Diamonds and Gems:
Everyone's best friend
Scientists recognize about 100 minerals as gems. To be a gem, a stone must be beautiful, durable and rare. When a gem is found it is in what is called the uncut form. Diamonds are the most well-known and valuble gems but rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are also very popular gems.
There is an old saying that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but the truth is that diamonds are very important to all of us in ways we don't usually think about.
|When we think of diamonds we usually think of rings and other jewelry. In real life, only about 20% of the diamonds that are mined are good enough to be used in jewelry. The other 80% are used in industry for important purposes such as drilling, cutting and grinding tools. In electronics some diamonds are used in semiconductors for the manufacturing of diamond-based chips. Also, diamond films are used in stereo speakers sometimes and also can be used to make scratch proof coatings on watches.|
Diamonds are very very old, as a matter of fact, they are many millions of years old about 70 to 150 million. Diamonds were formed very deep beneath the earth's surface about 150 kilometers down. Long ago, the extreme heat and pressure at this depth in the earth transformed carbon atoms into diamonds and volcanic eruptions brought ore to the surface which contained diamonds. When the volcanic activity stopped and cooling took place, diamonds remained in the magma known as kimberlite which occured in the deep pipes of the volcaneos.
Diamonds are a mineral form of carbon and are the hardest known substance. Diamonds have a rating of 10 on the Moh's scale of harness and only another diamond can cut a diamond. An advertising slogan says that "diamonds are forever" and because of their extreme harness this is almost true! It is interesting that carbon also forms graphite which is used in the "lead" of pencils but this form of carbon is much softer. It's also not as beautiful. You don't see people wearing pencil lead as jewelry!
Most people think of South Africa when they think of diamond mines, but Australia is currently the world's largest producer of diamonds. The diamonds found in Australia are mostly low quality stones and used for industrial purposes. If you want beautiful gem stone diamonds you can look to South Africa. The mines at Kimberly, South Africa have produced a total of more than 200 million carats of diamonds since the late 1800's. Of those, about half were of gem quality. You can say that diamonds are hard to find because in three tons of geological material, on average, only one carat's worth of diamonds are found .
The size of a diamond is greatly decreased when it is cut for jewelry. Jewelers cut it in facets to enable it to reflect the light and seem to glow. Jewelry diamonds are measured in carats and points which are the units of measurements that jewelers use in determining the size of a diamond. Size, color, cut and clarity are the things that set a diamond's value as jewelry. The larger and more clear of imperfections a diamond is, the more valuable it is.
In history, diamonds have represented many wonderful things. The word "diamond" itself is from the Greek words meaning unconquerable and transparent. The Greek's believed that the fire-like glow from a diamond reflected the flame of love. The ancient people of India believed that diamonds were mystical and had the power to make them invincible. Our custom of wearing diamonds in engagement rings dates back to the Egyptians who believe that the "vein of love" connected the third finger of your hand with your heart.
The largest diamond ever found, so far, was named the Cullinan and it weighed 1.3 pounds which was 3,601 carats uncut. It was presented to King Edward VII of England. The stone was then cut into 9 large stones and 96 smaller stones. The largest, which is the largest cut diamond in the world, is in the Royal Scepter of Britain.
The most famous diamond in America is the Hope diamond. It is a very rare blue diamond that is about 45 carats large and you can see it at the Smithsonian Museum. It was mined in India and was originally a 112 carat gem before it was cut. The Hope diamond has a very mysterious background and some people believe it is cursed! Tradition says that it was cursed because a thief was supposed to have stolen it from the eye of a statue of the Hindu goddess Sita. A man named Tavernier originally brought the gem from India to France and sold it to King Louis XIV of France who had it cut into a 67 carat heart shaped stone and named it the Blue Diamond of the Crown. Poor Tavernier is said to have been killed by wild dogs on his next trip to India! The diamond's mysterious reputation was beginning. In it's history, several owners of the Hope Diamond have died in tragic and mysterious ways such as suicide, being shot, automobile accidents, and an overdose of drugs. Finally, in 1947 jeweler Harry Winston bought the Hope Diamond and donated the stone to the Smithsonian museum in 1958. Since then it has been on display and has apparently lost any curse it might have had, so you are safe in going to Washington and looking at it!
Go back to the Mining Tunnels!