Diamonds are the core of the jewelry industry — whether it’s diamond engagement rings, wedding bands, anniversary gifts, birthday presents, or any number of other occasions, diamonds have been marking the special times in a person’s life for centuries.
Yet, for all their popularity, there’s still a lot that most people don’t know about diamonds. Where do they come from? Why are they so much prettier than other stones? What do all the different cuts mean? Don’t worry — we’re here to answer all your questions.
How Are Diamonds Formed?
Most gem-quality diamonds come from hundreds of miles deep in the Earth’s crust. There, extreme heat and pressure compress the carbon in certain rocks into their crystalline form. Carbon can also take the form of graphite, which is pencils we write with, and coal. But under the highest pressures our planet has to offer, diamond is the final product. Most diamonds formed deep in the earth’s mantle more than a billion years ago.
Once the crystals are formed, they still have to get to the surface. That can happen slowly over time as tectonic plates shift, or they can be suddenly transported to the surface in volcanic eruptions.
It’s a common misconception that diamonds are made from coal. They could be made from coal — all the right materials are there — but in fact, coal and diamond form in completely separate processes in the Earth and aren’t near each other.
When Did People Start Finding Diamonds?
Almost 2500 years ago, the first diamonds were unearthed in what’s now India. They were immediately recognized for their incredible properties and became a highly sought-after item on the Silk Road, an ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.
The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word adámas, meaning “unalterable” or “unbreakable.” At the time, rudimentary tools were unable to cut or shape the exceptionally hard mineral structure, so they were considered a gift from the gods that brought good luck to anyone who possessed them.
What is RJC Certification?
The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) is an organization dedicated to certification and standard-setting for the jewelry industry. If you want to learn more about the RJC standards, you can read more about them here. But what do the RJC’s standards actually mean?
One of the RJC’s primary concerns is business ethics. Businesses who join the RJC are required to comply with the organization’s Code of Practices, which ban money laundering, bribery, facilitation payments, and the use and sale of conflict diamonds.
When human rights are concerned, the RJC sets strict standards modeled on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and applicable local laws.
RJC members are required to have systems in place to prevent child labor, forced labor, and discrimination in the workplace. They’re also required to set appropriate safety standards for all their employees.
Finally, the RJC dictates that its members take measures to reduce the harmful environmental impact of jewelry production. The jewelry supply chain involves many hazardous materials and the production of potentially harmful waste, so it’s important that RJC members take precautions to handle these materials responsibly.
What Gives Diamonds Their Sparkle?
When light passes from one clear substance to another — like from air to water — it bends. You’ve probably noticed this before when you sit at the edge of the pool and notice that your legs look funny in the water.
The amount of bending that light experiences is due to something called “refractive index” — the higher the refractive index, the more the light bends. Diamond has an exceptionally high refractive index of 2.4, whereas something like glass has a refractive index of only 1.5. That means that the various colors of light that enter the gemstone are scattered in every direction, leading to its brilliant, colorful sparkle.
What Is Diamond Cut?
Diamonds are the most popular gemstone for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important is their signature sparkle. Diamonds come in a lot of shapes — round, heart, oval, marquise, and pear are some of the most commonly used — but a diamond’s cut grade is determined by the way light interacts with the facets of the stone.
The Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gemological research and education, grades the cut of a diamond by three standards:
- Brightness: the brightness of a stone is determined by the amount of white light scattered by the internal faces of a diamond.
- Fire: white light is made of all the colors of light mixed together, but different colors of light refract differently when they cross the boundary between air and diamond. As a result, the cut of the diamond will scatter rainbows of color in every direction, adding to its brilliance and shine.
- Scintillation: scintillation refers to the ability of the stone to sparkle as it moves under the light, as well as the light and dark areas when the stone is viewed. To earn an “excellent” grade, a diamond must have evenly distributed areas of light and dark.
A Truly Timeless Stone
Diamond is one of the most durable substances in the universe — in fact, it’s estimated that three percent of meteorites are made from tiny nano-diamonds formed long before the Solar System even existed.
Whichever diamond you choose for your loved one, remember that it’s not the size, shape, color, or origin of the stone that matters. It’s not how much you spent or how that stone is graded.
The important thing to remember is that a diamond lasts forever. Its significance is what you make of it. It’s a symbol of the love you have for one another, and that will never fade.