D is for Diamond
A diamond is a mineral made of pure carbon. And no – diamonds do not come from coal. Diamonds were formed in the extreme heat and pressure of the earth’s mantle. While both coal and diamonds are made from carbon, diamonds are made from pure carbon. Coal comes from carbon, too, but carbon with many other impurities including organic matter.
It took an estimated 1 to 4 billion years for diamonds to form. They are believed to have been delivered to the earth surface through very powerful volcanic eruptions. The eruptions had to be forceful and fast or else the diamonds would turn to graphite.
Every diamond is different – much like a snowflake. Like many other gemstones, diamonds can be created in a lab. Synthetic diamonds are just as hard (10 on Mohs scale) and shine just as much as mined diamonds. As a matter of fact, it may require observation under a microscope to tell the difference. The lab simulates the heat and pressure of the earth’s mantle and uses a diamond ‘seed’ on which the crystals will attach. Synthetic diamonds ARE diamonds. The biggest difference is synthetic diamonds can be created in a matter of days or weeks compared to billions of years.
Let’s talk about the the difference in hardness and strength. A diamond can only be scratched by another diamond – they are the hardest naturally created mineral on earth. But hardness is different than strength. You can shatter a diamond by striking it with enough force, so they require care.
One of the most famous diamonds is housed at the Smithsonian – The Hope Diamond. A beautiful blue colored diamond weighing in excess 45 carats. I still remember seeing the stone when I visited the Smithsonian. You can see a photograph of the Hope Diamond here. The story of the stone is also very interesting. You can read about it’s ownership and travels here.
It would be irresponsible to talk about diamonds without talking about the issue of ‘blood diamonds’ or ‘conflict diamonds’. The definition of a blood diamond is a diamond sold to fund an insurgency or uprising against a recognized government. A process to keep these illegal diamonds from entering the market was created – The Kimberly Process. It has helped, but it has many loopholes and these diamonds still manage to enter the market. Many people are turning to other gemstones or lab created diamonds rather than taking the chance of buying a diamond ‘stained with blood’. Sadly, the mining (often done by their hands digging through the dirt) is often the only source of income for people in some of the war torn countries and may mean the difference in whether or not they eat.
You cannot have a discussion about diamonds without talking about De Beers Corporation – a company focused on all things diamond. They were formed in 1888 and controlled over 80% of rough diamond distribution globally. In present day, that percentage has been reduced to more like 30%. Through their marketing, they have successfully controlled the consumer market (”A Diamond is Forever”) and have been able to control the amount of diamonds in the market and keep prices high. In that way, they operated as a cartel. Eventually several countries refused to funnel all their rough diamonds through De Beers and they lost their stronghold on the rough diamond market. They have now their own brand of diamonds and have stores all over the world.
Scientists believe they have evidence of diamonds existing elsewhere in the universe. An exoplanet named 55 Cancri e and a white dwarf (V886 Centauri or BPM 37093) nicknamed Lucy after the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Both interesting, but too much to get into here.
Pricing for diamonds is different than any other gemstone. Their value is determined by cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. I would not know how to give you a range of pricing that is a true comparison. Lab created diamonds are also priced differently – often 40% – 50% less expensive than a mined diamond. The value of the diamond market worldwide hovers around $80 billion.
Do lab created diamonds hold their value? That depends on who you ask. Diamond merchants say no. Those who sell synthetic diamonds say yes. In all honesty, even mined diamonds lose 50% of their value if you try to resell them – unless of course you own something like the Hope Diamond.
My opinion is we buy what we love, what speaks to us. Unless you consider it an investment that is. If you just want to wear it for the aesthetic value, then please yourself and follow your own ethical guidelines.