Tuesday, 1 September 2015

If Diamonds are Girls Best Friend, You Ought To Know Them Better

Photo Credit: Kim Alaniz

Recently I became the proud owner of a beautiful Swarovski necklace. I was so mesmerized by its glitter that I wondered why would one buy diamond! Well, one thing led to another and soon I found myself doing extensive research on diamonds/crystals. Some of these facts I knew and some I was completely unaware of. Read on to know how well you know your diamond...

1. How old are they really?

 Most diamonds found in nature are between one to three billion years old. The Earth is estimated at 4.5 billion years old. So that makes diamond really really old (pretty cool huh). Diamonds form about 100 miles below ground and have been carried to the earth’s surface by deep volcanic eruptions. They are also found at the site of a meteorite strike. No wonder ancient Romans and Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars fallen on the earth.

2. Who discovered diamonds?

Of course we did. Diamonds have been known in India for at least 3,000 years. Until the 18th century, India was thought to be the only source of diamonds. In the 1400s Indian diamonds began to be sold in Venice and other European trade centers. Then in the 1700s India’s diamond supplies declined and Brazil became the world’s major source of diamonds, until the late 1800s when a huge diamond reserve was discovered in South Africa.

Its funny, how from being the only nation to produce diamond we reached to current financial state.

3. Are they really the hardest substance in the world?

No. But diamonds are the hardest "natural" substance on Earth. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. In fact the word diamond derives from the Greek word “adamas,” which means "invincible, indestructible and untamed ".

Diamond has a sibling - graphite.

They are identical chemically—both are composed of carbon (C), but physically, they are very different.

Photo source: James st John 

The hardness of minerals is compared using the Mohs Hardness Scale, a relative scale numbered 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest). Graphite is very soft and has a hardness of 1 to 2 on this scale. Diamonds are the hardest known natural substance and have a hardness of 10.

Talk about sibling differences ;)

4. Four C's

It stands for four characteristics of diamonds:
Carat (its weight), Cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), Color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and Clarity (how free is it from inclusions)

Not to sidetrack, but did you know that the word carat comes from the Carob Mediterranean tree whose seed was used for centuries as the standard of weighing precious stones.

And 1 carat = 0.2 grams

Photo Credit: GShankary

5. Largest diamond discovered

The largest diamond ever discovered was called the Cullinan diamond (named after owner of mine), and weighed in at an amazing 3106 carats. Discovered in 1905 in South Africa, the mine’s owner and the South African leaders gave the diamond to King Edward. The Cullinan was eventually cut into nine large diamonds and 96 smaller ones, and the two largest of these are on display in the Tower of London as part of the crown jewels.

Photo credit: Mary Harrsch

Note: To ensure the diamond reached its destination safely it was sent to England in an unmarked postal box, while a replica was publicly accompanied by detectives on a steamer from South Africa as a diversion. Nothing less than a movie plot!

6. Show me your true color

In their pure state, diamonds are colorless. Colors in diamond originate from defects and impurities. Yellow and brown are the most common colored diamonds. In order of rarity, yellow diamond is followed by brown, colorless, then by blue, green, black, pink, orange, purple, and red.

Then of course there is notoriously cursed "Hope Diamond". Described as the "blue of the most beautiful blue sapphire", the stone exhibits an unusually intense and strongly colored type of luminescence:after exposure to short-wave ultraviolet light, the diamond produces a brilliant red phosphorescence ('glow-in-the-dark' effect) that persists for some time after the light source has been switched off, and this strange quality may have helped fuel "its reputation of being cursed."

Photo credit: David Bjorgen

7. Who was cecil Rhodes and Why should I know De Beers?

De Beers, founded by cecil Rhodes single-handedly made the diamond industry what it is today. 18 years old Rhodes came to Kimberley (South Africa) in 1870 and in next twenty years became the sole owner of all diamond mining operations in the country. Rhodes built De Beers into a diamond cartel which is something like "single-channel marketing" in partnership with the London-based Diamond Syndicate. Company used several methods to exercise this control over the market. In the early days, De Beers controlled about 90% of the world's diamond supply. Today, its monopoly on diamonds has been significantly reduced. Though it is still one of the leading company.

Photo credit: Flowcomm

8. How rare are diamonds?

It can't be proven but it's believed that diamonds are not as rare they are made to look. While its extremely laborious work to extract it (to produce a single one-carat diamond, 250 tons of earth will be mined), diamonds are not rare economically. But companies create artificial scarcity to maintain high prices. They stockpile and sell in small quantities.

9. Why diamond is not an investment?

Couple of years back when I wanted to invest money on jewellery, my first choice was diamonds but I was told that they don't have good resale value. Apparently unlike gold, market for diamond is not liquid and hence are depreciating asset. I was lost.

But there is an alternative theory, it is estimated that the public holds about 500 million carats of gem diamonds - if a significant portion of the public begins selling, then the price of diamond would crash down. To prevent this from happening, the diamond industry spent a huge sum in making diamonds "heirloom" properties to be passed down for generations, keeping the price of diamond artificially high (for more details click here)

Hmm..somehow now it all makes a lot more sense.

10. Blood diamonds

It's a term used for a diamond mined in a war zone and used to finance rebellious group or any such warlord activities.Predominantly from the regions of Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone. Conflict diamonds have funded devastating civil wars in Africa, and still contribute to extreme violence, worker exploitation, and environmental devastation. For those who wants to dwell deeper watch " Blood Diamond" (others can watch it for Leonardo DiCaprio!)

Photo credit: Brian Harrington Spier

Diamonds are near perfect but they did take 1 billion years to reach that state. Whether one opts to buy diamond or not is their personal choice but somehow its dazzling beauty is increased ten fold when you know more about its true nature.

“For a life where diamonds really are forever” - Bethany Anne Miller