Meaning and Properties

Diamond History

Diamonds may be everything from a girl's best friend or coal that stuck to its job--either way it's a gemstone with a mystique all its own. As a gemstone, diamond has remained a symbol of stability and dependability in an ever-changing world. Made of carbon, the most common material on the planet, diamond is a stone with a range of colors that is most often valued for its colorlessness. From its use in religious icons in ancient India to the glittering Hope diamond necklace in the Smithsonian, this gemstone has captured the human imagination for millennia.

The word "diamond" comes from the ancient Greek word "adamas," meaning unbreakable, unchangeable or invincible. Diamonds are believed to be used as a gemstone in India for more than 3,000 years--possibly even 6,000 years! Craftsmen in Stone Age China used diamonds to polish ceremonial axes left in graves. These days, low-quality diamonds are still used in industrial companies for cutting and polishing, but the most common and recognized use for the diamond is in jewelry.

The origins of rough diamonds can be certified via the Kimberley Process Certification, to help ensure conflict-free material. Rough diamonds cannot be imported into Kimberley Process nations without that certification. Learn more about the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS): http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/home/index_en.html.

Diamond Metaphysical Properties

Beyond their modern representations as the stone of marriage and commitment, diamonds have also represented faithfulness, purity and innocence. Diamond is the traditional birthstone for the month of April, and is heralded as the stone of purity and constancy. It is thought to be the gemstone of the intellect, preventing misunderstandings (romantic and otherwise). Diamond is also believed to provide clarity of thought, encouraging the resolution of problems which comes with clear understanding.

Diamond's unique ability to reflect and refract light is thought to draw clarity to its wearer. This may be one reason why the stone has long been prized as a powerful talisman with healing properties, especially for the mind. It is believed that diamonds can help activate the crown chakra, enhancing the connection between mind and body while detaching the mind from unwanted patterns.

Fancy (or colored) diamonds are believed to have additional attributes related to their colors:

  • Yellow diamond: Increase thoughtfulness and consideration of others
  • Blue diamond: Increase willpower and inspire greater care for personal health
  • Pink diamond: Increase creativity
  • Black diamond: Decrease self-delusion

Diamond is traditionally the gemstone used to celebrate the 60th and 75th anniversaries. In modern times, it has been used to mark the 10th and 30th anniversaries. In 2012, Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II marked the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne of the United Kingdom, an event marked by international celebrations and the wearing of many diamonds.

Diamond Geological Properties

Diamonds are found in kimberlite pipes, which are the roots of ancient volcanos in the continental plate. Diamonds are often found with other kimberlite-based gemstones such as garnet, serpentine, diopside, peridot, calcite and spinel. Diamonds are also seen in alluvial deposits, which are usually the eroded remains of kimberlite pipes.

Diamonds are found in many areas around the world, including South Africa, India, Russia, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the state of Arkansas in the USA. Compressed and heated by immense forces, diamonds are formed deep in the mantle of the planet before being brought to the surface by powerful volcanic and geological activity. There are also types of diamond (called carbonado, lonsdaleite or hexagonal diamond) found in meteorites, though these are usually very small and can have a different atomical structure than planet-formed diamond.

Diamond tops many mineral property lists, making it an ideal industrial material. Diamond is the only ten on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making it the ultimate cutting and polishing tool. It is inert to chemicals, meaning it does not react to acids or other materials. It has the greatest thermal conductivity known, so that a sizeable stone held in the hand feels cold--which is why one of the slang words for diamonds is "ice." Diamond has the highest melting point and highest refractive ability of any natural mineral, as well as the most dense atomical structure. It is also transparent over the greatest number of wavelengths (from infrared to ultraviolet).

Diamonds are graded according to the quality of cut, clarity, color and carat. Known as the Four Cs, these four points determine the value of a particular stone:

  • Cut: the shape of the cut stone and how well that cut showcases the stone.
  • Clarity: the clearness of the cut stone and how the absence of impurities adds to the reflective ability of the diamond.
  • Color: refers to the colorlessness of a standard diamond. A fancy (or colored) diamond tends to be graded on the quality of its color, rather than its colorlessness or carat weight. Stones with intense, even colors will often be cut to emphasize the color of the stone, rather than its sparkle. Extremely rare colors such as blue, pink, orange or red add high value to a naturally formed diamond.
  • Carat: refers to the weight of the cut stone, not the size. Larger diamonds are more rare, so larger diamonds are more valuable per carat than smaller stones of the same quality.

Learn even more about the Four Cs with the Diamond Jewelry Buying Guide.

Mineral Information Octahedral colorless carbon
Chemical Composition C (carbon); colored diamonds may contain traces of other elements
Color Typically colorless, yellow, brown or grey. Less often blue, green, black, translucent white, pink, violet, orange, purple and red.
Hardness 10 (Mohs)
Specific Gravity 3.51 - 3.53
Refractive Index 2.418 (at 500 nm)

Proper Care of Diamonds

Diamonds may be the hardest material on the planet, but they still need tender loving care--and cleaning! While there is a great deal of truth to the old saying that only a diamond can cut a diamond, they are not indestructible; they can be chipped or burned. Cut stones can be chipped along the edge of the girdle or facet edges. And while diamonds are heat-resistant, they can blacken or burn if exposed to high enough levels of heat.

Diamonds can scratch themselves and other materials, so they are best stored in individual jewelry cases such as boxes, soft cloth pouches or other separate storage. This prevents diamonds from scratching or chipping other diamonds, other gemstones or metal settings. (Yes, diamonds can scratch gold, silver and other jewelry metals.)

Remember to put jewelry on only after applying lotions, powders, perfumes, hairspray and other beauty aids. Such liquids, creams and sprays can dull the sparkle of the stone. Clean diamond jewelry with steam, ultrasonic and liquid jewelry cleaners, using a soft bristle brush to clean beneath the setting.

To learn more about diamond and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of Gemstones of the World.

Designing with Diamonds

Diamond, in its colorless form, goes with everything and is most often the focus of the piece, especially when used as a cut stone. Diamonds look fabulous in both gold and silver settings and can be found in a variety of setting styles. One of the most popular setting styles is the diamond solitaire, often found as engagement rings, necklace pendants and stud earrings. "Solitaire" indicates the diamond is set alone, without any other stones, and makes no statement about the quality, shape or cut of the diamond.

Diamonds can also be found in a range of colors. Stones with strong and true colors are called "fancy" diamonds and are often more valuable than their colorless cousins: the gray-blue Hope diamond, the pale pink Darya-I-Nur diamond and the canary yellow Tiffany diamond are only a few examples. The quality of the color of a fancy diamond often affects its value more than the carat weight and a fancy diamond may be cut to emphasize the color of the stone, rather than its sparkle.

Diamond material is also available in a chip form. These strands of diamond are from diamond rough with natural colors, such as grey, brown, lime green and black. The high value of natural diamond ensures that there is no waste--diamond chips are hand-cut from the leftovers of cutting faceted stones, then finished with a lap-polishing wheel. String diamond chips between larger translucent gemstones of similar colors to add color and brilliancy to the larger stones or add between matte-finished gemstones and metals for striking contrast. Diamond adds brightness and light to designs--even in chip form, the diamond's powerful ability to reflect and refract light is unmatched.

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