Humans have been intrigued by diamonds since time ancient times. These stones have always been in demand and will continue to be until the culmination of life on the planet. Interestingly, we have made the enigma of the diamond more interesting and inviting by adding coal to the equation, all thanks to scientific evolution and many misconceptions.
We all have heard diamonds and coal in the same sentence because of the falsified association that has been developed in the last few decades. In this article, we are going to discuss the interesting dichotomy of diamonds and coal—why they are linked to each other—how they are different and are diamonds really made out of coal?
Carbon: The Common Substrate of Both Geological Elements
During the 20th century when studies and research on the microscopic structural arrangement of the elements and materials were initiated, the world came to know about this interesting trivia that both coal and diamonds are made of carbon. This is the primary reason behind its widespread misconception that diamonds are actually the refined, enhanced and extravagant form of coal.
Popular Culture Strengthens this Misconception Further
The fact that carbon is the common substrate of both these elements also made its way into popular culture and inspirational quotes. “A diamond is just a lump of coal that did well under pressure”, “Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond” and other similar paraphrased quotes have become popular among the masses. These adages might inspire some people to handle their stress in a better manner and to wait for the right time. But there is no truth in the assertion that with more time and under extreme pressure, coal is converted into diamonds, not at least according to what geologists and scientific studies tell us.
Similarly, the most iconic superhero of our time has also helped in peddling this misconception. Superman, the Kryptonian visitor on Earth, has been shown in many comic strips and cartoon films to convert a lump of coal into diamonds by just crushing them in between his palms.
Of course, this continuous yet unintended spread of false information has also led many into believing that coals and diamonds are distant brothers from the same father. Or coal is just a premature form of the diamond.
Why do People Love to Discuss Coal and Diamonds Together?
Innate human tendencies are also responsible for this unsubstantiated association. There is a huge disparity between the worth, uses and general social discernment regarding coal and diamonds. Coal is an industrial mineral majorly used to produce energy with no aesthetic value whatsoever. In contrast, the diamond is an elite gemstone and we think it has now become redundant to go into the details of the diamond’s aesthetical features.
Regarding the worth of both these geological specimens, let’s illustrate an interesting scenario: Without any permission and authorization, you can easily pick a carat or even more of a coal sample without anyone even batting an eye. On the other hand, one may have to plan an entire heist to get the same amount of diamonds in a similar manner. So, amid all these stark different realities of the two specimens, the thought that diamonds and coal are actually the same feeds the human fascination.
How Diamonds and Coals are not Related?
The Site of Formation
Diamonds and coal are formed at pretty different locations beneath the ground. The diamonds are formed from carbon and its derivatives, some 200 miles and more beneath the surface. On the other hand, coal formation usually takes place way closer to the surface of the earth. Even a distant coal mining site is only deep as Two miles into the ground.
Secondly, their excavations also suggest that they are different geological specimens. The majority of coal mining is done at the same location where this sediment rock is naturally formed. However, that’s not the case with diamond mining. Miners don’t dig 200 mile long trenches (it’s not even possible) to excavate diamond deposits. The mined diamonds are actually the ones that come close to the surface of the earth from their original site of the formation during volcanic eruptions.
The Form of Carbon
Diamonds and coal are derived from carbon. But that doesn’t mean the similar carbon composition is used in the formation of both. Diamonds are made from the purest carbon deposits. This is one of the reasons behind the exceptional clarity of the diamond specimen. Meanwhile, carbon used in the formation of coal is decked with impurities such as nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and selenium. These impurities are also the reason why coal-burning leads to greenhouse emissions.
The carbon used in the formation of the diamond sometimes contains minor traces of these impurities, but that doesn’t change the basic structure and appearance of the gem. In fact, different natural shades and color tinges in some diamond specimens are present because of them.
In addition, the sources of carbons are also pretty dissimilar for both specimens. Diamonds are made from carbon deposits that are inherently present in the earth’s crust. In contrast, the majority of coal deposits are actually formed from the carbon present in decomposed ancient plants.
Temperature and Pressure Treatment
The components of the process of their formation also differentiate these two geological specimens. Carbon gets into a particular form to become a diamond under extreme temperature and pressure conditions that are only found within the mantle of the planet. Similarly, the heat and pressure treatment is followed by a long cooling process that develops the characteristic hardness of the diamond. The formation of coal also involves temperature and pressure changes. However, they are nowhere near the process of a diamond is formed.
All the above discussion has made it quite clear that diamonds and coals are not related to each other. Apart from the difference of color and hardness, there are many other divergences between these two carbon specimens that we have thoroughly covered in this article.