Diamonds are one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world. The fascinating beauty and endless sparkle of this gemstone have captivated mankind since ancient times. Known to be the hardest naturally occurring substance found on the earth, the diamond is the only gem that is made of a single element, which is carbon. This stunning gemstone is formed under high temperature and pressure conditions within the earth’s crust. Its unique chemical composition, structure and formation process make it a truly extraordinary gemstone.
Diamonds are believed to have been first mined around 4000 years ago in India along the banks of river Krishna, Penner and Godavari. According to historians, India began trading diamonds as early as the 4th century BC. In the 1700s, Brazil emerged as the important source for diamonds. The first great South African diamond deposit was discovered in the late 1800s. Today, diamonds are mined in different parts of the world. Some of the important sources are Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Russia and Canada.
The word diamond is derived from the Greek word ‘adamas,’ which means indestructible or invincible. Rated 10 on the Moh’s scale, diamonds are known for their remarkable hardness. The only substance that can scratch a diamond is a diamond. Apart from white, diamonds come in several other colors. While blue, green, orange and red are the rarest, yellow and brown are the most common ones.
The diamond is often associated with qualities of fearlessness, abundance, perfection and illumination. Its unconquerable hardness is the reason why it’s known as the ‘Stone of Invincibility’. Diamonds are also believed to bring victory and strength to its wearer. They are regarded to be the birthstone for those born in the month of April. It is also the gem that is associated with the 60th and 75th wedding anniversaries. A symbol of purity, love and eternity, this gem is a popular choice as the center stone for engagement and wedding rings.
Legend has it that the God of Mines created diamonds by crushing rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other gemstones of varying hardness and combining them together. Native Americans associated diamonds with the butterfly, a symbol of transformation and immortality. In the ancient times, diamonds were said to amplify one’s energy – both positive and negative.
Jewish high priests believed that a diamond would dull and darken when held before a guilty person, but would glow brilliantly before an innocent person. Ancient Romans and Greeks regarded diamonds to be the tears of the gods or splinters that had broken off falling stars. Cupid’s arrows were also considered to be tipped with diamonds. Plato even referred to diamonds as living beings that embodied celestial spirits.
It was in the year 1477 that Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave the very first diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy upon their betrothal. This sparked a trend among the European nobility and aristocracy. Initially, diamond engagement rings were quite expensive and were limited to the noble families. With the discovery of the diamond mines in South Africa, the availability and affordability of this beautiful gem increased.
Quality & Grading
Every diamond is unique. There are several factors that affect the quality and price of a diamond. They include color, cut, clarity and carat.
Diamonds come in a variety of colors. The normal color category includes diamonds that range from colorless to light yellow and brown. Of these, colorless diamonds are the most valuable and rare ones. There are also less expensive ‘fancy’ diamonds that come in red, pink, yellow, purple, blue and green. The brown and yellow diamonds are often referred to as 'champagne' or 'cognac' diamonds.
Even a slight difference in color can dramatically alter the value of a diamond. The official color grading system for diamonds ranges from 'D' to 'Z'. Z-K graded diamonds have noticeable color and aren’t very valuable. J-I are almost colorless, with a slightly detectable warm tone. H and G are also near-colorless. It is difficult to detect the color of these diamonds unless they are compared to a colorless stone. F and E are colorless to the human eye but minute traces of color can be detected by an expert gemologist. D graded diamonds are absolutely colorless, extremely rare and valuable.
The cut of a diamond determines its overall beauty, fire and brilliance. In other words, the better the cut, the more the sparkle. An ideal cut reflects nearly all the light that enters the diamond. The cut is the most important quality factor in a diamond, as a well-cut diamond will appear larger and have enhanced color and clarity in comparison to a poorly cut one. The three optical effects that determine a diamond’s appeal are brilliance, fire and scintillation. Brilliance refers to the white light reflections, while fire is the rainbow of colors that is reflected from the diamond. The play of light that is seen when the diamond is moved is called scintillation.
Inclusions reduce the clarity and value of a diamond. The most valuable diamonds are free of flaws and inclusions. Roughly, only 20% of all diamond deposits are of any gemstone value, the rest are too opaque or flawed. The clarity of diamonds is determined on the basis of the size and visibility of flaws and inclusions.
Grades based on clarity range from 'FL' (Flawless) to 'I3' (large inclusions visible to the naked eye). Flawless (FL) diamonds have no internal or external imperfections and Internally Flawless (IF) ones are devoid of any internal imperfections. Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2) diamonds have imperfections that are very difficult to view under a 10x magnification. Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2) diamonds have imperfections that are not typically visible to the unaided eye. Slightly Included (SI1, SI2) ones have imperfections that are visible under 10x magnification and might even be visible with unaided eye. Included (I1, I2, I3) graded diamonds will have minor inclusions that will be visible to the naked eye.
Carat is the unit weight measurement used to weigh diamonds and gems. It only measures the diamond's weight and not its size. Small diamonds cost less per carat, when compared to larger stones of the same quality, as small stones are very common and large stones are considerably rare. Two diamonds of the same carat weight can have different costs based on other factors such as color, cut and clarity.
The shape of a diamond refers to its physical form. While round is the most popular shape in diamonds, there are also several other fancy diamond shapes such as princess, cushion, emerald, asscher, radiant, oval, pear, marquise and heart. Each shape has its own unique charm and appeal. While some shapes optimize light return, others accentuate the clarity of the diamond.
Round brilliant cut is the most popular diamond shape till date. For almost 100 years, diamond cutters have worked towards maximizing the fire and brilliance of a round diamond. When it comes to engagement and wedding rings, round brilliant diamonds are preferred the most.
Princess cut is the second most sought-after diamond shape. Princess cut diamonds have the same scintillating sparkle of round brilliant diamonds. Its distinctive square shape offers an alluring contemporary look.
The cushion shape has been in demand for more than a century. Cushion cut diamonds are similar to square shape diamonds, the only difference being the soft, rounded edges. The timeless cushion shape looks equally good on any setting style.
Emerald cut diamonds are coveted for their unique yet elegant profile. Featuring beveled corners and step facets, emerald cut diamonds offer optimum clarity as well as enhanced color and luster.
The asscher cut was introduced in 1902 by renowned diamond cutter Joseph Asscher. It is quite similar to the emerald cut, except that it features a square shape with cut corners.
Radiant cut is a remarkable combination of the elegant emerald cut and the brilliant round cut. Introduced around 20 years ago, this cut is considerably new in the jewelry industry.
Oval diamonds exhibit the same level of fire and brilliance as that of a round diamond. The elongated shape helps in creating an illusion of a larger diamond.
A pear diamond is cut to resemble a drop of water. It features a rounded edge on one side and a tapering point on the other. The pear shape is a combination of round and marquise cut.
A marquise diamond features graceful elongated points that look strikingly beautiful. It looks stunning when set with round or pear shape side stones.
The ultimate symbol of love and affection, heart shape diamonds are an excellent choice for engagement or anniversary jewelry. It is also one of the most difficult diamond shapes to create.
Identifying Real Diamonds
The uniqueness of a diamond makes it easily admirable. It is one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. The incredible demand for this sparkling beauty has led to an increase in fake diamonds. Here’s how you can find out whether a diamond is real.
Hold the stone in the light and observe how it sparkles. A real diamond will sparkle gray and white inside, whereas fakes will have rainbow colors visible inside the stone.
Put the stone in front of your mouth and breathe on it. If the stone remains fogged for two seconds or more, it could be a fake one.
When viewed through a magnifying glass, real diamonds will have a few imperfections but lab-grown and fake stones will appear absolutely perfect. Also, real diamonds will have sharp edges as opposed to rounded edges.
Rub sandpaper against the stone. A real diamond will remain perfect, while a fake one will end up scratching.
Keep your loose diamond on a piece of paper. If you can see the text magnified through the diamond, then it isn’t a real one.
Shine a penlight through the stone. Real diamonds will produce a halo, whereas a fake one will pass the light through it to the other side.
Exposing your stone to heat will also tell you whether it’s real. Glass will shatter, while a real diamond will be left unharmed.
There are several other gems that closely resemble a natural diamond. They include white topaz, white sapphire, cubic zirconium and moissanite. Lab-grown diamonds are chemically, optically and physically identical to real diamonds. They are grown in laboratory environments using advanced technological processes and are almost flawless.
Though the diamond is the hardest natural substance on the earth, when set on a ring, bracelet or pendant it is vulnerable to cracking. Everyday wear and accumulation of dirt will also reduce its luster and brilliance. Proper care can help ensure that your diamond keeps sparkling for several years to come.
Store your diamond jewelry in a fabric-lined jewel box either individually or wrapped in a muslin cloth or within jewelry pouches.
Body lotions, cosmetics and perfumes contain chemicals that can harm your diamonds. Use them before putting on your precious diamond jewelry.
Remove your diamond jewelry before entering the pool and before taking a shower so as to maintain the stone’s brilliance.
Clean your diamonds using mild dish soap and lukewarm water. Use a soft brush if required. Rinse with water and dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
Check your diamond jewelry on a regular basis to ensure that the settings are secure.
Have your diamond jewelry examined at least once a year by a professional. Your jeweler can clean your jewelry and also fix loose settings.