Gem of the month: February’s diamond and its properties
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they’re also the official gemstone of February. They’re probably the most well-known gemstone there is, too, and with a huge market to boot. While you may think you know all there is to know about diamonds, the chances are good that you can still learn a thing or two about this extraordinary gemstone.
Diamonds have played a role in human history since antiquity. The word ‘diamond’ is actually derived from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘unbreakable’ because of their durability. The first diamonds are thought to have been mined near rivers in India some 3,000 to 6,000 years ago.
The stones were recognized for their beautiful and industrial qualities and were used to adorn religious icons and for engraving tools. While diamonds were a mainstay of the world’s crown jewels and other significant pieces, public interest in the stone for everyday jewellery waned until the market was revived in the 19th century by the De Beers corporation.
Since then, diamonds have enjoyed a robust market that shows no signs of declining.
When it comes to diamond properties, there are two main characteristics to be noted: their hardness and the way they disperse light in spectral colours. Diamonds, which are composed of carbon atoms, are the hardest natural material on earth. This hardness is one of the reasons why diamonds have become such a popular gemstone choice for jewellery – they’re virtually impossible to scratch, damage or break, which makes them suitable for everyday wear.
Diamond light dispersion is another well-known property. Pure diamonds can transmit light, giving them the appearance of a colourless crystal. When impurities are introduced to a diamond, however, this can change. The introduction of nitrogen will produce a yellow diamond, while boron is responsible for blue diamonds.
The four Cs
We can’t talk about diamond colour without mentioning the four Cs, developed by gemologists with the purpose of having a standard grading scale for the gem. The Cs stand for colour, carat, clarity and cut.
Each represents an important aspect in determining a diamond’s inherent value. In terms of colour, the highest ratings go to stones that are colourless, without any traces of colour-causing impurities.
Carat refers to the weight of the cut diamond, with one carat equalling 200 milligrams. Clarity is determined by the presence of impurities or structural defects, such as cracks that can cloud the stone. Lastly, the cut of the gem is also evaluated and represents one of the most critical aspects of diamond grading.
The cutting process
As one of the most important features of a diamond, the cutting process deserves attention as well. Diamonds are cut by highly trained professionals who understand both the art and science of the profession, and can expertly craft a rough stone into gem proportions through careful cuts and polishing.
Cuts are made to bring out the stone’s best qualities and reflect the most light. In the cases of large or rare stones, master cutters may spends months or years using mathematical calculations to determine the best cuts.
Often referred to as the cut, the shape of the diamond is another important feature. There are several commonly used shapes for these gemstones, including round brilliant, princess, baguette, marquise, and others. When many people are diamond shopping, the shape is one of the key considerations in the purchase of a particular stone.