What IS a diamond?

- About what, indeed, is a diamond and a short history of its introduction into our culture

The word "Diamond" is derived from the Greek "adamas"-'unconquerable' (and hence the English "adamant"!) an early recognition that it is the hardest of all natural minerals. This supreme hardness is combined with exceptional luster and light dispersion, giving the diamond lasting fiery brilliance for which it is prized.

For over 2000 years, diamonds were found only as eroded crystals in river gravel. Until 1725 India was the major source of diamonds, with much smaller amounts mined in Kalimantan (Borneo). diamonds were then discovered in Brazil, which became the leading supplier as Indian production waned. South African diamonds were found first in 1867, in gravel near the Orange River.

Further exploration in the Kimberley region of South Africa revealed volcanic formations called "pipes" filled with a hitherto unknown rock type which contained diamonds. The rock, a variety of peridotite, was named "Kimberlite" after the region of its first discovery and was recognized as the diamond source rock: this discovery formed the basis of the huge modern diamond industry and placed South Africa at honorary position in the diamond world.This has also been the case due to South Africa's role as the center of the main operations, at the time, of De-Beer--the world leading diamond explorer and marketer. Many similar pipes have since been found since in other African countries (Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zaire,, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gabon, Cameron, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, and others), Venezuela, British Guyana, Brazil, Siberia, India, China and recently Canada and the U.S. . The Ekati and Diavik mines in the cold, northern part of Canada are believed to be supplying, soon, between 10% and 15% of the world's supply of roughs ("Diavik" is a Trademark of Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.). Van-Daaz already sells diamonds mined in Canada by special, on-line requests. A closely related rock type, Lamproite, is the source of Western Australian diamonds. These latter mines produce also yellowish ("Champaign") colour and pink diamonds.

With the shifts in the countries producing diamond shifts took place also in the centers that have specialized in cutting and trading in them. Those included Amsterdam, Lisbon (during the heights of Brazilian supplies), major cities in India, Bruges and then Antwerp in Belgium and finally New-York and Tel Aviv. The three leading centers today are Antwerp (where over 40% of the roughs are traded as well as much of the cut diamonds) New-York (specializing in large diamonds), Tel-Aviv (specializing in middle range diamonds) and India (specializing in small size and lower end diamonds). There are signs of development and growing of new centers in the far east in places such as Thailand and Japan.

So what is a diamond ?

It is perhaps difficult to believe that diamond, like graphite and charcoal, is a form of carbon. Diamond crystallizes in cubic form crystals, at enormous pressures and high temperatures over the course of millions of years. The process has been imitated under laboratory conditions and then applied industrially to create "artificial diamonds". These have proven to be mainly of either industrial, plain quality or very small in size. The diamond's exceptional properties arise from the crystal structure, in which the bonding between the carbon atoms is immensely strong and uniform. Much diamond occurs as well-formed crystals, most commonly as octahedral ( eight-sided) crystal.

diamonds are blessed with three extraordinary qualities:

It is fitting that the purest and most brilliant of all the world's stones should also be the most enduring one. These qualities make a diamond the perfect symbol of engagement and love.

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