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All About Diamonds: The Origins of a Girl’s Best Friend

by Kate Sauble

Good things do come to those who wait, especially if you’re a diamond merchant, a woman who likes to have a few “best friends” in her jewelry box, or a miner looking to strike it rich.

If you think the line at the jewelry store is long during Christmas shopping season or close to Valentine’s Day, it’s nothing compared to the process that creates that sparkling, multi-faceted stone that raised prices and heartbeats.

How diamonds are formed

The evolution of a typical diamond is literally thousands, if not millions of years long. Extreme heat and pressure hundreds of miles under the earth’s surface over prolonged periods transformed hunks of pure carbon into diamond crystals.

Volcanic activity, which results in molten lava rushing like white water in rivers, brings these diamonds to or near the surface via pipes or conduits in the earth’s crust. As they rise to the surface, they cool. They were first found and mined in India well over two dozen centuries ago, but as time went on, they were also discovered in various African countries, Canada, Russia, and Australia. Currently, about two dozen countries on five continents account for most natural diamonds on Earth.

What is a diamond?

The hardest known natural substances on Earth are also the only gemstones made of just one element (carbon). While most are colorless after creation, some can take on various colors from a variety of other minerals and materials that they come into contact with during their long, gradual trip up to the Earth’s surface. Those colors can be yellow (sulfur and manganese), brown, blue, red, green, orange and pink.

Diamonds are generally indestructible and are the only natural substances that can scratch or cut other diamonds.

Man-made diamonds

Not all diamonds form deep inside the surface of the Earth. Some come from either man-made scientific laboratories or from outer space in meteorites and asteroids. Man-made diamonds have been around for about six decades, and are more prevalent than natural ones, but are also mostly used for industrial purposes.

Approximately 80 percent of the natural diamonds mined each year go toward industrial purposes, and four times as many diamonds are synthetically created to go into industrial use. Approximately 25 million carats of natural diamonds go toward jewelry each year, another 80 million carats of natural diamonds go toward industrial use, and an additional 570 million carats of lab-manufactured synthetic diamonds are created for industrial purposes.

That doesn’t mean diamonds are any less valued these days. In fact, the average price of diamonds has increased about 44 percent over the last six years.

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