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Table of Contents

Global Markets for Diamonds

930

Carbon is the basic element of all life forms on Earth. Inside the diamond is its purest and most concentrated form. Hence, diamonds are special (Precious Website, 2010). It is the one and only mineral in the whole world that is very hard and transparent.

Part 1: An Introduction to Diamonds

1.1 Why are Diamonds Special?

Carbon is the basic element of all life forms on Earth. Inside the diamond is its purest and most concentrated form. Hence, diamonds are special (Precious Website, 2010). It is the one and only mineral in the whole world that is very hard and transparent. The formation of diamonds can only transpire in two places - in the lithospheric mantle (under relatively stable continental plates) and at the site of a meteorite strike.

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To add, diamonds also need very concise temperatures and pressures. Hence, these make it so precious. On the average, a diamond is about at least a hundred million years old. This is precious as it constitutes a span of such a long time for the mineral carbon to be transformed into such precious gems under the earth. Diamond formation is estimated to begin about three billion years ago, during which several volcanic eruptions spit them out of the earth's surface and made them usable for various industrial and ornate purposes (Collen, 2007).

In the Western world, diamonds are considered extraordinary because they have a distinct beauty and special uses. Their extraordinary value is also cultural. Historically, only the nobility held the privilege of wearing diamonds, as diamonds were considered "divine stones." (Why is Diamond Jewelry So Special, 2011) The diamond jewelries are very famous and they ultimately symbolize class and prestige. As such, the demand for diamonds is always high. Even during recession, the most exuberant diamond pieces are constantly being sold.

Diamonds are also very expensive, and thus, their value enhances their importance. Similarly, there are also specific uses for this precious stone. (Loose Diamonds Website, 2012) Being the hardest materials on earth, diamonds are very useful for many industrial applications. (Collen, 2007) About 80% of the mined diamonds is used for industrial purposes. (Loose Diamonds Website, 2012) Industrial-grade diamonds are valued for their heat conduction and strength. Also, even a small cut diamond can be used for various industrial purposes.

Mass volume of synthetic diamonds are also produced for industrial purposes. Actually, about 600 metric tons of synthetic diamonds are produced annually to serve its practical uses. For instance, diamonds are used for cutting. They are embedded in saw blades and other cutting tools because of their strength. They are also used for drilling, grinding and polishing. Diamonds are often used for grinding optical lenses. They are also used as special containers for high pressure laboratory experiments and for the formation of high-performance bearings. Diamonds are also used as specialized windows. The word "diamond" comes from the Greek word "adamas," which means "unconquerable." (O'Donoghue & Joyner, 2003). This is a best description for the hardest stone and mineral on earth.

1.2 The Formation of Diamonds

Diamonds are composed of crystallized carbon, which are formed under extreme heat and pressure. According to Harlow (1998), most natural diamonds are formed at the earth's mantle at very high temperature and pressure below 140 to 190 kilometers. Its carbon comes from the carbon containing minerals. Diamonds grow over periods of years, from 1 to 3.3 billion years, which is about one fourth to two thirds of the age of the earth. Through deep volcanic eruptions, these stones are brought close to the Earth surface in the form of a magma that cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites. These igneous rocks are eroded by rain, snow and ice, and wind throughout the years. They then release diamonds and minerals, which indicates the presence of diamonds.

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Glaciers sometimes transport and disperse the diamonds thousands of distance away. Some diamonds can also be found as alluvial deposits. (Natural Resources Canada Website, 2011) In order to find diamond-bearing rocks, geologists integrate their geophysical analysis and regional ice studies with the laboratory results of the indicator minerals. Artificially, diamonds can also be produced in an elevated pressure and temperature process that simulates the underground setting of the earth. (Spear & Dismukes, 1994)

Another synthetic process of making diamonds in a fully different growth technique is called the chemical vapor deposition (CVD). It consists of various non-diamond materials such as cubic zirconia and silicon carbide. These materials are called diamond simulants. They have semblances of the real diamonds.

1.3 Characteristics of Diamonds

Diamonds have many uses due to their special characteristics. They have exceptional physical characteristics. For one, they are very hard. Diamonds have a high refractive index. Its other inherent characteristics include its clarity, cut, color and carat (or what is popularly known as the 4Cs.) The major characteristics of diamonds can be summed as follow:

      • Hardness - it is the hardest mineral on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness (Score of 10 from a scale of 1 - 10). This property refers to a mineral's resistance to scratch. While it can be scratched by other materials, the hardest diamond can only be scratched by another diamond or nanocrystalline diamond aggregates. As such, diamonds are most suited for daily wear and for industrialized uses.
      • High Refractive Index - a pure diamond's refractive index is 2.40 - 2.48. This score is also the highest in transparent minerals. A higher refractive index means greater reflectivity. Being refractive means that that a diamond can reflect most of the light that penetrates it.
      • Density - natural diamonds have a density ranging from 3.15-3.53 g/cm3, with a solid diamond about 3.52 g/cm3 in density. (Wang, 2011)
      • Cut - this property influences how a diamond shines. Cut refers to the reflective qualities of a diamond that establishes its ability to handle light, which is also related to a diamond's shine or brilliance. (About Buying Diamonds, 2007) A well cut diamond enables light to penetrate it at the top to where it reflects light to any side. A poorly cut diamond will let light escape from below. A good cut reflects into the stone and the eyes of its observer. This light or brilliance is a fascinating characteristic of a diamond.
      • Color - this property refers to the grade of white diamonds, which starts from a grade of being colorless to a faint yellow color. Actually, the color refers to the chemical impurities contained in the diamond's composition. The whiter or colorless it is, the more brilliance it has. This is because it will allow the light to penetrate it and be reflected back. The diamonds graded as D to F are said to be the rarest and most expensive ones.
      • Clarity - this characteristic refers to the amount of the stone's blemishes (or external flaws) or inclusions (or internal flaws). The internal flaws consist of bubbles, cracks, and non-diamond minerals inside the diamond. Diamond grading according to clarity is based at the letter F. This means that the diamond is entirely flawless (inside and out). This is a rare diamond.
      • Carat - is a measure for the weight of a diamond. One carat equals to 200 milligrams or 100 points. It determines the price of a diamond since a large diamond is hard to find. The change in a diamond's diameter affects its weight and this is shown by the chart below.

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The prices of diamonds depend on its types. Natural diamonds are classified into two broad types: Type I, which consists of nitrogen molecules, and Type II, which contains other impurities except nitrogen. These impurities are microscopic and cannot be determined by the normal viewing of the stones. Type I makes up about 98% of all diamonds. These are colored white, yellow or brown. Type II makes up the rare diamonds. They are what is called pure diamonds. They come in various colors like blue, brown, shades of yellow, pink, and violet. White diamonds are the most common type. These are produced by different mines worldwide. They also come in all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, colored diamonds are also as valuable. However, the greater its intensity of color, the more valuable it is.

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