The word ‘diamond’ is derived from the ancient Greek ‘adamas’ meaning invincible. Historically diamonds were first found in alluvial deposits in southern India about 900 B.C. Their commercial potential was exhausted by the middle of the 18th century.
The earliest written reference can be found in the sanskrit text ‘Arthasastria’ which was completed around 296 B.C. and describes diamonds’ hardness, lustre and dispersion. Used to decorate religious icons they were believed to bring good fortune to those who carried them. It is said that the Greeks believed diamonds were tears of the Gods. The Romans believed they were splinters of fallen stars. In western culture diamonds are the traditional emblem of fearlessness and virtue and are used to symbolize eternity and love.
Diamond is a transparent crystal of pure carbon consisting of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms. Most notable amongst its properties are its extreme hardness, its ability to disperse light and its thermal conductivity. Unlike hardness which only denotes resistance to scratching, diamond’s toughness is only fair to good. Although diamond is the hardest known naturally occurring material, it is sometimes unable to resist breakage from forceful impact. It is therefore more fragile in some orientations that others.
Although today diamonds are mined in many parts of the world the largest quantity of the best quality stones are still cut in the traditional diamond cutting centres of Amsterdam, Antwerp and Tel Aviv. Diamond cutting is a skilled job and a well trained and experienced cutter will produce the best work. The ability of the cutter ensures that the “four Cs” cut, colour, carat and clarity are shown to their best advantage.
Although there are historically many different cuts of Diamond including ‘Mazarin’, ‘Peruzzi’, ‘Table Cut’, ‘Old European’ etc., the cuts of stone illustrated below represent those that are in general use today.
One of the most important factors in determining the value of diamonds is the colour. Diamonds occur in a variety of translucent hues:
- steel blue
- brown, and
Diamonds with a detectable hue are known as coloured diamonds and if the colour is strong enough it may be referred to as a fancy diamond.
The method of determining colour is based on an alphabetical scale:
|N-Y||Light yellow or brown|
|Z||Z graded diamonds are rare|
The carat weight measures the mass of a diamond. 1 carat is defined as exactly 200 milligrams (about 0.007 of an ounce). When describing the weight of a diamond, a one carat stone for instance will be expressed as ‘1.00 carats’. A half carat stone therefore will be ‘0.50 carats’ and so on.
Clarity (also called purity) describes the amount of or lack of natural flaws found in a diamond. The gradings for clarity are as follows:
|VVS1 and VVS2||Very very slight inclusion|
|VS1 and VS2||Minor inclusions|
|SI1 and SI2||Noticeable inclusions, visible with the use of a 10x magnification lens.|
|I1,I2 & I3||Obvious inclusions.|
Conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments. They are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the United Nations Security Council.
Conflict diamonds are the crack cocaine of the jewellery trade. It is something that is abhorrent. In May 2000, an initiative was launched in Kimberley, South Africa that aims to break the link between the legitimate trade in diamonds and conflict diamonds. It is called The Kimberley Process.
We recommend that consumers ask their jeweller whether they adhere to The Kimberley process and the official certification methods associated with it. Conflict diamonds compromise international peace and human security and hamper economic and social development in affected countries. The best way to promote a world free of conflict diamonds is to ensure that every retailer is 100% compliant with The Kimberley Process.