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Diamonds – Encompassing fact and fiction!

He was an abandoned infant – lying by the banks of river Yamuna. He was found by
the daughter of the lowly mahout and taken to the royal court. He was distinctive
because he had a large diamond attached to his forehead. He was none other than
Karna – the legendary son of Surya. And the diamond…was the one that came to be
known as the Kohinoor.

For centuries and generations, diamonds have captured human imagination and
fuelled myth. A diamond’s tantalizing beauty coupled with its magical quality and
strength has been used to convey sentiments ranging from sublime romance to
indomitable courage.

Diamonds are one of the most valuable gems known to mankind. History and lore
invoke the romance and allure of diamonds. Diamonds have also been referred to as
‘vajra’ in Sanskrit. ‘Vajra’ meaning thunderbolt – as they were believed to be
formed by lightening ! The word diamond comes from the Greek work ‘adamas’
meaning unconquerable.

Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave a diamond engagement ring to his fiancé,

Mary of Burgandy, thus starting the tradition of a diamond being the favored
gemstone for engagement rings.

A diamond is a mineral made of crystallized carbon and is the only gem that is made
of a single element. Gem diamonds are typically 99.95% pure carbon and the
balance 0.05% are impurity elements that in some cases influence the shape of the
crystal or impart colour. Nitrogen, for example imparts a yellowish colour and
boron a bluish colour to the diamond. It is the combination of the chemical
composition and crystal structure that produce the optical and physical properties
that make diamonds and most gemstones, durable, beautiful and valuable.

Diamonds are formed between 120 and 200 kms below the earth’s surface where the
necessary temperature and pressure to create diamonds exist. They are brought to
the surface of the earth by volcanic eruptions. After reaching the surface, some
diamonds settle back into their volcanic chimneys or pipes, known as kimberlite or
lamproite pipes and some after many years of erosion, get washed away into rivers
and streams creating alluvial deposits. Its outstanding resistance to physical and
chemical erosive agents has made it possible to find diamonds in secondary deposits
and therefore making it almost impossible to establish any relationship between
present deposits and the place of origin.
Diamonds were first discovered in India before 500 BC. India was the only major
source of diamonds for more than 2000 years. The famous Indian Mines were The
Kollur Mines in Golconda. Many famous diamonds bear their origin to these mines
like the Kohinoor Diamond, The Hope Diamond, The Black Orlov and several
others. These mines have since been exhausted. In 1631 Jean-Baptiste Travernier,
a French jeweller and traveller, visited the Indian mines and documented the Indian
mining techniques. He also took back with him several diamonds to France and was
thus the first European trader who bought and sold gems and opened the diamond
trade between India and Europe. India is no longer a significant producer of
diamonds, however, the Diamond Cutting Industry is flourishing. Bombay, (along
with Surat) is one of the five major Cutting Centers in the world. The other four
centers are Antwerp in Belgium, Tel Aviv in Israel, Johannesburg in South Africa
and New York in U.S.A.

In the early eighteenth century, diamonds were discovered in Brazil, a Portugese

Colony at the time. The Brazilian diamonds were not easy to sell because it was
believed that they were inferior Indian Diamonds that had been shipped to Brazil.
These diamonds were then sent to the port of Goa in India (which was a Potugese
colony at that time) and reshipped to Brazil and sold as Indian diamonds.
Diamonds in Brazil were discovered in Diamantina (formerly known as Tejuco in
Minas Gerais. Some of the famous diamonds from Brazilian Mines are the English
Dresden and Eugiene.

In 1870 diamonds were discovered in South Africa. South Africa became the major
source of diamonds. Some of the famous mines in South Africa are Jagersfontein
Mine, the Kimberly Mine, The Wesselton Mine, The Finsch Mines and the Premier
Mine where the largest diamond was found. The diamond was named Cullinan
after the owner of the mine, Thomas Cullinan, and weighed 3106 carats in rough.
Other famous diamonds from South Africa include The Excelsior, Eureka, Great
Chrysanthenum, Taylor-Burton, etc.

Diamond deposits are also found in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Sierra Leone,
Angola, Russia, Australia, China and Canada. Australia is the largest source of
diamonds today. Although Australian diamonds are small they include a range of
fancy colours like brown, pinks and purplish reds. The main source of diamonds
from Australia is the Argyle Diamond Mine.

Diamonds , like most gemstones are measured in metric carats – one carat being
equal to 0.2 grams. As weight increase, so does the price. Since large diamond
crystals are rare, the price per carat would be higher (by a large margin) for larger

Clarity is the degree to which a diamond is free of blemishes and inclusions.

Inclusions have a greater impact on the value, beauty and durability of the
gemstones than do blemishes. Inclusions provide valuable information about how
diamonds are formed. They also help the cutter decide how to deal with a rough and
most importantly, they help separate diamonds from its simulants. Diamonds
without inclusions are very rare and command very high prices. A flawless diamond
would be described as a diamond showing no inclusions or blemishes when observed
under 10x magnification.

Diamonds are found in many colours but most diamonds sold in the jewellery
industry range from colourless (very rare), near colourless to very light yellow or
brown. Slight colour differences in diamonds of comparable weight and clarity can
make a huge difference in price. Fancy colours which include yellow, brown, pink,
purple, blue, orange and red make up a small but exotic part of the diamond
market. Reds and greens are the rarest of the fancy colours, followed by blues and
pinks. Diamond is the only gemstone where the absence of colour makes it more

Many diamonds and some other gemstones glow when exposed to ultraviolet rays
such as the sunlight and fluorescent light. The most common fluorescence colour in
gem diamonds is blue, others being white, yellow and orange. Many colour terms
have been used to describe stones from different mines. Colourless diamonds with a
blue fluorescence were called ‘jagers’ (pronounced as ‘yagers’) after the
Jagersfontein mine which produced many such stones. ‘River’ was used to describe
colourless diamonds with no fluorescence. ‘Cape’ was used for distinctly light
yellow stones from the Cape of Good Hope; ‘Premier’ from the Premier Mines was
used for yellow stones with a blue fluorescence and ‘Golconda’ was an old trade
term used to describe exceptionally transparent, colourless diamonds. Today, we
have a more standardized colour grading system.

The colour of metal used for mounting diamonds can either mask or enhance the
colour of diamonds. Yellow metal masks the colours of blue stones but makes
slightly yellow diamonds appear more colourless while darker yellows and browns
(fancy) look darker and richer. White metal on the other hand, makes slightly
yellow or brown stones look yellower and browner but enhances the colours of blue

Nature gives each crystal a unique character. Much of the potential beauty and
value of the finished stone lies in the rough crystal, however, it is cutting - the
human contribution - that makes each stone look its best. Cutting is the art that
transforms a rough diamond into a dazzling gem. Even the most efficiently cut
diamond retains only about 40-50 percent of its rough weight.

Modern cutting is so precise and standardized that most diamonds are cut with
proportions that create an attractive display of a diamond’s optical characteristics.
The standard round brilliant with its 58 facets is the most popular cut as it
produces an even display of brilliance, fire and scintillation. This cut was perfected
by Marcel Tolkowsky, a member of the Belgium cutting family. Diamonds cut close
to the Tolkowsky model are slightly more expensive as they result in more weight
loss from rough than stones cut to other proportions. Today diamonds have larger
tables than Tolkowsky originally proposed. All shapes other than rounds are
known as fancy shapes and these would include oval, heart shaped, triangular, the
emerald cut, marquise, pear and baguettes.

It takes more than 200 tons of earth to be processed to get one carat of diamonds.
Only a quarter of the diamonds mined every year become jewellery, the rest is used
for industrial and scientific purposes.

Carbon with its humble beginnings goes through a grueling transformation under
intense pressure and excruciating heat spread over millions of years – to yield the
magnificence of a diamond. The awe and wonderment that a diamond evokes lies
not in the extraordinary mining effort but in the fact that perfection was attained by

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