Diamonds are popular not only because of their beauty and the prestige of being adorned with something that says so publicly, “I have money” but also because they are tough and durable. Diamonds are the hardest natural material we know of. Diamonds aren’t just jewelry, however. Their great dispersion of light as well as their toughness make them exceptional handy for industrial applications as well.
Diamonds make top notch abrasives. Scratching diamonds is impossible without the use of other diamonds, fullerite that is ultrahard, or Borazon. For this reason diamonds hold their polish very well and keep their luster. Every year 130 million carats of diamonds are mined, worth $9 billion dollars. Many million carats of synthetics are created as well.
The word diamond comes from the ancient Greek word adamas, which means invincible. Diamonds have long been treasured, and even revered as religious icons back in ancient India. They were used as tools for engraving from the very first recorded history of humans. Since the 19th century diamonds have become even more popular, not only because they are in greater supply, but because polishing and cutting tools and techniques have improved, the economy in many parts of the world has improved to allow for their purchase, and advertising and marketing of diamonds has become more prevalent. Diamonds are judged by four criteria – their carat, their clarity, their color and their cut.
Just under half of all diamonds originate in southern or central Africa, although many come from Canada, Russia, India, Australia and Brazil as well.
They are mined from volcanic pipes of lamproite or kimberlite. The crystals are formed due to the extreme temperature and high pressure of the earth’s depths there. The distribution of these diamonds, and their mining, has been and continues to be controversial for a couple of reasons. African paramilitary organizations, for instance, debated the right to sell the diamonds. Others charge the De Beers Group with using its industry dominance to control the supply of diamonds and to use its monopoly to manipulate the price of diamonds. The latter may not be a viable argument any more, however, as the De Beers Group now has less than half the market share of the world’s diamonds.