Why is a bit of crystallized carbon so valuable? Because it is known as a diamond… Diamonds are the hardest natural substances known to man. They are eighty-five times harder than rubies or sapphires. Pound for pound they can bring higher prices than any other raw material on earth.
For 2,000 years the only known source of diamonds was the stream beds of ancient India where diamond ‘pebbles’ were occasional found. They were sought after for their rarity and collected by royalty but no-one knew how to cut them. Thus, they were not nearly as beautiful as rubies or emeralds.
Sometime in the 15th century, it was discovered that diamonds could be used to cut other diamonds. In the late 17th century, a Venetian by the name of Peruzzi developed what is known as the ‘brilliant cut’. This way of cutting the stone gave the diamond fifty-eight facets mathematically arranged so that the most light rays could be caught to give the diamond a new dazzling brilliance.
‘Diamond Fever’ came in the late 1860’s when an incredible almost flawless diamond of 85.8 carats was found near Hopetown, South Africa. The DeBeer family sold the land and the name for 6,000 pounds, and today the DeBeers Consolidated Mines Ltd. Is one of the largest in the world. It produces 40% of the world’s diamonds.
These first diamonds found on the DeBeer farmlands were only the forerunners of the deep underground pockets found in the hard rock called ‘blue ground’ or kimberlite. Usually kimberlite is found in what are called ‘pipes’. These are thought to be the necks of extinct volcanoes. Intense heat and pressure had forced these pipes nearer the surface. Once miners started digging into these deposits, only the rich could afford the expensive equipment like pumps and elevators needed for the actual mining of the precious stones.
Only about 20% of the diamonds mined are of gem quality. The rest are used in industry, mostly as abrasives. It takes 250 tons of blue ground to yield one carat of rough diamond. When cut, a diamond will lose one-half its weight. The term ‘carat’ comes from the uniformly sized seeds of the Carob tree. These seeds were used to balance the scales in Eastern bazaars. In the international systems of weights and measures, 142 carats equal an ounce.
In 1905 a rough diamond weighing 3,106 carats was found in South Africa and given to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday. It was later broken up into smaller stones and became part of the British crown jewels.
In addition to carat weight, a diamond is rated by color, clarity, and In addition to carat weight, a diamond is rated by color, clarity, and cut style. These all make up the ‘4 C’s’. We think of diamonds as colorless or white, but in reality these are very rare and very expensive. Most stones have a tinge of color, and some are even quite dark. These are called ‘fancies’. One such fancy is the dark blue 44.5 Hope Diamond. This one is kept in the Smithsonian Museum. Clarity refers to the absence of imperfections. A diamond is considered flawless if no imperfections can be found with a 10 power magnifier. The cut refers to the arrangement and the number of facets.
Gem quality diamonds continue to be one of the best investments in the world. They do nothing but increase in value and are easy to carry. Few things have greater value….or sparkle… So there you have it, a little about diamonds. God bless you.