Updated: Jun 4, 2021
Diamonds have a long legacy linked with love. The first diamond engagement ring on record was given in 1477. The ring was placed on the fourth finger of the recipient, known today as the "Ring Finger”. It was believed during this period that the fourth finger linked directly to the heart by way of the vena amoris, Latin for “the vein of love”. By encircling this finger with a ring, the symbol of eternity, the diamond ring symbolized a love that would last forever.
This gift set a trend and began a tradition of using diamond rings to show love among the European aristocracy. What better way to say, “I love you” than with a gem that is as interesting, scintillating, and as mesmerizing as the person of your dreams?
But what is it about diamonds that make them so highly regarded? There are three things that set diamonds apart from their gemstone counterparts and I am excited to look at April’s birthstone, Diamond, through the lens of these remarkable attributes.
"Wit must be foiled by wit, cut diamond with a diamond." - William Congreve
Diamonds are the hardest natural material. Hardness refers to a substance’s ability to resist scratching and abrasion. A gemstone’s hardness will determine how the gemstone is cut and how it should be worn. The harder the material, the better that material can retain a high polish and luster. In fact, the luster of a diamond is so unique, it is called “adamantine”, which means “diamond-like”—no other material can maintain the polish and luster of a diamond.
In 1822, a scientist name Frederick Mohs developed a system that ranked gems based on their level of hardness. This system, called the “Mohs Scale”, runs from 1 through 10, with 10, diamond, being the hardest and most resistant to scratching.
The scale is based on relative hardness. This means although Diamond (10), Corundum (sapphires and rubies) (9), and Topaz (8) are adjacent on the Mohs scale, the difference in hardness between Corundum and Diamond is many times greater than the difference in hardness between Topaz and Corundum.
A material can only be cut by something of its own or greater hardness. Diamonds are the hardest natural substance on Earth, which means only another diamond can scratch or cut a diamond.
"It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world” - Dolly Parton
Are diamonds ACTUALLY rare?
At one time, there was a diamond conglomerate, DeBeers, that regulated the release and availability of diamonds. The company was able to do this by having primary ownership and control over the world’s diamond sources in South Africa. By being able to oversee world diamond stocks, DeBeers created scarcity through the controlled release of diamonds onto the market.
Today, diamond mines have been found in additional locations such as Canada, Russia, Botswana, and Australia. These sources are managed by companies and governments outside of the DeBeers conglomerate, diminishing this monopoly.
Despite the history of controlled release and today's additional sources, this does not mean that diamonds are prevalent goods. You may see them in every shopping mall in the country and on the fingers of many women in your life, but they are, in fact, a very rare material.
Finding a diamond is an incredible feat. 100 to 250 tons of ore are mined for a one-carat diamond. Millions of carats of diamond are mined every year, but of those, only 30% are high enough quality to be used in jewelry. The remaining 70% of diamonds are used for many industrial purposes that require the hardness and durability of a diamond.
Rarity and value go hand in hand. Higher quality, larger diamonds are more rare than lower quality, smaller diamonds.Therefore, the combination of factors that determine the quality of the diamond will also determine the value of the diamond.
“Every diamond has the ability to shine when there is someone to recognize its good facets and inhibit its flaws.” – Wes Fesler