What Is A Diamond?

By Dirk Rendel

Ahhh, diamonds… no other rock has had, since the very beginning of civilization, such an importance in History: lunar rocks, pyramid rocks, HECK!, even rock music pales in comparison to this special and yet usually so tiny rock.

Diamonds can be found everywhere, and with vast purposes: on a wedding ring, on a precision cut tool, on Sarah Jessica Parker’s wrist watch, shades, necklaces, earrings and wherever she can find some space to incrust some more. They’re very rare though (unless you live in a jewish community), as tough as Chuck Norris (or are they?) and, above all, they’re seriously expensive, which makes them a symbol of prestige among kings, elite sportsmen and women, rap stars and movie actors.

Now to ask that all important question: What the heck is a diamond?! It’s a…..rock, right? Put simply, a diamond is just a collection of carbon, not unlike you. But, just like you, it is very valuable and the reason why is twofold: One, diamonds are rare because the pressure and time needed to turn carbon atoms into diamonds is very monumental. Two, they’re valuable because we say they are. Why are fish eggs so expensive when we call it caviar? Why is a painting by Picasso worth millions when the girl in it doesn’t even look like a girl? It’s the value we place on it, and the value we place on diamonds is astronomical, ever since that Sun King went and had his way with carbon.

But yes, the combination of pressure and heat cause carbon to distort itself wildly and become the priceless gem we all know and love. And all that pressure causes the diamond to be so dense that it earns the reputation it has for being unbelievably hard. The hardest natural substance on Earth, in fact.

Funnily enough, many people mistakenly think that diamonds are just coal that has been condensed by the massive geological pressure of countless ages. But that’s not true, at least for the most part. Coal may sometimes, very rarely, be involved in the diamond process but it is carbon, the basic component of coal, that really does all the hard work.

Put simply, and believe me the formation of a diamond is anything but simple, the unbelievably high temperature and pressure of the Earth’s mantle (the part between the crust and core) causes carbon atoms to rearrange themselves so that they create a cubed structure of crystals.

And that is essentially all you need to know about the geological aspects of a diamond. Yes they’re beautiful, and yes they’re expensive, but you can kind of see why. They have to be pulled out of the Earth, for God’s sake!


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