Got Diamonds? February 09 2017
The history of natural diamonds dates back billions of years into the pre-historic era of our planet Earth. This incredible gemstone was forged under tremendous temperatures reaching almost 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and a pulverizing pressure of almost 800,000 pounds per square inch (almost 12,000 times the pressure found in the tires of an automobile). Under these conditions, the energy and compactness brings everything closer together. To bring back a well forgotten chemistry lesson, these parameters enable carbon atoms to bond together in a lattice structure through very strong covalent bonds. As a result, diamonds are created as one of the hardest structures known to man with a rating of 10 in the Mohs scale.
With the presence of convection currents in the mantle of the Earth, these newly formed diamonds slowly make their way up to the crust and are spewed out through explosive volcanic eruptions. Once brought to the surface, they are contained within the cooled volcanic material surrounding it; these are the so-called kimberlites that typically source many of the diamonds across the world. Prior to the 18th century, diamonds were largely mined from India but they were quickly overshadowed in the ensuing years of the late 1800s by the Great Diamond Rush in Africa. Today, approximately 30% of the diamonds that are mined worldwide are of gem-quality and the US accounts for over 40% of its global demand – making it the world’s largest diamond market.
One of the most famous diamonds to be discovered is the historic Cullinan Diamond, found in 1905 in South Africa. Weighing in at 3106 carats, the Cullinan Diamond was cut into a total of 105 diamonds of flawless color and clarity. The two largest stones are a part of the British crown jewels as the Great Star of Africa (530.2 carats) and the Lesser Star of Africa (317.4 carats) and the remaining diamonds cut from the Cullinan are hosted in private collections. The word carat, used to measure the weight of diamonds, originated from the Greek word ‘keration’ meaning the carob tree whose seed was used for centuries as the standard for weighing precious stones. A carat became a standard metric for diamonds in 1913 with 1 carat equivalent to 0.2 grams or 0.007 ounces.
Another famous diamond is the Wittelsbach-Graff which is the largest blue diamond standing at a weight of 31.06 carats. Natural blue diamonds, being extremely rare, exist due to the presence of minute boron impurities within its carbon lattice structure. Graded as a diamond with a fancy deep blue hue and an internally flawless clarity, the Wittelsbach-Graff was sold at Christie’s London for just over $24.3 million. There is an incredible wealth of history and knowledge surrounding diamonds and its glamorous and breathtaking nature continues to impress admirers from across the world.
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