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Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Everything you need to know about Diamonds Everything you need to know about Diamonds

This post will give you an introductory glance into what diamonds are, how they differ, and some of the key terms to look out for when discussing them. 

Let’s start with some of the basics: where do diamonds come from?

Diamonds are formed in the earth’s crust, between 1 and 3.5 billion years ago, at about 150-200km below the surface. The temperature is 900-1300℃ and the pressure is extremely high. There is also magma present, which may expand, forcing a volcanic eruption which results in the diamond containing rocks to be thrown towards and above the surface of the earth. 

When diamonds are found in rock, they are called a ‘rough’ crystal, and they look something like this:


It is where this volcanic activity once happened, millions of years before, that we find diamond mines. Additionally, you can find diamonds in locations where natural geography or weather has carried them away from the original volcanic site, such as along river beds or sea beds. In Namibia, you can find diamonds on the beach!


But what is a diamond? 

Diamonds are made of carbon, bonded together in an extremely orderly, tightly packed and strong lattice. This is what makes diamonds so tough. In fact, they score the highest, a 10, on the MOHS scale, which is essentially a scale of hardness, and consequently many diamonds that are not pretty enough to be used in jewellery, are used within industrial and manufacturing processes (eg. drill bits!).

There are, however, different types of diamonds that are formed by either the presence of impurities within this lattice, for example as nitrogen or boron, or even the lack of impurities. We will keep things simple rather than get into the deep chemical structure of diamonds, but here is a brief overview: 

  • 95% of all diamonds are a Type 1A - known as the ‘cape series’ - these fall along a spectrum of colourless to yellow tinted. This is due to nitrogen impurities present within the carbon lattice structure. 
Cape series colour chart

 

  • A Type 1B diamond also has nitrogen impurities, but they are more evenly spread out throughout the lattice structure of the diamond, and the result is a much more intense yellow or brown appearance. These are known as 'canary' diamonds.

Canary diamonds at Michael Rose London
Canary diamonds at Michael Rose London 

  • You may have heard of a Type IIA diamond, which has almost no impurities, resulting in an incredibly clear, pure, ‘water-like’ appearance. These are generally incredibly rare and expensive. They are sometimes known as Golconda diamonds, after a mine in India known for producing some of the most famous diamonds of this type, such as the Koh-I-Noor, now part of the British Crown Jewels. It is not impossible to find coloured diamonds within this category, such as the Dresden Green, coloured green by irradiation, housed in Dresden Castle. 

The Koh-I-Noor, set in the British Crown Jewels

The Dresden green, set in a hat ornament

  •  A type IIb diamond is a blue colour due to the presence of boron as an impurity; an example of which is the infamous Hope diamond, part of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC. These diamonds are extremely rare and unique - unlike other diamond types, they conduct electricity in addition to fluorescing a bright red under UV light. 

The Hope Diamond

Whilst this may not be a technically exhaustive description of diamond types, we think that it helps to understand how diamonds differ from one another. Learning more about how diamonds are naturally formed only adds to their sense of mystery, intrigue and amazement - something so beautiful has been formed in such violent conditions, over such a vast expanse of time. And now, you may or may not be enjoying wearing one! 

The anatomy of a diamond

Once a diamond has been cut, regardless of shape or size, this is how we describe the various elements:

On a modern round brilliant cut, the culet will be a sharp point, but on older stones it will be a flat facet which is then visible as a little dot through the table at the top of the stone. The proportions of a diamond cut are very important, as it determines how light enters the stone, travels within it, and then is reflected back out through the table and into the eye of the viewer. If the proportions are not quite right, this doesn’t happen. The light is lost in a different direction and the result is a diamond that doesn't exhibit the best visual effects - ie it doesn't look as pretty as it should do!. 


For example, if a diamond is too shallow, reflections of the girdle may be visible, creating a ‘fish eye’ effect. 


Or, if a diamond is too deep, this can cause a ‘nail head’ effect, resulting in the diamond looking very dark in the centre.

 

 

Key terms to look out for when describing diamonds:

Here are a couple of key words that you are likely to come across:

  • Fire: fire is the dispersion of white light into a rainbow spectrum of colour when you look into the stone. It's what makes a diamond really POP. Generally, modern round brilliants are seen as the optimal shape for fire, as the proportions are standardised for maximum sparkle. Other fancy shapes vary signifcantly. 
  • Brilliance: brilliance is the return of white light from the stone. Optimised by cut and polish, it helps the stone look bright and almost luminescent. 
  • Scintillation: scintillation is the flashes from light to dark within the diamond as it moves. Scintillation, fire and brilliance all contribute to the overall sparkle of a diamond. 
  • 'Lively': if a diamond is described as 'lively', this generally means that there is a lot of life going on in the stone! You will see a lot of fire, brilliance and scintillation. Whilst all diamonds display these three characteristics to some degree, some do so more than others. A 'lively' stone will have a lot of bright sparkle and rainbow flashes. 
  • 'Facing up': a diamond that 'faces up well' will have a slight yellow tint (possibly graded as an I or J colour grade), but looks white when viewed from the top. Diamond colour is graded from the side of the stone, because the colour can look different from varying angles. So, it can be both an I/J yet look much better than you would expect when worn. A diamond that 'faces up well' is a great way of making a savvy purchasing decision because you are paying for a lower colour grade that, to all intents and purposes, looks like better stone!

 We could go on forever about the properties of diamonds, but hopefully this should arm you with some additional knowledge to ultimately assist in your search for the perfect diamond.

 

This post will give you an introductory glance into what diamonds are, how they differ, and some of the key terms to look out for when discussing them. 

Let’s start with some of the basics: where do diamonds come from?

Diamonds are formed in the earth’s crust, between 1 and 3.5 billion years ago, at about 150-200km below the surface. The temperature is 900-1300℃ and the pressure is extremely high. There is also magma present, which may expand, forcing a volcanic eruption which results in the diamond containing rocks to be thrown towards and above the surface of the earth. 

When diamonds are found in rock, they are called a ‘rough’ crystal, and they look something like this:


It is where this volcanic activity once happened, millions of years before, that we find diamond mines. Additionally, you can find diamonds in locations where natural geography or weather has carried them away from the original volcanic site, such as along river beds or sea beds. In Namibia, you can find diamonds on the beach!


But what is a diamond? 

Diamonds are made of carbon, bonded together in an extremely orderly, tightly packed and strong lattice. This is what makes diamonds so tough. In fact, they score the highest, a 10, on the MOHS scale, which is essentially a scale of hardness, and consequently many diamonds that are not pretty enough to be used in jewellery, are used within industrial and manufacturing processes (eg. drill bits!).

There are, however, different types of diamonds that are formed by either the presence of impurities within this lattice, for example as nitrogen or boron, or even the lack of impurities. We will keep things simple rather than get into the deep chemical structure of diamonds, but here is a brief overview: 

  • 95% of all diamonds are a Type 1A - known as the ‘cape series’ - these fall along a spectrum of colourless to yellow tinted. This is due to nitrogen impurities present within the carbon lattice structure. 
Cape series colour chart

 

  • A Type 1B diamond also has nitrogen impurities, but they are more evenly spread out throughout the lattice structure of the diamond, and the result is a much more intense yellow or brown appearance. These are known as 'canary' diamonds.

Canary diamonds at Michael Rose London
Canary diamonds at Michael Rose London 

  • You may have heard of a Type IIA diamond, which has almost no impurities, resulting in an incredibly clear, pure, ‘water-like’ appearance. These are generally incredibly rare and expensive. They are sometimes known as Golconda diamonds, after a mine in India known for producing some of the most famous diamonds of this type, such as the Koh-I-Noor, now part of the British Crown Jewels. It is not impossible to find coloured diamonds within this category, such as the Dresden Green, coloured green by irradiation, housed in Dresden Castle. 

The Koh-I-Noor, set in the British Crown Jewels

The Dresden green, set in a hat ornament

  •  A type IIb diamond is a blue colour due to the presence of boron as an impurity; an example of which is the infamous Hope diamond, part of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC. These diamonds are extremely rare and unique - unlike other diamond types, they conduct electricity in addition to fluorescing a bright red under UV light. 

The Hope Diamond

Whilst this may not be a technically exhaustive description of diamond types, we think that it helps to understand how diamonds differ from one another. Learning more about how diamonds are naturally formed only adds to their sense of mystery, intrigue and amazement - something so beautiful has been formed in such violent conditions, over such a vast expanse of time. And now, you may or may not be enjoying wearing one! 

The anatomy of a diamond

Once a diamond has been cut, regardless of shape or size, this is how we describe the various elements:

On a modern round brilliant cut, the culet will be a sharp point, but on older stones it will be a flat facet which is then visible as a little dot through the table at the top of the stone. The proportions of a diamond cut are very important, as it determines how light enters the stone, travels within it, and then is reflected back out through the table and into the eye of the viewer. If the proportions are not quite right, this doesn’t happen. The light is lost in a different direction and the result is a diamond that doesn't exhibit the best visual effects - ie it doesn't look as pretty as it should do!. 


For example, if a diamond is too shallow, reflections of the girdle may be visible, creating a ‘fish eye’ effect. 


Or, if a diamond is too deep, this can cause a ‘nail head’ effect, resulting in the diamond looking very dark in the centre.

 

 

Key terms to look out for when describing diamonds:

Here are a couple of key words that you are likely to come across:

  • Fire: fire is the dispersion of white light into a rainbow spectrum of colour when you look into the stone. It's what makes a diamond really POP. Generally, modern round brilliants are seen as the optimal shape for fire, as the proportions are standardised for maximum sparkle. Other fancy shapes vary signifcantly. 
  • Brilliance: brilliance is the return of white light from the stone. Optimised by cut and polish, it helps the stone look bright and almost luminescent. 
  • Scintillation: scintillation is the flashes from light to dark within the diamond as it moves. Scintillation, fire and brilliance all contribute to the overall sparkle of a diamond. 
  • 'Lively': if a diamond is described as 'lively', this generally means that there is a lot of life going on in the stone! You will see a lot of fire, brilliance and scintillation. Whilst all diamonds display these three characteristics to some degree, some do so more than others. A 'lively' stone will have a lot of bright sparkle and rainbow flashes. 
  • 'Facing up': a diamond that 'faces up well' will have a slight yellow tint (possibly graded as an I or J colour grade), but looks white when viewed from the top. Diamond colour is graded from the side of the stone, because the colour can look different from varying angles. So, it can be both an I/J yet look much better than you would expect when worn. A diamond that 'faces up well' is a great way of making a savvy purchasing decision because you are paying for a lower colour grade that, to all intents and purposes, looks like better stone!

 We could go on forever about the properties of diamonds, but hopefully this should arm you with some additional knowledge to ultimately assist in your search for the perfect diamond.

 

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