Diamond facts for kids
The slightly misshapen octahedral shape of this rough diamond crystal in matrix is typical of the mineral. Its lustrous faces also indicate that this crystal is from a primary deposit.
|Formula mass||12.01 g⋅mol−1|
|Color||Typically yellow, brown or gray to colorless. Less often blue, green, black, translucent white, pink, violet, orange, purple and red.|
|Crystal system||Isometric-Hexoctahedral (Cubic)|
|Twinning||Spinel law common (yielding "macle")|
|Cleavage||111 (perfect in four directions)|
|Mohs scale hardness||10 (defining mineral)|
|Diaphaneity||Transparent to subtransparent to translucent|
|Refractive index||2.418 (at 500 nm)|
|Melting point||Pressure dependent|
Diamonds have the highest hardness of any bulk (all one type) material. Because of this, many important industries use diamonds as tools for cutting and polishing things. Many of them are clear, but some of them have colors, like yellow, red, blue, green and pink. Diamonds of a different color are called "fancies".
Big diamonds are very rare, and are worth a lot of money. Only 20% of diamonds are fit for jewelry. The other 80% are not pretty enough. They are industrial diamonds, used to make things like drill bits and diamond saws. This is because even a diamond that is not beautiful is useful because it is very hard.
Because many diamonds are beautiful, people make jewellery using them. Diamonds are very effective electrical insulators, but also very good conductors of heat. On Mohs scale of mineral hardness, diamonds are scored as 10 (the highest score possible).
Formation of diamonds
There are natural and synthetic diamonds. The Earth makes natural diamonds, and people make synthetic diamonds. Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man. Diamonds are made of pure carbon, the same chemical element as graphite, fullerene, and coal. But diamonds are very hard and in crystalline form. It is commonly believed that diamonds are formed from coal, but this is not true.
Diamonds are made deep in the Earth where there is an intense amount of pressure and heat. The formation of natural diamonds needs specific conditions. These are exposure of carbon-bearing materials to high pressure, between 45 and 60 kilobars (4.5 and 6 GPa), but at a comparatively low temperature, between about 900 and 1,300 °C (1,650 and 2,370 °F). These conditions are found in two places on Earth: in the lithospheric mantle below relatively stable continental plates, and at the site of a meteorite strike.
People find diamonds where volcanoes were a long time ago, or at the site of a meteorite strike. Sometimes people find diamonds on the top of the ground. But in places like South Africa, they must dig deep down into a diamond mine to get diamonds. Diamonds were first found in India.
A diamond is a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms in a covalent network lattice (sp3) that crystallizes into the diamond lattice which is a variation of the face-centered cubic structure. Diamonds have been adapted for many uses because of the material's exceptional physical characteristics. Most notable are its extreme hardness and thermal conductivity (900–2320 W·m−1·K−1), as well as wide bandgap and high optical dispersion. Above 1700 °C (1973 K / 3583 °F) in vacuum or oxygen-free atmosphere, diamond converts to graphite; in air, transformation starts at ~700 °C. Diamond's ignition point is 720–800 °C in oxygen and 850–1000 °C in air. Naturally occurring diamonds have a density ranging from 3.15 to 3.53 g/cm3, with pure diamond close to 3.52 g/cm3. The chemical bonds that hold the carbon atoms in diamonds together are weaker than those in graphite. In diamonds, the bonds form an inflexible three-dimensional lattice, whereas in graphite, the atoms are tightly bonded into sheets, which can slide easily over one another, making the overall structure weaker.
In a diamond, each carbon atom is surrounded by neighboring four carbon atoms forming a tetrahedral shaped unit.
Diamonds occur most often as euhedral or rounded octahedra and twinned octahedra known as macles. As diamond's crystal structure has a cubic arrangement of the atoms, they have many facets that belong to a cube, octahedron, rhombicosidodecahedron, tetrakis hexahedron or disdyakis dodecahedron. The crystals can have rounded off and unexpressive edges and can be elongated. Diamonds (especially those with rounded crystal faces) are commonly found coated in nyf, an opaque gum-like skin.
Diamond is the hardest known natural material on both the Vickers and the Mohs scale. Diamond's hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name.
Diamond hardness depends on its purity, crystalline perfection and orientation: hardness is higher for flawless, pure crystals oriented to the <111> direction (along the longest diagonal of the cubic diamond lattice). Therefore, whereas it might be possible to scratch some diamonds with other materials, such as boron nitride, the hardest diamonds can only be scratched by other diamonds and nanocrystalline diamond aggregates.
The hardness of diamond contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well. Unlike many other gems, it is well-suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching—perhaps contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in engagement or wedding rings, which are often worn every day.
The hardest natural diamonds mostly originate from the Copeton and Bingara fields located in the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, perfect to semiperfect octahedra, and are used to polish other diamonds. Their hardness is associated with the crystal growth form, which is single-stage crystal growth. Most other diamonds show more evidence of multiple growth stages, which produce inclusions, flaws, and defect planes in the crystal lattice, all of which affect their hardness. It is possible to treat regular diamonds under a combination of high pressure and high temperature to produce diamonds that are harder than the diamonds used in hardness gauges.
Somewhat related to hardness is another mechanical property toughness, which is a material's ability to resist breakage from forceful impact. The toughness of natural diamond has been measured as 7.5–10 MPa·m1/2. This value is good compared to other ceramic materials, but poor compared to most engineering materials such as engineering alloys, which typically exhibit toughnesses over 100 MPa·m1/2. As with any material, the macroscopic geometry of a diamond contributes to its resistance to breakage. Diamond has a cleavage plane and is therefore more fragile in some orientations than others. Diamond cutters use this attribute to cleave some stones, prior to faceting. "Impact toughness" is one of the main indexes to measure the quality of synthetic industrial diamonds.
Used in so-called diamond anvil experiments to create high-pressure environments, diamonds are able to withstand crushing pressures in excess of 600 gigapascals (6 million atmospheres).
Other specialized applications also exist or are being developed, including use as semiconductors: some blue diamonds are natural semiconductors, in contrast to most diamonds, which are excellent electrical insulators. The conductivity and blue color originate from boron impurity. Boron substitutes for carbon atoms in the diamond lattice, donating a hole into the valence band.
Substantial conductivity is commonly observed in nominally undoped diamond grown by chemical vapor deposition. This conductivity is associated with hydrogen-related species adsorbed at the surface, and it can be removed by annealing or other surface treatments.
Diamonds are naturally lipophilic and hydrophobic, which means the diamonds' surface cannot be wet by water, but can be easily wet and stuck by oil. This property can be utilized to extract diamonds using oil when making synthetic diamonds. However, when diamond surfaces are chemically modified with certain ions, they are expected to become so hydrophilic that they can stabilize multiple layers of water ice at human body temperature.
The surface of diamonds is partially oxidized. The oxidized surface can be reduced by heat treatment under hydrogen flow. That is to say, this heat treatment partially removes oxygen-containing functional groups. But diamonds (sp3C) are unstable against high temperature (above about 400 °C (752 °F)) under atmospheric pressure. The structure gradually changes into sp2C above this temperature. Thus, diamonds should be reduced under this temperature.
Diamonds are not very reactive. Under room temperature diamonds do not react with any chemical reagents including strong acids and bases. A diamond's surface can only be oxidized at temperatures above about 850 °C (1,560 °F) in air. Diamond also reacts with fluorine gas above about 700 °C (1,292 °F).
Diamond has a wide bandgap of 5.5 eV corresponding to the deep ultraviolet wavelength of 225 nanometers. This means that pure diamond should transmit visible light and appear as a clear colorless crystal. Colors in diamond originate from lattice defects and impurities. The diamond crystal lattice is exceptionally strong, and only atoms of nitrogen, boron and hydrogen can be introduced into diamond during the growth at significant concentrations (up to atomic percents). Transition metals nickel and cobalt, which are commonly used for growth of synthetic diamond by high-pressure high-temperature techniques, have been detected in diamond as individual atoms; the maximum concentration is 0.01% for nickel and even less for cobalt. Virtually any element can be introduced to diamond by ion implantation.
Nitrogen is by far the most common impurity found in gem diamonds and is responsible for the yellow and brown color in diamonds. Boron is responsible for the blue color. Color in diamond has two additional sources: irradiation (usually by alpha particles), that causes the color in green diamonds, and plastic deformation of the diamond crystal lattice. Plastic deformation is the cause of color in some brown and perhaps pink and red diamonds. In order of increasing rarity, yellow diamond is followed by brown, colorless, then by blue, green, black, pink, orange, purple, and red. "Black", or Carbonado, diamonds are not truly black, but rather contain numerous dark inclusions that give the gems their dark appearance. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Most diamond impurities replace a carbon atom in the crystal lattice, known as a carbon flaw. The most common impurity, nitrogen, causes a slight to intense yellow coloration depending upon the type and concentration of nitrogen present. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies low saturation yellow and brown diamonds as diamonds in the normal color range, and applies a grading scale from "D" (colorless) to "Z" (light yellow). Diamonds of a different color, such as blue, are called fancy colored diamonds and fall under a different grading scale.
In 2008, the Wittelsbach Diamond, a 35.56-carat (7.112 g) blue diamond once belonging to the King of Spain, fetched over US$24 million at a Christie's auction. In May 2009, a 7.03-carat (1.406 g) blue diamond fetched the highest price per carat ever paid for a diamond when it was sold at auction for 10.5 million Swiss francs (6.97 million euros, or US$9.5 million at the time). That record was, however, beaten the same year: a 5-carat (1.0 g) vivid pink diamond was sold for $10.8 million in Hong Kong on December 1, 2009.
Diamonds can be identified by their high thermal conductivity. Their high refractive index is also indicative, but other materials have similar refractivity. Diamonds cut glass, but this does not positively identify a diamond because other materials, such as quartz, also lie above glass on the Mohs scale and can also cut it. Diamonds can scratch other diamonds, but this can result in damage to one or both stones. Hardness tests are infrequently used in practical gemology because of their potentially destructive nature. The extreme hardness and high value of diamond means that gems are typically polished slowly, using painstaking traditional techniques and greater attention to detail than is the case with most other gemstones; these tend to result in extremely flat, highly polished facets with exceptionally sharp facet edges. Diamonds also possess an extremely high refractive index and fairly high dispersion. Taken together, these factors affect the overall appearance of a polished diamond and most diamantaires still rely upon skilled use of a loupe (magnifying glass) to identify diamonds "by eye".
Approximately 130,000,000 carats (26,000 kg) of diamonds are mined annually, with a total value of nearly US$9 billion, and about 100,000 kg (220,000 lb) are synthesized annually.
Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa, although significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. They are mined from kimberlite and lamproite volcanic pipes, which can bring diamond crystals, originating from deep within the Earth where high pressures and temperatures enable them to form, to the surface. The mining and distribution of natural diamonds are subjects of frequent controversy such as concerns over the sale of blood diamonds or conflict diamonds by African paramilitary groups. The diamond supply chain is controlled by a limited number of powerful businesses, and is also highly concentrated in a small number of locations around the world.
Only a very small fraction of the diamond ore consists of actual diamonds. The ore is crushed, during which care is required not to destroy larger diamonds, and then sorted by density. Today, diamonds are located in the diamond-rich density fraction with the help of X-ray fluorescence, after which the final sorting steps are done by hand. Before the use of X-rays became commonplace, the separation was done with grease belts; diamonds have a stronger tendency to stick to grease than the other minerals in the ore.
Historically, diamonds were found only in alluvial deposits in Guntur and Krishna district of the Krishna River delta in Southern India. India led the world in diamond production from the time of their discovery in approximately the 9th century BC to the mid-18th century AD, but the commercial potential of these sources had been exhausted by the late 18th century and at that time India was eclipsed by Brazil where the first non-Indian diamonds were found in 1725. Currently, one of the most prominent Indian mines is located at Panna.
Diamond extraction from primary deposits (kimberlites and lamproites) started in the 1870s after the discovery of the Diamond Fields in South Africa. Production has increased over time and now an accumulated total of 4,500,000,000 carats (900,000 kg) have been mined since that date. Twenty percent of that amount has been mined in the last five years, and during the last 10 years, nine new mines have started production; four more are waiting to be opened soon. Most of these mines are located in Canada, Zimbabwe, Angola, and one in Russia.
In the U.S., diamonds have been found in Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana. In 2004, the discovery of a microscopic diamond in the U.S. led to the January 2008 bulk-sampling of kimberlite pipes in a remote part of Montana. The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas is open to the public, and is the only mine in the world where members of the public can dig for diamonds.
Today, most commercially viable diamond deposits are in Russia (mostly in Sakha Republic, for example Mir pipe and Udachnaya pipe), Botswana, Australia (Northern and Western Australia) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2005, Russia produced almost one-fifth of the global diamond output, according to the British Geological Survey. Australia boasts the richest diamantiferous pipe, with production from the Argyle diamond mine reaching peak levels of 42 metric tons per year in the 1990s. There are also commercial deposits being actively mined in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Brazil. Diamond prospectors continue to search the globe for diamond-bearing kimberlite and lamproite pipes.
Trading in diamonds
For many decades the trading of diamonds was controlled by the De Beers group of companies, who controlled most of Africa's rich diamond mines. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, new diamond mines opened in Canada and Australia that De Beers wasn't able to control. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, many cheap Russian diamonds entered the market, overwhelming De Beers and their efforts to control it. De Beers still runs most of Africa's diamond mines, but their mines now only produce about one third of the world's diamonds.
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