Real Diamonds vs Man-Made diamonds - Part 1

'Diamonds are Forever', 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend', 'nothing says I love you more than a Diamond'. There are so many expressions and sayings about Diamonds, all portraying the diamond as the ultimate expression of love and affection. But it is true?

Do we have to have real diamonds to feel good or to show someone how much we feel for them? Or will a man-made diamond be just as good? What is the real difference between real and man-made? Who can even tell the difference? Can the high prices for real diamonds be justified in today's financial market, while many are struggling? Or can an imitation emote the same level of expression, love and commitment at a fraction of the cost?

The History of Diamonds

Diamonds were first recorded three thousand years ago in India. They were originally used for decoration due to their ability to refract light and also as talismans to ward off evil and to provide protection in battle. During the Dark Ages, diamonds were used for healing; people believed that holding a diamond in your hand while making a sign of the cross would heal wounds and cure illness.

Even the Pope of this era was recorded to have used this treatment to heal his illness, unfortunately he was unsuccessful! It was during the Middle Ages that the value of diamonds came to people's attention. Diamonds were becoming popular due to their value and demand rather than the mystical powers surrounding them. Some mine owners, to prevent workers trying to smuggle the diamonds out of the mines by swallowing them, perpetuated myths that diamonds were in fact poisonous. The popularity of diamonds increased during this time as large stones were discovered in India, such as the Koh-I-Noor and the Blue Hope Diamond. 

The Indian diamond supply began to dwindle and other mines were found in Borneo and Brazil, however these mines were small and did not meet the ever increasing demand. The world's biggest diamond rush occurred in South Africa in the mid Nineteenth Century. At the same time diamonds were also discovered in eastern Australia but it was not until the late 1970's that Australia's potential as a diamond producer was realized. On the second of October 1979 geologists found the richest diamond deposit in the world near Lake Argyle. Argyle is now responsible for producing over a third of the world's diamonds each year and has become the world's largest provider of diamonds.



What is a Diamond?

Diamonds are made from carbon which is the earth's most common element. A diamond may be the oldest material you ever own as most diamonds are over three billion years old! Their formation began early in the earth's history, when due to the centre of the earth becoming subject to extreme and incredible levels of pressure and temperature, deposits of carbon deep in the earth began to crystallize. As the earth's surface cooled, streams of magna from volcanic activity forced themselves to the surface, carrying along the diamond crystals. The rocks containing the diamonds would cool and harden, encasing the diamonds in vertical volcanic 'pipes'.

As the earth's surface cooled, volcanic activity forced streams of magna (liquid rock) to the surface, carrying with it the diamond crystals. Later, the diamond bearing rock hardened, encasing the diamonds in vertical volcanic 'pipes'. Erosion of the soil and rocks over millions of years have washed diamonds into rivers, streams and even the sea, resulting in some diamonds being found many miles away from where they were originally formed.

The 'Hard' Truth about a Diamond

The word 'Diamond' comes from the Greek word 'Adamas' which means 'hardest steel' or 'hardest substance'. The structure of a diamond gives it the property of being the hardest substance known to man, natural or synthetic. Diamonds are thousands of times harder than the next hardest substance which is corundum, from which rubies and sapphires are formed. In 1812 Friedrich Mohs, a German mineralogist created a scale called the Mohs Scaled by which to measure the hardness of minerals. The scale is from zero to ten, and a diamond is rated a ten, which is the hardest mineral, where as for example, corundum (Ruby or Sapphire etc) is rated a nine and a Topaz is rated an eight. A diamond is not however unbreakable, a sufficiently forceful blow in the right place can crack, chip, split or even shatter a diamond!

Next - The Four C's of Diamonds >