A History of Diamonds
Diamond mining began in India, which has an historic reputation for some of the world’s largest, most famous colored diamonds. India was the world’s only producer of diamonds for more than 2,000 years. The country’s diamond supply was tapped out in the mid 1700s.
Fortunately for diamond aficionados, diamond deposits were discovered in several other countries–Brazil in the early 18th century, South Africa in the mid 1800s and Australia in 1979. Additionally, diamond sources were also identified in other areas of Africa and in the then-Soviet Union. Although Russia, South Africa and Australia are currently the world’s leading producers, diamond sources have also recently been identified in Canada.
The Appeal of Diamonds
All this begs the obvious question. Most everyone knows that diamonds are perceived as valuable and desirable, but what specifically about them makes them so attractive?
Diamonds’ earliest appeal was their clarity, hardness and their capacity to refract light. Their sturdiness also made them useful in metal engraving.
But their appeal wasn’t exclusive to practical applications. Diamonds became valued as adornments as well as symbols of protection. Once trading routes brought diamonds into Europe during the Middle Ages, many people believed diamonds had the power to heal and protect. In fact, their value was so powerful that, over time, only royalty, religious leaders and high placed nobility were allowed to own them.
Although much of diamonds’ appeal during this period was wrapped in superstition, one long standing tradition was established when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring in 1477. The role of a diamond ring in promising marriage had begun.
Geology of Diamonds
Popular belief holds that diamonds are produced from coal subjected to intense heat and pressure over a long period of time. Although coal and diamonds are comprised of carbon, carbon is not the original source of diamonds. Research has shown that coal is found primarily in horizontal sedimentary rock, often very deep in the earth’s surface. Diamonds, on the other hand, are believed to be formed in the earth’s mantle (a very viscous layer between the crust and the core) and moved close to the surface as a result of volcanic eruptions. Dating research on diamonds has also determined that many diamonds were initially formed more than 100 million years before plant life on Earth even existed. That makes coal, however widespread the belief, a dubious source of diamonds.
Other characteristics of diamonds are both widely known and credible. Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substance on Earth and have extraordinary reflective and refraction properties. Those characteristics give diamonds a singular sparkle unlike any other stone.
As diamonds soared in popularity, it was necessary to develop some sort of commonly accepted system by which they could be judged. Accordingly, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed the now globally accepted means of judging diamonds. Known as the Four Cs, they include color, clarity, cut and carat weight.
The Four Cs not only provided a common platform that could be used throughout the world, customers also had an empirical means of knowing what they were buying.
In order, further details of the Four Cs include:
Diamond color is a primary characteristic. While colorless diamonds are judged with equal attention to cut, carat weight and clarity, color is the primary determinant of value in a colored diamond.
To be more specific, color and the intensity of the shine determine the value of colored diamonds. Additionally, it’s important to note that many colored diamonds don’t have just one color. It’s not unusual for some diamonds to display as many as four different colors.
All this works out to a sophisticated evaluation system. While a white diamond grading methodology, in effect, measures the absence of color in the stone, fancy colored diamonds are evaluated based on the number of colors within the stone.
Commonly identified colors in diamonds include:
- Yellow — Both the most common and popular color.
- Red — By contrast, the fancy red diamond is the most rare color identified.
- Pink — Fancy pink diamonds are popular and sought after by buyers.
- Blue — Like pink, popular and desirable.
- Green — Formed by exposure to atomic radiation.
- Orange — Rare and often difficult to obtain. Also known by names such as peach, apricot, autumn or cognac.
- Brown — Readily available and comparatively inexpensive to own.
- Grey — Like brown, relatively common and affordable.
Other diamonds can be purple, black and violet in color.
The Three Characteristics of Colors:
For a novice, pinpointing the specific colors in a diamond can be very challenging. However, trained professionals employ a three-part, systematic means to identify the precise color or colors in a stone. They are:
- Hue — The color tint in the stone.
- Tone — Lightness or darkness of color.
- Saturation — How strong or pure the color is.
Diamond professionals measure these three characteristics and, from there, identify a specific grade on a color scale.
Diamond Carat… What Does it Mean?
The carat of a diamond is a means of measurement that is specifically used to weigh diamonds and other gems. This does not refer to the overall size of the diamond. Rather, the density of the diamond determines its specific carat weight.
Fortunately for consumers, the carat weight of a diamond is more than a means of measurement. The carat also helps determine the price of a diamond. Given that they’re less common, larger diamonds are more expensive than their smaller counterparts. In fact, a 1-carat diamond is considered more valuable than two one-half carat diamonds, even though the overall weight is the same.
The Cut of a Diamond
Diamonds are extracted from the ground in rough form. The challenge that faces the diamond cutter is how to best cut that rough formed diamond to take the most advantage of its best features. A cut is considered the prearranged faceted arrangements of the diamond, also known as the “make” of the diamond.
Cuts can include a variety of shapes and designs, such as round, pear, oval, heart shaped and other types.
Looked at one way, diamond clarity lets the diamond enthusiast get a glimpse of what’s inside a diamond. Clarity refers to the existence and visual appearance of the internal characteristics of a diamond. These are known as inclusions. Clarity also takes in surface defects called blemishes. A clarity grade is assigned based on the overall appearance of the stone under magnification.
Inclusions can occur for a number of reasons. They may be attributed to foreign material or small cracks or other sorts of imperfections. Size, location, color and other characteristics of inclusion all impact a diamond’s overall clarity. Heat and pressure occurring during diamonds’ formation and movement toward the surface of the earth also affect clarity.
Inclusions are not exclusively cosmetic. Some may affect the diamond’s relationship with light. Additionally, cracks and other damage may affect how easily a diamond might fracture.
The anatomy of a diamond can be broken down to include a variety of features, including:
Culet — This is the facet at the tip of a gemstone.
Table — This is the largest facet of the diamond.
Depth — The diamond’s height when measured from the culet to the table.
Diameter — This refers to the width of the stone measured through the girdle (see definition below).
Crown — This is the top section of the diamond measured from the girdle to the table.
Pavilion — The bottom part of the diamond from the girdle to the culet.
Girdle — This is where the crown and pavilion meet to set the perimeter of the diamond.
- World’s foremost authority on diamonds, colored stones, and pearls.
- Exists to protect purchasers of gemstones.
- GIA is the world’s most respected gemological laboratory, entrusted with grading and identifying more gems than any other lab.
- You will know exactly what you are buying. Every important factor you need to know about the diamond is described in the certificate.
- The seller knows exactly what he/she is selling to you so as to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
- You do not have to worry about the possibility that you might be purchasing a fracture-filled diamond. These are diamonds that have surface cracks that can be artificially filled to appear as much better diamonds than they actually are. These are in essence, very low quality diamonds that look great to naked eyes. GIA does not certificate these diamonds.
- If a diamond comes with a GIA certificate, you will not become a victim of buying a synthetic diamond.
- Purchasing a GIA certified diamond will simply provide you with much more confidence and value.
- GIA grading is undeniably recognized throughout the jewelry industry as the most accurate and unbiased opinion when it comes to grading diamonds.
Even those with little interest in diamonds know that certain stones are famous (or infamous) for their beauty and value. Here’s a rundown of a number of some of the better known diamonds and the captivating stories behind them.
The Black Orlov:
A 67.50-carat, cushion-cut diamond, the Black Orlov is named black but actually is akin to the color of gun metal. Like the story behind the famous Hope diamond, legend has it that the Black Orlov was an uncut black stone of 195 carats, pried out of the eye of the statute of the sacred Hindu God Brahma from a temple in Southern India.
The diamond turned up in Russia, where it was bought by Princess Nadia Vyegin Orlov. It was purchased in 1947 by Charles F Winson who sold it to an unknown buyer in 1969 for $300,000. After changing hands several times, the diamond was purchased by an anonymous buyer in the late 20th century for $360,000.
The Blue Hope Diamond:
The Hope Diamond is the largest deep blue diamond in the world, measuring 45.52 carats. Mined in India, its dimensions are 25.60mm in length, 21.78mm in width and 12mm in depth. The story goes that the stone was stolen from an eye of a statue of the goddess Sita in a Hindu temple. The temple priests put a curse on anyone who possessed the stone—the famous “curse” of the Hope Diamond. Legend has it that this spiritual revenge was the cause of the beheadings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Although the curse of the Hope Diamond is, needless to say, subject to dispute, there are certain facts about the magnificent stone that are undeniably credible. The first known precursor to the Hope Diamond was the Tavernier Blue diamond, a 112-carat stone named for the French merchant and traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who obtained the blue diamond during one of five voyages to India in the mid 1600s. Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France. In 1812, a blue diamond with the same shape, size, and color was reported as being owned by London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason. After changing hands several times, the Hope Diamond was bought by diamond merchant Harry Winston in 1949. Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1958, where it remains.
The Donnersmarck Diamonds:
These are two yellow diamonds, named after their one time owner Henckel von Donnersmarc. One, a baguette-shaped diamond weighing 102.54 carats, was sold for $3.246 million. The second, tear drop in shape and weighing 82.48 carats, was sold for $4.666 million.
The Dresden Green:
Named after the German city, this diamond is pear-shaped and weighs 40.70 carats. The Dresden Green is considered the largest and finest natural green diamond ever discovered. One feature of note is that the green color is almost uniformly distributed throughout the diamond, a very rare attribute. It is believed the Dresden Green came from India in the early 18th century.
The Graff Pink:
One of the largest and most famous pink diamonds, the Graff Pink is named after its current owner, diamond dealer Laurence Graff. The fancy pink stone weighs 24.78 carats. The diamond has been evaluated as type IIa, which means it’s virtually flawless, putting it in the top two per cent of the world’s diamonds. The Graff Pink is said to have received its color from absorbing light in an unusual way while it formed beneath the earth over millions of years. The Graff Pink is the most expensive stone to be sold at auction, commanding an extraordinary $46 million.
Heart of Eternity:
This 27.64 carat heart-shaped stone is famous for the intensity of its color, described as “fancy vivid blue.” The Heart of Eternity was one of 11 rare blue diamonds unveiled in 2000 as part of a special collection of De Beers Millennium Jewels.
The Moussaieff Red:
Among the rarest of colored diamonds, the Moussaieff Red is a triangular 5.11-carat diamond. It is the largest red diamond in the world. It was acquired in the early 21st century by Moussaieff Jewelers Ltd. for $8 million. The diamond was discovered by a farmer in the Alto Paranaiba region of Brazil during the 1990s.
This is a 20.65-carat, Fancy Intense Yellow stone. The diamond was purchased by C.D. Peacock, a Chicago jewelry store.
The Pumpkin Orange:
Like their red counterparts, orange diamonds are among the most rare colors in the world. The Pumpkin Orange is a 5.54-carat, cushion-shaped diamond. The diamond was mined in South Africa in 1997. The name likely derives from its purchase date–Oct. 30, 1997, only one day before Halloween, by Ronald Winston, at a Sotheby’s auction for a price of $1.3 million.
The Red Cross Diamond:
The cushion-shaped, 205.07-carat canary yellow Red Cross came from the Kimberly mine in South Africa. The diamond was given to an art sale held by Christies London in 1918 on behalf of the British Red Cross Society. The identity of its present owner is unknown.
The Rob Red:
The pear-shaped, 0.59-carat Rob Red diamond has been described by a fancy color expert as the purest red diamond in the world. It’s named after its owner, Robert Bogel.
The Royal Purple Heart:
The heart-shaped, 7.34-carat Royal Purple Heart diamond is the largest Fancy Vivid Purple diamond known. Discovered in Russia, the diamond is named for its color and shape, both of which are unique for this stone. Its owner is unknown.
Star of South Africa:
A 47.69-carat pear-shaped diamond, this stone was discovered in South Africa in in 1869. Up until then, only India and Brazil were considered to be serious sources of diamonds.
The Sun Drop:
This stone was certified as “fancy vivid yellow,” the most rare and desirable color for a yellow diamond. Its sale price set a world record for a yellow diamond. The stone was discovered in South Africa in 2010.
The Supreme Purple Star:
This diamond is unique in that its exact weight, color and clarity have never been revealed. From one angle the diamond appears to have a deep purple color but the color changes to a purplish red when rotated. It is believed to have originated in the Amazon basin.
The Tiffany Yellow:
Reportedly discovered at the Kimberley mine in South Africa in 1877, with a rough weight of 287.42 carats, the Tiffany Yellow is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered. It was acquired by Charles Tiffany for $18,000 in 1879. Audrey Hepburn wore the diamond in 1961 for the publicity photographs for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
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The intensity of the reflections of white light to the eye from a diamond. This takes in both internal and external reflection.
An intensely colored “yellow” diamond.
The standard unit of measurement of the weight of a diamond. One carat equals 1/5 of a gram or 1/142 of an ounce.
A substance in a diamond that appears black to the unaided eye.
A grading report that defines the physical characteristics and quality of a gem.
A term used by some jewelers to mean absence of internal inclusions.
Diamonds are graded on a color scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z.
A system of grading diamond colors based on their lack of color.
Colored or “Fancy” diamonds are those that are not white.
The angles and proportions created in transforming a rough diamond into a polished one.
Very tiny rough diamonds generally used as abrasives. Also known as diamond powder.
No internal flaws are visible to the unaided eye
A type of inclusion or flaw within a diamond.
Used to describe the exterior of the diamond.
Term for a diamond without external or internal flaws or blemishes of any description when viewed by a trained eye using a corrected magnifier.
A whitish, yellowish or bluish tint when a diamond is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Gemologist—A person who has completed recognized courses of study in gem identification, grading and pricing, as well as diamond grading and appraising.
The part of a ring that contains the prongs which hold a diamond in its setting.
The term used for the actual color of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet). The more pure a gemstone’s hue, the more valuable it is.
Term used to refer to any external blemish or internal flaw on a diamond.
The smoothness of a diamond’s surface.
The style in which a gemstone is held by precious metal into a mounting.
Term used to refer to a ring with one diamond or other gem.
The arrangement of a diamond’s facets and finished angles.
The large facet that caps the crown of a faceted gemstone.
A simple six-claw ring setting with a head that holds a single diamond.