories diamond
dealers use to categorize their diamonds.