What are Diamonds?

 
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What are Diamonds?

Diamonds are a particular form of the chemical element Carbon - one of several forms, known as "allotropes" Other allotropes of carbon include graphite (used in pencil "leads"). Diamond is in fact a less stable form of Carbon than graphite, but under nornaml conditions, the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is so slow as to be negligible.

In terms of chemical bonding, diamond is known as giant covalent. Each carbon atom is bonded (by a shared pair of electrons) to 4 surrounding carbon atoms, with the surrounding atoms arranged in a tetrahedral arrangement (bond angle 109.5°), which corresponds to a face-centered cubic crystalline structure. A perfectly formed crystal of diamond, is thus a giant molecule consisting of many millions of Carbon atoms bonded together.

Molecular structure of diamond:
Molecular structure of diamond

Because of its strong covalent bonds, and the large amount of energy required to break these bonds, diamond is know for its extreme hardness. Additionally, its structure also gives it the highest thermal conductivity of any bulk material.

A pure diamond will be clear, however diamond's structure can often be penetrated by impurities such as atoms of Nitrogen or Boron. These impurities, as well as defects that may arise in the structure, give some diamonds distinctive colors, including:
  • Blue (because of Boron impurities)

  • Yellow (because of Nitrogen impurities)

  • Brown (because of lattice defects),

  • Green (because of radiation exposure),

  • Purple

  • Pink

  • Orange

  • Red
Diamonds can be formed naturally, or nowadays, by artificial means:
  • Natural diamonds are generally formed as a result of extreme pressures and temperatures in the Earth's mantle, typically at depths of 87 to 118 miles (149 to 190 kilometers) - they become accessible, because they are brought closer to the surface by volcanic eruptions.

    Rough natural diamond:
    Rough natural diamond


  • There are two main processes by which synthetic (artificial) diamonds can be created - a HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) method which simulates conditions in the Earth's mantle, and a CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) method in which a gas of carbon is deposited on a substrate, potentially allowing us to grow very large diamonds for industrial purposes.

    Synthetic diamonds produced by the HPHT process:
    Synthetic diamonds produced by the HPHT process

Whether natural or artificial, diamonds have two main uses:
  1. As a gem stone

  2. Industrial applications - which usually have arisen to take advantage of diamond's extreme hardness and thermal conductivity. Some industrial uses including using diamond as grinding grit, diamond cutters, diamond drills, using diamond for making high performance bearings, and diamond containers for conducting extremely high pressure scientific experiments (a "diamond anvil cell").

    Scalpel with synthetic diamond blade:
    Scalpel with synthetic diamond blade

While it is true that industrial uses of diamond far exceed the substance's usage as a gem stone, it is also true that diamond is nevertheless extremely valued as a gem stone. That said, natural diamonds are generally preferred to artificial ones, as a gem and in jewelry-making. As a result, gemologists have developed techniques to distinguish natural and artifical diamonds, as well as to recognize some other used gemstones which can resemble diamond (known as "diamond simulants"), including Cubic Zirconia. and Silicon Carbide.

Silicon Carbide engagement ring:
Silicon Carbide engagement ring







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      Guide 2 Diamonds



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   Brown Diamonds
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   Diamond Shapes
   Diamond Weights
   Famous Diamonds
   Flaws
   Four C's
   Inclusions
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   Simulant Diamonds
   Synthetic Diamonds
   What are Diamonds?



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