The name diamond derives from the ancient Greek adamas meaning invincible. They have been treasured as gemstones since their use as religious icons in ancient India and usage in engraving tools also dates to early human history. Popularity of diamonds has risen since the 19th century because of increased supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, growth in the world economy, and innovative and successful advertising campaigns. They are commonly judged by the four "C"s: carat, clarity, color, and cut.
Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from central and southern Africa, although significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. They are mined from kimberlite and lamproite volcanic pipes, which brought to the surface the diamond crystals from deep in the Earth where the high pressure and temperature enables the formation of the crystals. The mining and distribution of natural diamonds are subjects of frequent controversy such as with concerns over the sale of conflict diamonds by African paramilitary groups. There are also allegations that the De Beers Group misuses its dominance in the industry to control supply and manipulate price via monopolistic practices, although in recent years the company's market share has dropped to below 50%.
|Color||Yellow, brown or grey to colorless.less often in blue, green, blacktranslucent white, pink, violet, orange, purple and red.|
|Crystal System||Isometric- Hexoctahedral (Cubic)|
|Cleavage||111 (perfect in four directions)|
|Fracture||Conchoidal - step like|
|Mohs Scale (hardness)||10|
|Optical Properties||Singly Refractive|
|Ultraviolet Fluorescence||Colorless to yellowish stones - inert to strong in long wave and typically blue, weaker in short wave.|
|Absorpsion Spectra||In pale yellow stones a 415.5 nm is typical. Irradiated and annealed diamonds often show a line around 594 nm when cooled to low temperatures.|
|Specific Gravity||3.52 (+/- .01)|
|Density||3.5 - 3.53|
|Diaphaneity||Transparent to subtransparent to translucent|
A diamond is a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms. Diamonds have been adapted for many uses because of the material's exceptional physical characteristics. Most notable are its extreme hardness, its high dispersion index, and high thermal conductivity, with a melting point of 3820 K (6420 °F) and a boiling point of 5100K (8720 °F).
Diamond is the hardest natural material known to man - its hardness set to 10 (hardest) on Mohs scale of mineral hardness and having an absolute hardness value of between 90, 167, and 231 gigapascals in various tests. Diamond's hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name. However, aggregated diamond nanorods, an allotrope of carbon first synthesized in 2005, are even harder than diamond.
The hardest diamonds in the world are from the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, perfect to semiperfect octahedra, and are used to polish other diamonds. Their hardness is considered to be a product of the crystal growth form, which is single stage growth crystal. Most other diamonds show more evidence of multiple growth stages, which produce inclusions, flaws, and defect planes in the crystal lattice all of which affect their hardness. The hardness of diamonds contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well, keeping its luster over long periods of time. Unlike many other gems, it is well–suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching—contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in an engagement ring or wedding ring, which are often worn every day. Industrial use of diamonds has historically been associated with their hardness; this property makes diamond the ideal material for cutting and grinding tools. As the hardest known naturally occurring material, diamond can be used to polish, cut, or wear away any material, including other diamonds. Common industrial adaptations of this ability include diamond-tipped drill bits and saws, or use of diamond powder as an abrasive. Industrial-grade diamonds are either unsuitable for use as gems or synthetically produced, which lowers their value and makes their use economically feasible. Industrial applications, especially as drill bits and engraving tools, also date to ancient times.
Other specialized applications also exist or are being developed, including use as semiconductors: some blue diamonds are natural semiconductors, in contrast to most other diamonds, which are excellent electrical insulators.
Toughness relates to a material's ability to resist breakage from forceful impact. The toughness of natural diamond has been measured as 3.4 MN m-3/2, which is good compared to other gemstones, but poor compared to most engineering materials. As with any material, the macroscopic geometry of a diamond contributes to its resistance to breakage. Diamond is therefore more fragile in some orientations than others.
Diamonds can occur in nearly any color, though yellow and brown are by far the most common. "Black" diamonds are not truly black, but rather contain numerous dark inclusions that give the gems their dark appearance. When the color is saturated enough in yellow or brown diamonds, a stone may be referred to as a fancy colored diamond by the gem trade, otherwise they are graded for color in the normal color range of white diamonds.
Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Most diamond impurities replace a carbon atom in the crystal lattice, known as a carbon flaw. The most common impurity, nitrogen, causes a slight to intense yellow coloration depending upon the type and concentration of nitrogen present. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies low saturation yellow and brown diamonds as diamonds in the normal color range, and applies a grading scale from 'D' (colorless) to 'Z' (light yellow). The GIA labels diamonds that have more color than a 'Z' diamond fancy, along with those that are any color other than yellow or brown.
The carat weight measures the mass of a diamond. One carat is defined as 200 milligrams (about 0.007 ounce avoirdupois). The point unit—equal to one one-hundredth of a carat (0.01 carat, or 2 mg)—is commonly used for diamonds of less than one carat. All else being equal, the value of a diamond increases exponentially in relation to carat weight, since larger diamonds are both rarer and more desirable for use as gemstones.
The price per carat does not increase smoothly with increasing size. Instead, there are sharp jumps around milestone carat weights, as demand is much higher for diamonds weighing just more than a milestone than for those weighing just less. As an example, a 0.95 carat diamond may have a significantly lower price per carat than a comparable 1.05 carat diamond, because of differences in demand.
A weekly diamond price list, the Rapaport Diamond Report is published by Martin Rapaport, CEO of Rapaport Group of New York, for different diamond cuts, clarity and weights. It is currently considered the de-facto retail price baseline. Jewelers often trade diamonds at negotiated discounts off the Rapaport price (e.g., "R -3%").
In the wholesale trade of gem diamonds, carat is often used in denominating lots of diamonds for sale. For example, a buyer may place an order for 100 carats of 0.5 carat, D–F, VS2-SI1, excellent cut diamonds, indicating he wishes to purchase 200 diamonds (100 carats total mass) of those approximate characteristics. Because of this, diamond prices (particularly among wholesalers and other industry professionals) are often quoted per carat, rather than per stone.
Total carat weight (t.c.w.) is a phrase used to describe the total mass of diamonds or other gemstone in a piece of jewelry, when more than one gemstone is used. Diamond solitaire earrings, for example, are usually quoted in t.c.w. when placed for sale, indicating the mass of the diamonds in both earrings and not each individual diamond. T.c.w. is also widely used for diamond necklaces, bracelets and other similar jewelry pieces.
Clarity is a measure of internal defects of a diamond called inclusions. Inclusions may be crystals of a foreign material or another diamond crystal, or structural imperfections such as tiny cracks that can appear whitish or cloudy. The number, size, color, relative location, orientation, and visibility of inclusions can all affect the relative clarity of a diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and other organizations have developed systems to grade clarity, which are based on those inclusions which are visible to a trained professional when a diamond is viewed under 10x magnification.
Diamonds become increasingly rare when considering higher clarity gradings. Only about 20 percent of all diamonds mined have a clarity rating high enough for the diamond to be considered appropriate for use as a gemstone; the other 80 percent are relegated to industrial use. Of that top 20 percent, a significant portion contains one or more visible inclusions. Those that do not have a visible inclusion are known as "eye-clean" and are preferred by most buyers, although visible inclusions can sometimes be hidden under the setting in a piece of jewelry.
Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not affect the diamonds' performance or structural integrity. However, large clouds can affect a diamond's ability to transmit and scatter light. Large cracks close to or breaking the surface may reduce a diamond's resistance to fracture.
Diamonds are graded by the major societies on a scale ranging from flawless to imperfect.
A chemically pure and structurally perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue, or color. However, in reality almost no gem-sized natural diamonds are absolutely perfect. The color of a diamond may be affected by chemical impurities and/or structural defects in the crystal lattice. Depending on the hue and intensity of a diamond's coloration, a diamond's color can either detract from or enhance its value. For example, most white diamonds are discounted in price as more yellow hue is detectable, while intense pink or blue diamonds (such as the Hope Diamond) can be dramatically more valuable. The Aurora Diamond Collection displays a spectacular array of naturally colored diamonds, and is a good source of information on the topic of colored diamonds.
Most diamonds used as gemstones are basically transparent with little tint, or white diamonds. The most common impurity, nitrogen, replaces a small proportion of carbon atoms in a diamond's structure and causes a yellowish to brownish tint. This effect is present in almost all white diamonds; in only the rarest diamonds is the coloration due to this effect undetectable. The GIA has developed a rating system for color in white diamonds, from "D" to "Z" (with D being "colorless" and Z having a bright yellow coloration), which has been widely adopted in the industry and is universally recognized, superseding several older systems once used in different countries. The GIA system uses a benchmark set of natural diamonds of known color grade, along with standardized and carefully controlled lighting conditions. Precision-crafted cubic zirconia master sets are sometimes used in the trade, however the GIA has found these sets to be inaccurate.
Diamonds with higher color grades are rarer, in higher demand, and therefore more expensive, than lower color grades. Oddly enough, diamonds graded Z are also rare, and the bright yellow color is also highly valued. Diamonds graded D-F are considered "colorless", G-J are considered "near-colorless", K-M are "slightly colored". N-Y usually appear light yellow or brown.
In contrast to yellow or brown hues, diamonds of other colors are more rare and valuable. While even a pale pink or blue hue may increase the value of a diamond, more intense coloration is usually considered more desirable and commands the highest prices. A variety of impurities and structural imperfections cause different colors in diamonds, including yellow, pink, blue, red, green, brown, and other hues. Diamonds with unusual or intense coloration are sometimes labeled "fancy" by the diamond industry. Intense yellow coloration is considered one of the fancy colors, and is separate from the color grades of white diamonds. Gemologists have developed rating systems for fancy colored diamonds, but they are not in common use because of the relative rarity of colored diamonds.
Diamond cutting is the art and science of creating a gem-quality diamond out of mined rough. The cut of a diamond describes the manner in which a diamond has been shaped and polished from its beginning form as a rough stone to its final gem proportions. The cut of a diamond describes the quality of workmanship and the angles to which a diamond is cut. Often diamond cut is confused with "shape".
There are mathematical guidelines for the angles and length ratios at which the diamond is supposed to be cut in order to reflect the maximum amount of light. Round brilliant diamonds, the most common, are guided by these specific guidelines, though fancy cut stones are not able to be as accurately guided by mathematical specifics.
The techniques for cutting diamonds have been developed over hundreds of years, with perhaps the greatest achievements made in 1919 by mathematician and gem enthusiast Marcel Tolkowsky. He developed the round brilliant cut by calculating the ideal shape to return and scatter light when a diamond is viewed from above. The modern round brilliant has 57 facets (polished faces), counting 33 on the crown (the top half), and 24 on the pavilion (the lower half). The girdle is the thin middle part. The function of the crown is to diffuse light into various colors and the pavilion's function to reflect light back through the top of the diamond.
Tolkowsky defines the ideal dimensions to have:
The culet is the tiny point or facet at the bottom of the diamond. This should be a negligible diameter, otherwise light leaks out of the bottom. Tolkowsky's ideal dimensions did not include a girdle. However, a thin girdle is required in reality in order to prevent the diamond from easily chipping in the setting. A normal girdle should be about 1%–2% of the overall diameter.
The further the diamond's characteristics are from Tolkowsky's ideal, the less light will be reflected. However, there is a small range in which the diamond can be considered "ideal." Today, because of the relative importance of carat weight in society, many diamonds are often intentionally cut poorly to increase carat weight. There is a financial premium for a diamond that weighs the magical 1.0 carat, so often the girdle is made thicker or the depth is increased. Neither of these tactics make the diamond appear any bigger, and they greatly reduce the sparkle of the diamond. So a poorly cut 1.0 carat diamond may have the same diameter and appear as large as a 0.85 carat diamond. The depth percentage is the overall quickest indication of the quality of the cut of a round brilliant. "Ideal" round brilliant diamonds should not have a depth percentage greater than 62.5%. Another quick indication is the overall diameter. Typically a round brilliant 1.0 carat diamond should have a diameter of about 6.5 mm. Mathematically, the diameter in millimeters of a round brilliant should approximately equal 6.5 times the cube root of carat weight, or 11.1 times the cube root of gram weight, or 1.4 times the cube root of point weight.
Ideal cuts can be controversial as the definitions of brilliance and beauty are very subjective.
Tolkowsky's mathematical model is now superseded by the GIA Facetware software that is the culmination of 20 years of studies on diamond cuts.
New diamond cuts are now all the rage in the diamond industry as for example a design invented in 2003 and called the Genesis cut. This cut differs in shape from the more traditional cuts in its concave surfaces and angles and resembles a 4-pointed star.
Diamonds do not show all of their beauty as rough stones; instead, they must be cut and polished to exhibit the characteristic fire and brilliance that diamond gemstones are known for. Diamonds are cut into a variety of shapes that are generally designed to accentuate these features.
Diamonds which are not cut to the specifications of Tolkowsky's round brilliant shape (or subsequent variations) are known as "fancy cuts." Popular fancy cuts include the baguette (from the French, meaning rod or loaf of bread), marquise, princess cut (square outline), heart, briolette (a form of the rose cut), and pear cuts. Newer cuts that have been introduced into the jewelry industry are the "cushion" "radiant"(similar to princess cuts, but with rounded edges instead of square edges) and "Asscher" cuts. Many fancy colored diamonds are now being cut according to these new styles. Generally speaking, these "fancy cuts" are not held to the same strict standards as Tolkowsky-derived round brilliants and there are less specific mathematical guidelines of angles which determine a well-cut stone. Cuts are influenced heavily by fashion: the baguette cut—which accentuates a diamond's luster and downplays its fire—was all the rage during the Art Deco period, whereas the princess cut —which accentuates a diamond's fire rather than its luster—is currently gaining popularity. The princess cut is also popular amongst diamond cutters: of all the cuts, it wastes the least of the original crystal. The past decades have seen the development of new diamond cuts, often based on a modification of an existing cut. Some of these include extra facets. These newly developed cuts are viewed by many as more of an attempt at brand differentiation by diamond sellers, than actual improvements to the state of the art. One of these is a diamond cut called Pristine Hearts which though round shaped has got a beautiful heart visible through table as well as the bottom side.
The quality of a diamond's cut is widely considered the most important of the four Cs in determining the beauty of a diamond; indeed, it is commonly acknowledged that a well-cut diamond can appear to be of greater carat weight, and have clarity and color appear to be of better grade than they actually are. The skill with which a diamond is cut determines its ability to reflect and refract light.
In addition to carrying the most importance to a diamond's quality as a gemstone, the cut is also the most difficult to quantitatively judge. A number of factors, including proportion, polish, symmetry, and the relative angles of various facets, are determined by the quality of the cut and can affect the performance of a diamond. A poorly cut diamond with facets cut only a few degrees out of alignment can result in a poorly performing stone. For a round brilliant cut, there is a balance between "brilliance" and "fire." When a diamond is cut for too much "fire," it looks like a cubic zirconia, which gives off much more "fire" than real diamond. A well-executed round brilliant cut should reflect light upwards and make the diamond appear white when viewed from the top. An inferior cut will produce a stone that appears dark at the center and in some extreme cases the ring settings may show through the top of the diamond as shadows.
Several different theories on the "ideal" proportions of a diamond have been and continue to be advocated by various owners of patents on machines to view how well a diamond is cut. These advocate a shift away from grading cut by the use of various angles and proportions toward measuring the performance of a cut stone. A number of specially modified viewers and machines have been developed toward this end. Hearts and Arrows viewers test for the "hearts and arrows" characteristic pattern observable in stones exhibiting high symmetry and particular cut angles. Closely related to Hearts and Arrows viewers is the which tests for light leakage, light return, and proportions. The ASET (and computer simulations of the ASET) are used to test for AGS cut grade. These viewers and machines often help sellers demonstrate the light performance results of the diamond in addition to the traditional 4 Cs. Detractors see these machines as marketing tools rather than as scientific tools.
The GIA has developed a set of criteria for grading the cut of round brilliant stones that is now the standard in the diamond industry and is called Facetware.
The process of shaping a rough diamond into a polished gemstone is both an art and a science. The choice of cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough stone, location of the inclusions and flaws to be eliminated, the preservation of the weight, popularity of certain shapes amongst consumers and many other considerations. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Oddly shaped crystals such as macles are more likely to be cut in a fancy cut—that is, a cut other than the round brilliant—which the particular crystal shape lends itself to.
Even with modern techniques, the cutting and polishing of a diamond crystal always results in a dramatic loss of weight; rarely is it less than 50%. Sometimes the cutters compromise and accept lesser proportions and symmetry in order to avoid inclusions or to preserve the carat rating. Since the per carat price of diamond shifts around key milestones (such as 1.00 carat), many one-carat diamonds are the result of compromising "Cut" for "Carat." Some jewelry experts advise consumers to buy a 0.99 carat diamond for its better price or buy a 1.10 carat diamond for its better cut, avoiding a 1.00 carat diamond which is more likely to be a poorly cut stone.
In the gem trade the term light performance is used to describe how well a polished diamond will return light to the viewer. There are three light properties which are described in relation to light performance; brilliance, fire, and scintillation. Brilliance refers to the white light reflections from the external and internal facet surfaces. Fire refers to the spectral colors which are produced as a result of the diamond dispersing the white light. Scintillation refers to the small flashes of light that are seen when the diamond, light source or the viewer is moved. A diamond that is cut and polished to produce a high level of these qualities is said to be high in light performance.
The setting diamonds are placed in also affect the performance of light through a diamond. The 3 most commonly used settings are: Prong, Bezel, and Channel. Prong settings are the most popular setting for diamond jewelry. The prong setting consists of four or six 'claws' that cradle the diamond, allowing the maximum amount of light to enter from all angles, allowing the diamonds to appear larger and more brilliant. In bezel settings the diamond or gemstone is completely surrounded by a rim of metal, which can be molded into any shape to accommodate the stone. Used to set earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, bezel settings can have open or closed backs, and generally can be molded to allow a lot of light to pass through. Channel settings set the stones right next to each other with no metal separating them. This setting is mostly used in wedding and anniversary bands. The outer ridge is then worked over the edges of the stones to create a smooth exterior surface. This also protects the girdle area of the stone.
About a third of all diamonds will glow under ultraviolet light, usually a blue color which may be noticeable under a black light or strong sunlight. According to the GIA, who reviewed a random sample of 26,010 natural diamonds, 65% of the diamonds in the sample had no fluorescence. Of the 35% that did have fluorescence, 97% had blue fluorescence of which 38% had faint blue fluorescence and 62% had fluorescence that ranged from medium to very strong blue. Other colors diamonds can fluoresce are green, yellow, and red but are very rare and are sometimes a combination of the colors such as blue-green or orange. Some diamonds with "very strong" fluorescence can have a "milky" or "oily" look to them, but they are also very rare and are termed "overblues." Their study concluded that with the exception of "overblues" and yellow fluorescent diamonds, fluorescence had little effect on transparency and that the strong and very strong blue fluorescent diamonds on average had better color appearance than non-fluorescent stones. Since blue is a complementary color to yellow and can appear to cancel it out, strong blue fluorescence had especially better color appearance with lower color graded diamonds that have a slight yellowish tint such as "I" color or "J" color but had little effect on the more colorless "D" through "F" color grades.
Cleanliness heavily affects a diamond's beauty. A clean diamond is more brilliant and fiery than the same diamond when it is "dirty". Dirt or grease on the top of a diamond reduces its luster. Water, dirt, or grease on the bottom of a diamond interferes with the diamond's brilliance and fire. Even a thin film absorbs some light that could have been reflected to the person looking at the diamond. Colored dye or smudges can affect the perceived color of a diamond. Historically, some jewelers' stones were misgraded because of smudges on the girdle, or dye on the culet. Current practice is to clean a diamond thoroughly before grading its color.
Maintaining a clean diamond can sometimes be difficult as jewelry settings can obstruct cleaning efforts and oils, grease, and other hydrophobic materials adhere well to a diamond's surface. Many jewelers use steam cleaners. Some jewelers provide their customers with ammonia-based cleaning kits; ultrasonic cleaners are also popular.
Diamonds are thought to have been first recognized and mined in India, where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could then be found. The earliest written reference can be found in the Buddhist text, the Anguttara Nikaya another sanskrit text, the Arthashastra, which was completed around 296 BCE and describes diamond's hardness, luster, and dispersion. Diamonds quickly became associated with divinity, being used to decorate religious icons, and were believed to bring good fortune to those who carried them. Ownership was restricted among various castes by color, with only kings being allowed to own all colors of diamond.
In February 2005, a joint Chinese-U.S. team of archaeologists reported the discovery of four corundum-rich stone ceremonial burial axes originating from China's Liangzhu and Sanxingcun cultures (4000 BCE–2500 BCE) which, because of the axes' specular surfaces, the scientists believe were polished using diamond powder.
Although there are diamond deposits now known to exist close to the burial sites, no direct evidence of coeval diamond mining has been found: the researchers came to this conclusion by polishing corundum using various lapidary abrasives and modern techniques then comparing the results using an atomic force microscope. At that scale, the surface of the modern diamond-polished corundum closely resembled that of the axes; however, the polishes of the latter were superior.
Diamonds were traded to both the east and west of India and were recognized by various cultures for their gemological or industrial uses. In his work Naturalis Historia, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder noted diamond's ornamental uses, as well as its usefulness to engravers because of its hardness. It is however highly doubtful that Pliny actually meant diamonds and it is assumed that in fact several different minerals such as Corundum, Spinel, or even a mixture with Magnetite were all referred to by the word "adamas". In China, diamonds seem to have been used primarily as diamond tools for engraving jade and drilling holes in beads. Archaeological evidence from Yemen suggests that diamonds were used as drill tips as early as the 4th century BCE. In Europe, however, diamonds disappeared for almost 1,000 years following the rise of Christianity because of two effects: early Christians rejected diamonds because of their earlier use in amulets, and Arabic traders restricted the flow of trade between Europe and India.
Until the late Middle Ages, diamonds were most prized in their natural octahedral state, perhaps with the crystal surfaces polished to increase luster and remove foreign material. Around 1300, the flow of diamonds into Europe increased via Venice's trade network, with most flowing through the low country ports of Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. During this time, the taboo against cutting diamonds into gem shapes, which was established over 1,000 years earlier in the traditions of India, ended allowing the development of diamond cutting technology to begin in earnest. By 1375, a guild of diamond polishers had been established at Nuremberg. Over the following centuries, various diamond cuts were introduced which increasingly demonstrated the fire and brilliance that makes diamonds treasured today: the table cut, the briolette (around 1476), the rose cut (mid-16th century), and by the mid-17th century, the Mazarin, the first brilliant cut diamond design. In 1919, Marcel Tolkowsky developed an ideal round brilliant cut design that has set the standard for comparison of modern gems; however, diamond cuts have continued to be refined.
The rise in popularity of diamonds as gems seems to have paralleled increasing availability through European history. In the 13th century, King Louis IX of France established a law that only the king could own diamonds. However, within a century diamonds were popular gems among the moneyed aristocratic and merchant classes, and by 1477 had begun to be used rarely in wedding rings. Diamond wedding rings didn't gain widespread social significance until the De Beers company started marketing the idea through cinema beginning in the 1940s. A number of large diamonds have become historically significant objects, as their inclusion in various sets of crown jewels and the purchase, sale, and sometimes theft of notable diamonds, have sometimes become politicized.
The Cullinan Diamond, part of the British crown jewels, was the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found (1905), at 3,106.75 carats. One of the diamonds cut from it, Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, was formerly the largest gem-quality cut diamond at 530.2 carats, but now that title has been taken by the Golden Jubilee (1985), a 545.67 carat, yellow-brown diamond. The largest flawless and colorless (grade D) diamond is the Centenary Diamond which weighs 273.85 carats. The Millennium Star is the second largest (1990) at 203.04 carats.
Travis Metcalfe, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, believes that the galaxy's largest diamond is the core of the white dwarf star BPM 37093. Observations indicate that the core is a diamond crystal 4000 km in diameter.
The diamond supply chain is controlled by a limited number of powerful businesses, and is also highly concentrated in a small number of locations around the world. In fact, the amount of power which De Beers has consolidated historically prevented it from direct trade with the United States, as its trade practices led to an indictment for violating antitrust regulations (the case was settled in 2004).
The concentration of power only loosens at the retail level, where diamonds are sold by a limited number of distributors, known as sightholders, to jewelers around the world.
Historically diamonds were known to be found only in alluvial deposits in southern India. India led the world in diamond production from the time of their discovery in approximately the 9th century BCE to the mid-18th century AD, but the commercial potential of these sources has been exhausted.
The first non-Indian diamond source was found in Brazil in 1725. While no commercial diamond production exists in the US, Arkansas and Colorado are the only states to have a verifiable source of diamonds. Today, most commercially viable diamond deposits are in Russia, Botswana, Australia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2005, Russia produced almost one-fifth of the global diamond output, reports the British Geological Survey.
There are also commercial deposits being actively mined in the Northwest Territories of Canada, Siberia (mostly in Yakutia territory, for example Mir pipe and Udachnaya pipe), Brazil, and in Northern and Western Australia. Diamond prospectors continue to search the globe for diamond-bearing kimberlite and lamproite pipes.
In some of the more politically unstable central African and west African countries, revolutionary groups have taken control of diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. Diamonds sold through this process are known as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds. In response to public concerns that their diamond purchases were contributing to war and human rights abuses in central Africa and west Africa, the United Nations, the diamond industry and diamond-trading nations introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002, which is aimed at ensuring that conflict diamonds do not become intermixed with the diamonds not controlled by such rebel groups. The Kimberley Process provides documentation and certification of diamond exports from producing countries to ensure that the proceeds of sale are not being used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities. Although the Kimberley Process has been moderately successful in limiting the number of conflict diamonds entering the market, conflict diamonds smuggled to market continue to persist to some degree (approx. 2–3% of diamonds traded today are possible conflict diamonds). According to the 2006 book The Heartless Stone, two major flaws still hinder the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process: the relative ease of smuggling diamonds across African borders and giving phony histories, and the violent nature of diamond mining in nations which are not in a technical state of war and whose diamonds are therefore considered "clean."
The Canadian Government has setup a body known as Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct to help authenticate Canadian Diamonds. This is a very stringent tracking system of diamonds and helps protect the 'conflict free' label of Canadian diamonds.
Currently, gem production totals nearly 30 million carats (6,000 kg) of cut and polished stones annually, and over 100 million carats (20,000 kg) of mined diamonds are sold for industrial use each year, as are about 100,000 kg of synthesized diamond. In 2003, this constituted total production of nearly US$9 billion in value.
Only a very small fraction of the diamond ore consists of actual diamonds. The ore is crushed, during which care has to be taken in order to prevent larger diamonds from being destroyed in this process and subsequently the particles are sorted by density. Today, diamonds are located in the diamond-rich density fraction with the help of X-ray fluorescence,after which the final sorting steps are done by hand. Before the use of X-rays became commonplace, the separation was done with grease belts; diamonds have a stronger tendency to stick to grease than the other minerals in the ore.
Historically, it has been claimed that diamonds possess several supernatural powers:
Because of their extraordinary physical properties, diamonds have been used symbolically since near the time of their first discovery. Perhaps the earliest symbolic use of diamonds was as the eyes of Hindu devotional statues. In Hinduism Indra uses Vajrayudham or the thunderbolt as his primary weapon. Vajra is the word for diamond and ayudham means weapon in Sanskrit. The diamonds themselves were thought to be endowments from the gods and were therefore cherished. The point at which diamonds began to be associated with divinity is not known, but early texts indicate that it was recognized in India since at least 400 BCE.
It is said the Greeks believed diamonds were tears of the gods. The Romans believed they were splinters of fallen stars. Many long dead cultures have sought to explain diamond's superlative properties through divine or mystical affiliations.
In Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle), diamonds are an important symbol, and the Diamond Sutra is one of the most popular texts.
In Western culture, diamonds are the traditional emblem of fearlessness and virtue, but have also often associated with power, wealth, crime and misfortune. Today, diamonds are used to symbolize eternity and love, being often seen adorning engagement rings and sometimes wedding rings as well. The popularity of this modern tradition can be traced directly to the marketing campaigns of De Beers, starting in 1938. Prior to the De Beers marketing campaign, engagement rings had no one particular stone associated with them. The first diamond engagement ring can be traced to the marriage of Maximilian I (then Archduke of Austria) to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Other early examples of betrothal jewels incorporating diamonds include the Bridal Crown of Blanche (ca. 1370–80)) a pictorial piece depicting a wedding couple. Inaccessibility of diamonds to the vast majority of the population limited the popularity of diamonds as betrothal jewels during this period.
The diamond is the birthstone for people born in the month of April, and is also used as the symbol of a sixty-year anniversary, such as a Diamond Jubilee (see hierarchy of precious substances). In a system of heraldry by gemstones occasionally used in the past for the arms of nobles, diamond was used to represent the color sable, or black.
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