Nature amazes us in so many ways. One of its most phenomenal surprises comes in the form of a glistening gem called diamond. One reason diamonds are considered prestigious is the strenuous process they undergo to reach their best form. It is rightly said, ‘diamond is just a little piece of coal that handles pressure exceptionally well’.
Do you know what diamonds and the conical point of a pencil share in common? They're both forms of carbon, just with different atomic structures. The point of the pencil is graphite, which is nothing but carbon atoms arranged in layers. In contrast, diamonds have carbon atoms arranged in a tetrahedral lattice, resulting in its hardness and sparkle. However, the diamond doesn't exist in the glorious form we associate it with, right from the beginning. The transition of an uncut diamond to a fully polished shining jewel is quite a journey.
The origin story:
Diamonds are essentially the result of nature's pressure and time. They are formed deep within the Earth's mantle. Diamond crystallisation occurs at very high temperatures between 900° C to 1,300°C (2,200 F° – 2,700 F°) and a vigorous pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch.
Gem-quality diamonds are almost pure carbon - typically 99.95% and can even reach a purity level of 99.99%. This means that diamonds, in terms of elemental composition, are one of the purest of all gems found on our planet. What's even more fascinating is the age of diamonds. Even though Earth is estimated to be around 4.543 billion years old, the oldest diamonds crystallised about 3.5 billion years ago. These magnificent stones have literally witnessed ages pass!
Mining of a diamond:
Being the hardest solid substance buried in the deepest depths, the first and most arduous step is the extraction. Mining for diamonds is a rigorous and lengthy process. Miners work arduously, often digging for over 10 hours every day during fortnight-long expeditions!
Until the 18th century, India was the only known source of natural diamonds in the world. The Golconda mines of Karnataka have birthed some of the most valuable diamonds known to man, including the iconic Koh-i-Noor. But, as time passed, diamond mines were discovered in countries like Australia, Congo, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Russia. But, here’s the catch- diamond mines produce rough and dull-looking crystalline stones that hardly resemble the sparkling gems we associate with luxury and beauty. Diamond goes through a significant transformation in the next step.
Cutting to Perfection:
After the extraction process, diamonds are subjected to cutting and polishing. This is quite like sculpting a masterpiece from a block of marble. Skilled craftsmen assess each rough diamond to determine the best way to cut it to maximise its brilliance and value. Advanced tools and technology aid this process, but at the core, it is an art form. An art form that requires a keen eye and a steady hand. It is also important to know that the cut of a diamond doesn’t refer to its shape. It is all about its facets, symmetry, and reflective quality. And why are these cuts so important? Immaculately executed cuts bring out the diamond's inner brilliance and fire like no other.
Setting in Jewellery:
After the cutting process, diamonds are ready to be set into jewellery. Think of it as framing a beautiful and valuable painting. As you know, diamonds can be mounted on rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and so much more. Jewellers carefully select settings that complement and enhance the diamond's beauty. The quality of the metal and design used for the setting, is at par with the finesse of the diamond itself. After this step, a diamond becomes what it truly is, a piece of art ready to be worn and admired.
Beyond the beauty, luxury, and opulence, diamonds tell a bigger story. A shine like that is not an overnight miracle, it takes years of intense pressure and heat. So, next time you admire the surficial beauty of a diamond jewel, remind yourself of the extreme endurance that made it what it is. Perhaps, during your own moments of hardships, remember that they too can lead to something extraordinary!