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Diamond

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Diamonds are the popular birthstone for the month of April and the mystical birthstone for the month of August. 

 

Mineral formula: C (pure carbon)

Grouping: a native element (pure carbon)

Crystal system: isometric

Crystal habit: Octahedral crystals, also dodecahedrons, cubes, tetrahedral. Often has curved faces.

Cleavage: Perfect octahedral {111}

Fracture: irregular / uneven

Color: colorless, yellowish to yellow, brown, black, blue, green or red, pink, champagne-tan, cognac-brown, lilac (very rare

Luster: adamantine (means “diamond-like”), greasy

Diaphaneity: transparent, translucent, or opaque

Moh’s scale hardness: 10

Streak: none (harder than streak plate)

Specific gravity: 3.5 – 3.53

Geological occurrence:  Diamonds form deep in the mantle (> 95 km beneath Earth’s surface) and occur at the surface only when they are brought rapidly to Earth’s surface by volcanic or other tectonic processes.

Name: From Greek "adamas", 'invincible'. First known use by Manlius (A.D. 16) and Pliny (A.D. 100).

About Diamond

Diamond is the hardest mineral on earth and the hardest natural substance known. Each carbon atom links to four equidistant neighboring carbon atoms, thus creating a close-knit, dense, strongly bonded structure--the source of its unsurpassed hardness and many other properties. The hardness and adamantine luster (diamond-like sparkle!) of diamonds have made it the gemstone of choice, along with its rarity and high price. Socio-economic concerns over diamond mining practices in some parts of the world have helped to highlight illegal and/or unethical practices in gemstone world wide.

Most know diamonds from jewelry, those colorless, sparkly faceted little stones that adorn engagement rings or drop earrings, not to mention royal regalia. Diamond also occurs in other colors - pure orange and violet are rare and much more valuable. Naturally occurring industrial diamonds tend to be gray or brown and less translucent than gemmy ones. The color of diamonds can be changed by artificial exposure to intense radiation or by heat treatment; many of the "fancy" colored stones on the market today are a result of such treatments. 

In addition to its crystalline form, diamond occurs in two other forms: bort, or boart, is an irregular or granular black diamond; and carbonado, microcrystalline masses.

Industrial diamonds are those that are not of gem quality; some estimate that about 90% of all mined diamonds are of industrial quality.

Synthetic diamonds were first created in the early 1950’s by H Tracey Hall and made economically viable through General Electric. Synthetic diamonds help bridge the supply gap for the demand of industrial (and lower-price gemmy) diamonds.

 

Geological Occurrence

Natural diamonds form in Earth’s mantle, about 150-250 km (93-155 miles) depth beneath Earth’s surface. Most formed about 1 billion to 3.5 billion years ago as carbon-rich materials reacted to form crystals of pure carbon. Diamonds occur on Earth’s surface (shallow enough to mine) because they were carried towards the surface by volcanic eruptions and producing igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites. Because of their hardness, diamonds are extremely resistant to erosion, and can be found in some sediments and sedimentary rocks. Diamond has also been found in meteorites.

Diamonds are mined in every continent except Antarctica. Major producers include Canada, Russia, Australia, Botswana, Angola, South Africa, and Namibia. All but Canada produce abundant gem-quality diamonds. Canada may be the worlds largest producer of industrial diamonds.

In the United States only two areas have produced diamonds

  • Crater of Diamonds Mine in Arkansas, now operated by the state of Arkansas on a pay-to-dig basis
  • Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine near Fort Collins, Colorado. This mine is now closed.

Many other areas of the US have geology comsistent with the potential occurrence of diamonds, but have not been commercially exploited. Click HERE to read more. 

Diamonds in New Mexico?

New Mexico has kimberlites, but no diamonds have yet been found. Read more about New Mexico kimberlites HERE.

So-called “Pecos Valley Diamonds” are actually quartz.

Diamond Mining History

The world’s love of diamonds had its start in India perhaps as early as 800 BC. Diamonds were gathered from the country’s rivers and streams, such as the Golconda field. Indian diamond trade with Europe was well established by the 1400s. As the supply of Indian diamonds declined due to resource depletion, Brazil emerged with the European discovery of alluvial diamonds there in the 1700s. In the late 1800s, coincident with the emergency of a wealthy “merchant” class (as the nobility declined), the discovery of the immense South African diamond deposits fueled demand for diamond jewelry.

After diamonds were discovered in 1866 in Kimberley, South Africa, industrialization of the mining process began in 1888 when entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes established the De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. By 1900, De Beers controlled about 90% of the world production of rough diamonds. Even though De Beers carefully controlled supply and demand, the discovery of diamond deposits elsewhere in the world, coupled with the inevitable depletion of the South African diamond resources, had drastically altered the face of modern-day diamond production.

To find out more about present-day mining of diamonds click HERE for a summary from mindat.org. 

Uses of Diamonds

Jewelry: gemstone grade natural diamonds, and synthetic diamonds.

Abrasives: industrial diamonds are mostly used as abrasives; small diamond fragments embedded in saw blades, drill bits, and grinding wheels for cutting and polishing hard materials. Powdered diamond is made into a paste and used for fine polishing and grinding. Diamonds were traditionally used for cutting other diamonds; now lasers are often used.

Diamond windows: a thin plate of diamond makes a great “window” for openings in lasers and other high-tech equipment, where heat- and abrasion-resistance, transparency and durability are critical.

Diamond speaker domes: high quality audio speakers use diamond to lower distortion that reduces sound quality.

Diamond heat sinks: in high-performance microelectronics heat build-up can affect performance. Diamond has the highest thermal conductivity of any material, so it can be used to conduct heat away from sensitive parts.

Diamond micro-bearings: devices such as mechanical watches have moving parts that will wear and degrade over time. Hard, stiff materials such as diamonds that resist abrasion are used to extend the lifetime of the device

 

Diamond Trivia

Some famous diamonds - there are many! Google "famous diamonds" for many pieces (not necessarily accurate) about the biggest and best ... The Cullinan diamond is reputed to be the largest gem quality diamond ever found (3106 carats). The Hope Diamond, perhaps the single most famous cut diamond in the world, with a deep blue color, is 45.52 carats and probably from India. The Millenium Star diamond was 777 carats rough then cut and polished into a 203 carat gemstone, considered by some to be the most beautiful diamond in the world.

  • Most natural diamonds are 1 billion to 3.5 billion years old!
  • The US annually consumes over 40% of produced gem quality diamonds as jewelry.
  • Given the appropriate climate, occurrence of the plant Pandanus candelabrum can indicate the presence of kimberlite-derived soils, thus providing a guide for diamond prospecting. Click HERE to find out more.
  • A few famous diamonds The Cullinan diamond is reputed to be the largest gem quality diamond ever found (3106 carats). The Hope Diamond, perhaps the single most famous cut diamond in the world, with a deep blue color, is 45.52 carats and probably from India. The Millenium Star diamond was 777 carats rough then cut and polished into a 203 carat gemstone, considered by some to be the most beautiful diamond in the world.
  • Diamonds in engagement rings was popularized by a De Beers Diamond Company marketing campaign in the early 20th century. Wearing an engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the ‘vein of love’ linked the heart and the ring finger.
  • A diamond touching each corner of a house or garden offers protection from lightning and storms.
  • It is said that Alexander the Great discovered the Valley of Diamonds on one of his campaigns in India. The valley was guarded by countless snakes, so Alexander devised a plan to get through them by using mirrors to frighten the snakes away with their own reflection.
  • It is believed by many that the famous Hope diamond caused the Titanic to sink as a result of its presence aboard the ship.

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