Celebrated in song, diamonds, and more particularly, white diamond jewelry, has long reigned as the ultimate statement of ardor and affection. The name "Diamond"is derived from the Greek word"Adamas"meaning unconquerable and indestructible. The hardest, rarest, densest natural substance known to man, diamonds have been a source of fascination (and misinformation) since 800 BC when they were first presented to royalty in India. In those days the Indians believed that diamonds were created when lightning struck rock. Amazingly, the sub-continent was the only producer of diamonds for an astounding 2,500 years.
Dwindling Indian supplies probably spurred the exploration that led to the discovery of diamonds in Brazil, which became the next important diamond source. Beginning in l866, South Africa's massive diamond deposits were discovered, and a world-wide diamond rush was on. The South African diamond output was unrivaled until major deposits were found in Siberian permafrost in l954. And currently Western Canada is the site of the world's newest diamond rush.
As bewitching as diamonds are they have produced more than their fair share of myths over the centuries. They've been attributed with increasing potency, preventing lechery, driving away nightmares, counteracting poison, warding off evil, protection from wild beasts, healing sickness and (naturally) attracting good fortune. It was believed that diamonds were fragments of stars and the teardrops of the Gods.
Despite these fanciful ideas some of the amazingly real attributes of diamonds include: their age - the first diamond deposits were brought to the surface of the earth approximately 2.5 billion years ago while the most recent deposits are roughly 50 million years old; their hardness - diamonds are so hard they can only be polished by other diamonds; rarity - more than 250 tons of ore need to be blasted, crushed and processed to yield one carat of rough diamond and of that rough, only 20% is suitable for gem cutting; density - diamond is so dense that it actually slows down light to less than half its normal speed - 80,000 miles per second; fluorescence - if you're in a nightclub and someone's ears or fingers start to glow then diamonds are most likely the culprit, 30-40% of diamonds glow blue when exposed to ultraviolet light and some will even glow green, yellow, white or (extremely rare) red.
While Africa is known as the Diamond continent, it is actually in Australia that the largest reserves are to be found - including the very rare and highly valued pink and red fancy colored diamonds. Diamonds are made of pure carbon atoms that exist deep in the ground, and these are then exposed to intense heat and pressure over billions of years. Over time, this pressure builds up and forces the diamonds and rocks up toward the surface in a volcanic-like explosion. The explosion creates a very deep, wide hole called a "kimberlite pipe" into which most of the diamonds settle. These"pipes"resemble gigantic carrots encrusted with diamonds. It can take years to fully excavate an entire pipe. Only about one-fifth of all mined diamonds could be considered of gem quality. From 40 to 250 tons of gravel and sand must be processed today to recover one rough diamond from the world's thinning diamond deposits. Most diamonds, some 75-80% of all those mined, are used for such industrial applications as drilling, grinding, or sawing. The remainder is used for jewelry or investment. Less than 2% are of such high quality that they may be considered investment quality.