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?
Now, let’s have a look at the scientific and geological reasons how these minerals are not related to each other.
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.
A man went to a jewelry store and requested to look at some rings for his future fiance. After a number of rings that were shown to him, he picked a 1-carat diamond with an emerald cut. Not being an expert in the diamond field, he purchased it for $4000.00.
A couple of years later, he told his fiance that he wanted to get her a new ring. So they went to diamond dealers to sell the current one and were told that the ring wasn’t worth more than $900.00. Frustrated, they settled for the $900.00 and left.
Why Do People Get Ripped Off When Buying Diamonds?
What was the man’s mistake? He never asked for a GIA certificate to confirm what he was getting. “The GIA Diamond Grading Report includes an assessment of a diamond’s 4Cs – color, clarity, cut, and carat weight – along with a plotted diagram of its clarity characteristics and a graphic representation of the diamond’s proportions.”.
Of course, you can buy a diamond without a certificate and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get ripped off, but why take that chance?
In the example above, this is a 1.5-carat diamond. It has a clarity rating of SI1 (slight imperfections, but not to the naked eye). Its color rating is H (near colorless. Yellow tint exists but is not visible).
In general, if a diamond dealer tells you they can’t give you gem grading authentication, go somewhere else.
In this article, we will find out what factors make this beloved gemstone so valuable, what to look for when you are buying one, and how it has been part of human history for so long, so let’s begin with some facts about diamonds that you should know before purchasing one.
Mined Diamonds Need Some TLC Before They Become Jewelry
Diamonds don’t come out of mines ready to be sent to the jewelry market. They go through tedious refining before a jeweler even sees them. As a matter of fact, most of the natural diamonds from the mines never make it to that beautiful refined state because they come with too many imperfections and consequently, those diamonds are only suitable for industrial use.
Since the majority of mined diamonds can’t be used in jewelry, we are left with very few grades of diamonds that have such quality, the ones that can be used for decorative purposes, and they don’t come cheap.
It’s the simple imbalance of supply and demand that makes this gemstone expensive. But there are additional four main characteristics that determine a diamond’s value. Let’s take a look at what each of these characteristics is.
The 4cs of Diamonds
Although the 4cs rating system is found to be the most popular among diamonds, it can apply to any mineral or gemstone, but since we are focusing on diamonds now, let’s continue using this stone as our basis for the 4c’s standard.
The more colorless (or ‘whiter”) a diamond is, the rarer and more valuable it iswill be.
A diamond’s color is one of the determining factors regarding price. Most of the naturally occurring diamonds contain a noticeableyellowish hue.
In fact, it is hard to find one that is completely colorless; thus, the more colorless (or ‘whiter”) a diamond is, the rarer and more valuable it iswill be.
From an aesthetic viewpoint,as diamondsappear whiter, they give off the appearance of looking brighter to the eye and that adds a more appealing quality; therefore these diamonds automatically become more expensive.
The color or tint of diamonds is gradedalphabetically. Starting with the letter “D”, which representsthe most colorless of the gems; that is, one that is pure white, but this grade is hard to find. After “D” is “E” and “F”. All three of these grades are part of the colorless family and subsequently, sell for a higher price.
Then there’s “G, “H” and “J”, which represents near colorless. “K” to “M” has some faint yellow tintattributed to them and “N” to “Z” equate to a light yellower tint, but the yellow gets stronger as you move towards the end of the alphabet.
The most popular diamond color grade is “I”. When traces of the yellowish hue increase, the demand, and price of the diamond decreases.
Jewelry experts suggest getting a diamond just outside of the “D” to “F” range, such as “G” or “I” where the yellow tint may be so small you still can’t see it with the naked eye, but you can save a bundle compared to those in the “D” to “F” range.
Diamonds are a result of carbon being exposed to intense heat and pressure under the earth’s mantle for hundreds of millions of years.
This long process can add internal and external imperfections called inclusions and blemishes. The number, size, nature, and position of these imperfections affect the clarity of the stone.
The clarity scale has six categories: flawless (FL), internally flawless (IF), very, very slightly included (VVS1 and VVS2), very slightly included (VS1 and VS2), slightly included (SI1 and SI2), and included (I1, I2, and I3). FL diamonds account for less than 1% of the current diamond supply. These are the highest valued diamonds.
A flawless diamond (FL) is one where the imperfections can’t be seen even by 10x magnification, but these diamonds are rare and subsequently, very expensive. Many diamond experts recommend that you get a diamond that has some inclusions since the price would be much less.
Diamonds rated as VS1 and VS2 will have inclusions but are not visible to the naked eye. These are a good balance when you are looking to buy a stone but don’t want to mortgage your house to get one.
Tip:The differences between VS1 and VS2 are hardly noticeable, so it may be worth your while to purchase a diamond with a VS2 rating and save some money.
Diamonds rated SI1 have some inclusions that are, for the most part, visible under 10x magnification, but not to the naked eye and as such, are considered the best bang for your buck. The reasoning being is that when others look at your diamond, they will visually see a flawless gem. Even though it is not flawless, no one expects them to pull out a microscope to see what it really is.
Also, it should be noted that clarity is considered the least important of the diamond‘s 4c’s. This chart provides a nice illustration of diamond clarity.
A clarity of VS1 or S1 is recommended if you want to save money. They may have some imperfections but won’t be noticeable for the most part.
Acut is the most important element to consider when buying a diamond
Specifically, the refractive index is the comparison between the speed of light through the air (386,000 miles/second) to the speed of light when it hits a diamond. A diamond’s refractive index rating is generally around 2. This means that light travels through a diamond approximately 2 times slower than it travels through the air, or another way of stating this is that the light bends with a refracting index of 2.
The more the bending of light, the more the fire, and of course, the more expensive it will be. But in order for the light to bend properly (or perfectly), it has to be cut correctly which requires the precision of a diamond cutting expert to do it right.
The better the cut, the better the fire and brightness. The cut scale contains five grades: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor or ideal, very good, good, poor, and low, depending upon the company that makes the cut.
An excellent or ideal cut allows light to enter the stone and disperse it proportionality, reflecting back through the top. When a diamond’s cut is too shallow or too deep, the light will escape through the bottom of the stone.
As mentioned, mined diamonds can’t be fitted directly onto jewelry. They have to be polished and cut into a shape. Getting the perfect cut is a tricky prospect. With that said, a diamond cut is the most important element to consider when buying one. As mentioned, this is where the sparkle and fire materialize. If a diamond is not cut correctly, all the carats in the world won’t give it its flashy sparkle.
There is a tremendous balancing act involved in which the cut has to be made to enhance clarity without reducing the weight of the stone. There is always the chance that the weight and size of a diamond may be compromised while removing some visible imperfections from it.
You can save money by purchasing a good or very good cut, as a good cut will have a decent amount of light shining from it and a very good cut will have almost as much sparkle as an Ideal cut but will cost less.
Many think that a diamond carat refers to the size when it actually refers to weight. As carat weight increases, so does the rarity and price of the gemstone. The larger the carat, the more expensive the diamond.
Metrically, a “carat” is defined as 200 milligrams, which is 0.2 grams or 0.0070 of an ounce, so this should give you an idea of how small a carat is. Because of the large difference in the monetary value of diamond weights, the carat is further broken down into ‘points’, where 100 points are equal to one carat or 1/100th of a carat.
In diamond social circles, one might refer to a stone that weighs 0.50 carats as a fifty-pointer. Diamonds greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals, so a 1.25-carat diamond would be referred to as “one point eight carats.”
A simple analogy would be that one 3-carat diamond would weigh about as much as a raisin.
When looking to buy a diamond, look for the ones that are fractional; such as, 1.48, 2.14, or .24 carats. These would be lesser in price than purchasing a diamond with carat weights of 1.5, 2.25, or .25 respectively.
Here are some references you can use:
An F color grade with VS1 clarity would be about $10,500. A G color grade and VS1 clarity would be around $8000. A 1-carat engagement ring with an H color and VS2 clarity will yield around $6000. Same ring but VS1 clarity would be $7000. Same VS1 clarity but I grade is $4,500.
So a diamond’s price with the same color grade, clarity, cut and shape will increase significantly as the carat size increases.
Even though diamond shapes are not a part of the 4 C’s, they will still have a major impact on the appearance of your stone and can have significant price differences depending on the current trends of the time.
Also, depending upon the shape, they reflect light differently, giving each shape its unique fire and shine.
Specifically, a diamond’s shape refers to the geometry of the diamond, while cut refers to how the diamond’s proportions reflect light, but both factors determine their sparkle, so even if you get an Ideal cut stone. you still need to know the shape which will define the gem’s brilliance for better or worse.
The shapes for diamonds are the following: Round, Princess, Marquise, Cushion, Emerald, Radiant, Pear, Oval, and Asscher.
The round-cut actually called the round brilliant cut is the most popular shape of a diamond and is a favorite among jewelers to sell, as this cut offers great brilliance and has great flexibility within the four C’s. This means that in order to bring out the most brilliance for your round stone, you would want to complement it with high grades of color, clarity, and cut.
Have Diamonds Always Been so Popular and in Demand?
Diamonds have not come to the forefront from the renaissance, agricultural or industrial revolution. They have been important since ancient times when the Greeks ruled the world. Even the name ‘diamond’ is said to be derived from the Greek word ‘adamas’, meaning indestructible, because the Greeks associated the radiant and ever-glowing glitter of the diamond to be an indestructible sign of love.
Generally, throughout the course of history and various civilizations, diamonds have always been considered as the sign of supreme power. Many cultural dogmas considered diamonds to contain magical powers that can be used to cure madness and repel evil spirits. Plato, the famous Greek philosopher shared the thought that diamonds were living spirits. Diamond powder, due to its curing abilities, had also been used in medicines.
There are a lot more historical anecdotes that can be mentioned to highlight the fact that the diamond has always been popular. It’s this popularity that makes it so expensive.
Moving Up the Ladder
It may be noteworthy that there are jewelers with high standing reputations such as Tiffany* who maintain their standards by selling only the perfect cut. Of course, that goes without saying that the price may be a bit higher than a standard jeweler.
* HowardFenstermMinerals.com or its staff, consultants or associates do not have any affiliation with Tiffany or any other companies mentioned in this article in any manner. The purpose of this mention is only for knowledge purposes.