If ever the description “turning an ugly duckling into a swan” were apt, the diamond could well be described this way. We all know how beautiful they are when they are found in jewelry, but not everyone knows that they were once chunks of ugly dark carbon, which were nestled deep within the earth, or even in volcanoes lava. Eventually, these lovely gemstones find their way to the surface, where they are mined and then transformed into beautiful jewelry items.
Diamonds are the traditional birthstone for April, and have a history that dates back many thousands of years. Our knowledge them in history seems to be fairly substantial, but many diamonds were formed billions of years ago in nature. Diamonds are formed very deeply below the surface of the earth – often over 100 miles deep, and at temperatures and pressures which are difficult to measure, let alone imagine. Diamonds are found in South Africa, Russia, and even in Arkansas in the USA.
Through the passage of times, and various forms of weathering, the material which bears the diamonds, called lampriote or kimberlite, gets eroded and carried away. They later become what geologists refer to as secondary deposits. These secondary deposits were the first diamonds worked by ancient cultures. They had the advantage of having wonderful clarity. As more time passes, much of the heavily surrounding material breaks apart and leaves a cleaner more durable piece of gemstone. Marine deposits have some of the finest quality diamonds because of the millions of years of wave action, which destroys the less durable stones.
India is thought to have been the first large source of diamond mining. The ancient Hindus called the diamond “Vajra” which means “lightning,” most likely because it sparkles like light and has incredible strength much as the lightning bolt. A finished diamond is roughly one half the size of the original gemstone in nature. Therefore, if the original stone is 1 carat, the finished diamond, when polished will be 1/2 carat.
Diamonds vary in color from colorless to yellow for the traditional “white diamond” look. Ideally the white diamonds should be colorless with no yellowing at all. But the colors don’t stop there. Fancy colored diamonds exist in all shades, hues and colors of the rainbow. Some of the most popular ones are orange, green, red, blue, pink and brown, and of course the famous “black diamond.” The most expensive colored diamonds are black, blue, green and red.
Natural colored diamonds get their coloring in a variety of different ways. The color can be caused by trace elements in the actual diamond itself, for instance nitrogen will produce a yellow diamond. The color can also result when radiation is present at the time of the diamond was manufactured. Many of the green diamonds are the result of this natural radiation. Finally, inclusions, which, though undesirable in a colorless stone, can add unique stones and splashes of color to a fancy colored diamond. This should not be confused with lab created “diamonds” which have been treated not only for the color, but for the making of the actual stone.
Everyone has heard the story of using a diamond to cut glass. A diamond is the hardest substance in nature – four times harder than the next closest rival. They are very durable gemstones, and this accounts for some of their popularity in engagement rings. But be warned, diamonds can break. If they are hit in just the right way, with a sharp enough blow, the diamond can break. It has a grain, much like wood, and can splinter in the way wood will. A gemologist can repair a broken or chipped diamond, often with little weight lost from the original stone.
With the flood of online shops selling lab created diamonds, a question often asked is “how do I tell a real diamond from a fake one?” There is no easy answer to this question. Identifying a real diamond from a true synthetic one can be very difficult. It takes a trained eye to really tell the difference. The substitutes will have certain characteristics that diamonds do not have, so it is best to consult a gemologist if there is a question of the authenticity of the diamond. If it is very inexpensive and the price is “too good to be price, it probably is lab created.
Although diamonds seem to be resistant to heat, large stones and those with major inclusions can sometimes be damaged by jewelers who linger too long with a torch during prong work. It’s often safest to remove them before working on a setting. Keep your diamonds clean! Diamond rings, especially, are prone to collect dust and dirt behind the stone, since they are normally worn daily. You can easily clean them by simply soaking them in water with a touch of gentle soap. Use a soft bristled toothbrush to scrub the stone. Ultrasonic cleaners are fine for diamonds too, because of their hardness and durability.
As with all precious stones, it is best to remove diamond jewelry before starting such activities as strenuous sports, heavy housework or yard work where the diamonds are prone to impacts. Also avoid harsh chemicals near them. Check often for loose settings, and be careful when storing them that they do not brush or jar against other jewelry. When not worn, store them in soft jewelry pouches especially designed for this purpose or in acidic free line jewelry cases. With a bit of common sense and care, your diamond jewelry will last for your lifetime and will be treasures to pass down to your children.
The first photo is courtesy of ebay seller BangkokGemMart
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