Diamonds are formed when pure carbon has experienced pressure for millions of years beneath the earth’s crust. They are currently the hardest substance in nature and one of the most desired gemstones in the world. Basically, diamonds mean “forever” which is why they are the most popular stones for engagement rings. Due to their unbelievable strength, diamonds are also used to cut metals. Scientists know them as “the hardest substances known to man”, pop culture calls them “a girl’s best friend” and many people just call them “expensive”. But the origin of the word “Diamond” itself requires closer inspection.
THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD “DIAMOND”
The origin of the word “diamond” can be found in the Old French word “diamant”, which means a very hard substance and valuable gemstone obtained from pure carbon. Quite simply put, diamante was what the people of ancient France said whenever they wanted to refer to diamonds. Before then, the origin of the word could be traced back to the Medieval Latin folks who coined the word “adiamantem”. This word was used to refer to a hypothetical hardest substance which the Greek already had a name for; “adamas”. As a matter of fact, it was the Greek – or rather, the people of ancient Greece – that first came up with this hypothetical idea of the hardest substance on the planet being out there although, at the time, they had no idea what it was.
The ancient Greeks were a very cerebral bunch and long before the extraordinary properties of diamonds were discovered, they believed in the existence of a substance which could not be destroyed, and had already come up with the idea of adamas, meaning; indestructible or invincible. Before the discovery of diamond’s peculiar properties, corundum, whose gem form is sapphire, was first thought to be the hardest natural material on earth and for a time, it was referred to as adamas.
The reason behind the extraordinary hardness of diamonds is not exactly known but many have attributed it to the unique carbon structure of the material. Up to the 20th century – and even up to this present day and age – scientists have not been able to uncover all the mysteries of diamonds. The term “diamond” is not the only thing that requires investigation; the geological origins of the material itself are also a major point of interest, in light of their commercial value and unique properties.
THE GEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF DIAMONDS
Different cultures have their own beliefs about diamonds. Many claim that diamonds possess the magical ability to ward against attacks and poisons and likewise, there are many ideas about how diamonds come to be. Ancient Hindu folklore claims that diamonds are formed whenever lightning strikes a rock. However, science has shed some light on the geological origins of diamonds, although some aspects still remain a bit of a mystery.
Science states that diamonds are formed beneath the earth’s surface through a process that takes millions, or even billions of years. Science also tells us that this process involves pure carbon and high pressure, however, we still don’t know everything. One of the things that many people are not completely sure of is why diamonds are not found everywhere on earth. Well, science might also be able to explain this.
Since diamonds can only be found in places of large carbon deposits in the upper part of the earth’s mantle, millions of years after those deposits have been formed, it stands to reason that not everywhere on the surface of this earth has a large store of carbon deposits. Besides, it has to be the right type of carbon, as carbon can exist in different states naturally (e.g. in the form of graphite, a less defined or amorphous form of carbon in nature) and diamonds is only one of them. This right type of carbon is known as pure carbon and there are not many places in the world with carbon deposits that fit these criteria. Current data state that diamonds can only be found in 35 countries including South Africa, Russia and Botswana. Millions of years after diamonds have been formed, they are often brought to the surface of the earth through the action of volcanic eruptions.
THE DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Diamonds are so intriguing and so captivatingly precious both as gemstones and as the hardest naturally occurring material known to man that their very existence has inspired a number of common phrases. “The diamond in the rough” is an idiom which has been used for centuries to refer to someone who is generally good but lacks certain manners and social graces. It was first used in the early 17th century, most notably in John Fletcher’s “A Wife for A Month” in 1624. The saying became popular because many people agreed with the reference which the phrase makes to raw uncut diamond.
Uncut diamonds or diamonds in their raw forms usually look like a set of pale glasses and the rougher and paler they look, the higher the quality of diamonds which may be gotten from them. A diamond can only shine after it has gone through the strenuous cutting or polishing process, which will make it even more valuable.
TYPES OF DIAMONDS
There are different types of diamonds. Even in their raw states, diamonds may exist in different sizes and shapes. After they have been cut and polished, properties such as their color can become visible.
Diamonds exist in several colors in nature. However, this coloration is due to impurities such as nitrogen or radiation and structural defects. Hence, colorless and transparent diamonds are the purest forms of diamonds in nature. Other types of naturally occurring diamonds in nature are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, steel gray, black and brown. All of them are quite rare and valuable in their own right, but red diamonds are the rarest. Apart from their use in jewelry, diamonds can be used for metal cutting, stone carving and other industrial uses.