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Most people think they know a bit about diamonds, and here’s what the average person will likely tell you that they know:
One of those statements is true, but the other one is not. Diamonds are the hardest known substance, and the only thing that can scratch or harm a diamond in any way is another diamond.
That part is true. The part that is not true is that most diamonds are used in jewelry. In fact, diamonds of sufficient quality to be used in jewelry are actually somewhat scarce.
Not all diamonds are gemstones.
There’s a mine in Botswana that mines some 15 million carats of diamonds every year. But most of them end up being used in industry, and only a small percentage of them find their way to a jewelry store.
Most diamonds are too small, or have too many defects, or are unattractive colors, such as brownish yellow. To be used in a piece of jewelry, a diamond has to be of a certain size, have a nice color to it, and have relatively few defects, or inclusions, that might affect its ability to reflect light.
What happens to all of the diamonds that don’t make the cut? Some are used in drill bits, others are used in phonograph needles, and many of them are used to cut or polish other diamonds, since they’re the only thing that will work.
Not all diamonds are the same shape.
There are about eight different shapes of diamonds that are commonly seen, though the Round Brilliant shape is the one that most people associate with the gemstone. Today, they only make up about half of all diamonds sold in jewelry, with other cuts sharing the other half of sales.
Not all diamonds are white or clear.
Most diamonds that you see for sale are clear or “white,” as they’re known. That’s not the only color, however. Diamonds also come in yellow, brown, blue, pink, and red. Even we were surprised at that, as red diamonds are apparently exceedingly rare, and many people who have dealt in diamonds professionally for their entire careers never see one.
Pink and blue ones are also quite rare, and quite desirable, so if you want one of those, be prepared to spend a lot more money on them.
How are the shapes chosen?
The shapes of diamonds are determined by a complex process that diamond cutters have learned from years of experience. Some diamonds are best cut into multiple stones, while others are best left as a single stone. The shape of the raw diamond helps determine the shape of the finished product, as do the defects that may be present in the stone.
Cutting away less desirable parts of the stone may leave the remainder suitable for gemstone use, but doing so may force the cutter to use one particular shape, rather than another.
Diamonds are rare.
Diamonds aren’t particularly rare; hundreds of millions of carats of diamonds are mined annually. On the other hand, highly attractive gemstone quality diamonds are rare, and that’s why they’re expensive.
While diamonds are best thought of as luxury items to be worn as jewelry, most people are at least vaguely aware that diamonds also have use in industry.
The bulk of the diamonds found are not suitable for use in jewelry, as they’re either too small for such use or they have defects of some kind. Most are just too small, but small diamonds have uses. For example, most phonographs use a diamond-tipped needle to play record albums.
Diamonds are also used in industrial drill bits, as they are exceptionally hard and diamond-tipped bits are quite good at helping to drill through hard rock.
These sorts of uses have been around for a long time, but now, scientists are experimenting with using diamonds in transistors.
Most transistors are made from silicon, and silicon is a very plentiful substance, making it cheap to use. That’s good, since the processor chip in your computer might have millions of transistors within it.
The problem with silicon transistors is that there are certain environments where silicon does not perform well – tremendously hot environments or environments where heavy radiation is present.
These are areas where silicon is weak, but they’re also areas where industry could use devices that have transistors in them. Because of that, scientists in Japan are experimenting with using man-made diamonds in transistors.
Diamonds are very hard, of course, and they are also resistant to both heat and radiation. Early experiments have been promising, though building integrated circuits from diamonds is still likely a number of years away.
Scientists must first find ways to bond other materials to the man-made diamonds and then find ways to bring the costs down through economies of scale. These things can take years, or even decades to do. The first transistor radios, made in the 1950s, were very expensive and unaffordable for the average consumer. It took about fifteen years before the price came down, and eventually, transistors became so cheap that they’re found in nearly all electronic devices today.
Aside from the fact that they’re shiny and pretty, most people don’t know a lot about diamonds. OK, maybe people also know that they’re expensive and that they’re often used in engagement rings.
But diamonds have an interesting history, and there are a few other things about them that you might want to know:
The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamas,” meaning indestructible. That’s a good choice, as diamonds are the hardest known substance.
How hard? The only way to scratch a diamond is to use another diamond to do it.
Unlike other gemstones, such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires, diamonds consist of one element only – carbon.
Diamonds are billions of years old, and were formed hundreds of miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Volcanic and seismic activity over time has forced them to the surface.
The ancient Romans thought that diamonds were tears of the gods.
Diamonds were once thought to have medicinal properties, and some cultures thought that diamonds gave their bearers unusual strength.
Diamonds are only found in a few places on Earth, though the areas of primary importance have changed over time. In the fifteenth century, India was the primary source. Today, while diamonds are found in many parts of the globe, most of the mining takes place in South Africa.
There is a park in Arkansas where you can search for diamonds and keep any that you find.
The largest diamond ever found is the Culinan diamond, and it weight in at 3106 carats. That’s about 20 ounces. The diamond was found in South Africa, and given to King Edward of Britain. It remains there as part of the country’s crown jewels.
Diamonds can now be created in a laboratory, and their quality is virtually identical to those of natural diamonds. They’re also a bit more affordable.
Scientists discovered a planet in 2004 that they think might have 1/3 of its mass in diamond. That would be impressive, were it not so far away that we’d never be able to get there.
The use of diamonds in engagement rings is for the most part a relatively new phenomenon, largely spurred by the diamond industry itself.
Diamonds are made from carbon, and they take millions of years to form, and you pull them out of the ground. If you’re lucky, you can occasionally just find one lying around, but most of the time, they have to be mined.
Again, luck is involved, and you never know if you’re going to find small, industrial-grade diamonds or bigger, jewelry grade diamonds. Because the latter are relatively rare, especially in colors other than white, they tend to sell for extraordinary amounts of money.
A lot of people may not be aware, however, that man-made diamonds are also available. Attempts to manufacture diamonds go back more than a century, but it’s only in the last 20 years that the industry has gotten good enough at manufacturing diamonds that they can produce high-quality gemstones that are virtually indistinguishable from naturally occurring gemstones.
Early attempts at manufacture produced stones that had use in industry, but in order to work for jewelry, diamonds have to have a lot of sparkle, acceptable shape, and few flaws. It’s taken a long time to get there, but it’s now possible to produce synthetic, or man-made diamonds that rival the natural ones in terms of appearance.
In one way, they actually exceed the naturally occurring variety – price. Man-made diamonds usually sell for 30%-40% less then the natural variety. Part of this is due to the fact that man-made gemstones can be produced with both quality and quantity, making them more available.
Another reason is that buyers, at least at this point, still prefer to purchase natural gemstones. To the naked eye, the two appear to be very similar, and only a jeweler can tell them apart. There is one giveaway, provided that you have a microscope – man-made diamonds have a serial number engraved upon them, while naturally occurring ones don’t.
Naturally occurring stones do have a few advantages, though the most significant one is not one that’s likely to affect the average buyer – size. At the moment, there’s a limit to how large of a gemstone that the industry can produce, and it’s in the three carat range. That’s a pretty sizable stone, however, and even at the discount that you’d get for buying a man-made stone, it’s one that would likely be out of the price range of all but the most well-funded of buyers.
Larger stones do occur naturally, though they’re not gem-quality diamonds when found in the wild. These stones always have to be cut to shape and to a smaller size. Still, the largest stone ever found was more than 3000 carats, and a diamond of more than 700 carats was recently found in Sierra Leone.
We don’t expect to see diamonds of that size produced in a laboratory anytime soon. For now, small diamonds of less than 3 carats are likely to be more than large enough for the average buyer, and lots of buyers will be all too happy to pay a somewhat lower price for a man-made diamond that looks just like a natural one, except for the price tag.
Do you have $50 million to spare? That’s the rough estimate of what the world’s most expensive pair of earrings may sell for in an upcoming Sotheby’s auction in Geneva.
Artemis and Apollo are a pair of huge diamond earrings of extraordinary color and quality, and even though they’re technically a pair, they’re being sold separately in order to realize a higher price.
The names, Artemis and Apollo, come from Greek mythology, named after two gods of power and beauty. And they do possess beauty.
Apollo is expected to be the star of the auction, as it’s a 14.54 carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond. Such designations are quite rare, as most diamonds are white in color. Blue ones, especially high grade blue ones, are quite unusual.
The Apollo is expected to bring at least $40 million at auction, and some estimates suggest that it may sell for more than $50 million when the gavel finally declares the auction over.
Apollo’s partner, Artemis, is no slouch, either. This diamond is actually larger, at 16 carats, and it has been graded as Fancy Intense pink. Pink diamonds are also quite rare, though they’re not as rare as blue ones. On the other hand, pink diamonds are in a lot of demand these days from investors, and even though the expected price is “only” $16 million, Artemis could turn out to surprise everyone before the auction is over. Recent prices for pink diamonds have gone from surprising to staggering, so this one could be quite a sleeper.
Usually, when one reads about auctions of this type, the press release includes some information about the history and provenance of the items in question. That’s not the case here; the official Sotheby’s press release makes no mention whatsoever about where these diamonds came from, how long they’ve been around, or who may have owned them in the past. All the auction house had to say about it is that the seller “wishes to remain anonymous.”
Chances are the buyer or buyers will also elect to remain anonymous, and it’s equally unlikely that we’ll see anyone wearing them in public. It would attract attention, however, as it’s somewhat unusual to see someone wearing a blue diamond earring in one ear and a pink one in the other.
Regardless of where they came from or where they’re going, these two diamonds are truly something special, and the final results of the auction will also be news. Chances are the prices are going to significantly exceed the pre-auction estimates.
Update: The auction did not disappoint, and both earrings were sold to the same anonymous buyer.
‘The Apollo Blue’ Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Blue diamond weighing 14.54-carats sold for US$42,087,302 and the ‘The Artemis Diamonds’ Fancy Intense Pink diamond, weighing 16-carats sold for US$15,338,176.
Victoria Brodski of Tulsa, Oklahoma made an interesting find recently – a 2.65 carat brown diamond that she simply found on the ground.
OK, she didn’t just find it anwhere. She found it on the ground at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.
The public is allowed to pay a small fee to look for diamonds there, and after a strong rain, they can occasionally be found near the surface. A 14 year old boy found a 7.44 carat diamond there in early 2017.
The park used to be farmland, but was turned into a state park in the early 1970s. Since that time, thousands of diamonds have been found there. Most of them are clear, yellow, or brown, though most of them are relatively small and not suitable for use as gemstones in jewelry.
Sometimes, larger stones due turn up; the largest stone ever found on the land was a 40.23 carat diamond found there in 1924. Since the land became a park, the largest stone found was 16.37 carats, and several other stones of greater than 8 carats have been found.
Park guests who find diamonds of significant size are asked to name them. Ms. Brodski elected to name hers “Michaelangelo,” not after the artist, but rather after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
While most people who visit the park find nothing of significance, they still enjoy the hunt. It’s well worth the trouble, however, as nearly 200 diamonds have been registered at the park just this year.
That means that visitors to the park are finding about 50 diamonds a month, and those are just the ones of sufficient size that justifies registering them with the park staff.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is unique in that it’s the only place on Earth that naturally produces diamonds where the public can search for diamonds. Nearly all other sources have long ago been acquired by mining companies.
That’s not the case at this state park, where you can not only spend your day digging for diamonds, but you’re also free to keep the ones you find. They’re yours to do with as you wish, and if you’re lucky enough to find one that’s big enough and flawless enough to serve as a gemstone, you’re also free to sell it for whatever price you can negotiate.
It’s a fun thing to do, but not something that’s likely to make you rich. Still, when was the last time you went digging in the ground and turned up a diamond? To find one of any kind is usually a thrill for any park visitor.
Update: found a 2.78 carat diamondThe trend continues, as just this week, an Arkansas man in the same park.
When most people think of diamonds, they think of clear, shiny gemstones that sparkle like nothing else. That’s true, and that’s the way that most diamonds are.
Not all diamonds are clear, however. While rare, diamonds come in other colors, too. Diamonds are made from carbon, but sometimes trace amounts of other elements get mixed in when nature is making them, and that can result in stones of various colors.
While diamonds come in a variety of colors – yellow, blue, green, red, and pink come to mind, the most popular color seems to be pink. That’s interesting from a business standpoint, as the pink color is actually a lot more common than some of the others, such as blue.
But buyers seem to prefer the pink color, in part because most diamonds are worn by women and because a lot of women like the color pink.
The problem is that nearly all pink diamonds come from a single mine in Australia, and supplies there, which were low to begin with, are dwindling. This has caused a tremendous amount of interest by investors in putting money into pink diamonds in hopes of getting a better return on their investment than they might get from putting their money elsewhere.
It’s paying off; the average return over the past 12 years on pink diamonds is about 14% per year. That’s better performance than we’ve seen from the stock market during that time.
In fact, a pink diamond called the Pink Star sold for a record $71.2 million in April 2017. That’s a lot of money for any gemstone, and you can rest assured that it’s going to sit in a vault, rather than becoming part of a ring or necklace.
While pink diamonds are great for investors, the interest in them is making things difficult for both jewelers and their customers. Because the prices have been increasing so rapidly and because so many investors are interested in pink diamonds, there are relatively few available for sale as jewelry, and those examples that are available have become too expensive for the majority of buyers, who usually are interested in them simply because they’re pretty, and not because they have investment potential.
The interest in pink diamonds has trickled down towards other colors, too. While the interest in blue or yellow diamonds isn’t as strong as the interest in pink ones, buyers and investors are showing interest in those colors, too.
What does this mean for buyers? It means that if you are interested in a pink diamond and you see one for sale, the price is likely to be more affordable today than it’s going to be a few months or a year from now.
It also means that if you’re interested in a color of diamond other than clear, then you may wish to consider buying a color other than pink, as they’re likely to be more affordable than the pink ones.
It’s a shame that investors have to ruin the market for people who just want to wear pink diamonds because they’re attractive, but supply and demand is what makes the world go around, and that’s as true in the jewelry business as it is in any other.