Planets Where It Rains Diamonds, And Other Diamonds Facts And Myths

Let us clarify some misconceptions surrounding this beautiful gem. 

This popular gemstone rose to the height of its popularity in the West thanks to the DeBeers contribution, and also because a good diamond looks stunning and is great to work with. Let us clarify some misconceptions surrounding this beautiful gem. 

Special Properties Of Diamonds - Diamond Facts

Diamond is a mineral with the formula of C (carbon) and an isometric crystalline structure. The isometric structure is important: the mineral graphite has precisely the same formula (C - carbon) but displays extremely different qualities because it crystallizes in the hexagonal system.  

Refraction Index is the difference between the speed of light in a vacuum and the speed of light in the gemstone: basically, it is the way the path of light is changed, “bent,” slowed down as it passes through the gem (or water, etc.) The angle of refraction in the gemstone is its Refraction Index (RI), and it is what we perceive as “brilliance.” The more the RI, the higher the brilliance: the RI of a diamond is almost twice higher than the one of quartz. 

The angle of refraction in the gemstone is its Refraction Index (RI), and it is what we perceive as “brilliance.”
The angle of refraction in the gemstone is its Refraction Index (RI), and it is what we perceive as “brilliance.”

Refraction can be single or double, with two Refractive Indexes. When light enters doubly refractive gem, it splits into two beams traveling at a different speed, along their own path. Double refraction produces effects like doubling of the edges, or surface imprints, or sometimes pleochroism. Singly refractive gems are rare; in fact, the only well-known ones are diamond, spinel, and garnet. 

Diamonds are one of the hardest materials occurring in nature, with the hardness 10: all other gems are below 10. Scientists have created harder substances, but they are too brittle to be useful. This is why it takes time to cut diamonds! It does not, however, mean that diamonds cannot break; hardness is just one parameter of “durability.” But hardness allows us to cut and polish diamonds very highly, and they resist scratching, so they last in their brilliant form longer.

Diamonds Are The Rarest Gemstones - It Is A Myth

All high-quality gemstones are rare. But are diamonds rarer than other gemstone materials? Nope: no matter how we look at them - based on the sheer volume found, the number of known deposits, or estimated stock - diamonds are among one of the most common gemstones. Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are much rarer. Pure red rubies are so rare that no trade data is available, and finding one in decent size creates quite an event in gemstone auctions. A clear 5 carat Ruby is much more expensive than a clear 5-carat diamond, too. 

Although it is pretty much theoretical at this point, gemmologists also suspect that diamonds are the most common gem in nature. Even if we look outside Earth, they are still abundant. Current experiments indicate that it is likely “raining” diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter: diamonds get created in their dense atmospheres and sink down to the lower levels.

In 2005, space physicists discovered a crystallized white dwarf in the constellation Centaurus (BPM 37093) with the diamond core approximately the size of the Moon, named Lucy. Lucy is 10 billion, trillion, trillion carats diamond is 2,500 miles in diameter. 

Herkimer diamond nestled in bedrock
Herkimer diamond nestled in bedrock.

All Diamonds Are Precious, Highly Priced Stones - It Is A Myth

In the 18th century, a jeweler from France started categorizing gemstones as precious and semi-precious. These terms are still in use in marketing, but professional jewelers do not really use them - because they are pretty much meaningless these days. Garnets are a good example: they are categorized as “semi-precious,” yet some of them sell at $10,000 to $50,000 per carat! On the other hand, diamonds are vastly sold for industrial use and nail polishing tools, and you can find small, low-grade diamonds $1-$2 per piece. Diamonds become precious and high-priced when they are in larger sizes and high grades. 

Diamond Is The Most Brilliant Gemstone - It Is A Myth

We started this article by explaining the Refractive Index, so we had an objective scale for comparison. Brilliance is determined by how much light reflects back to the viewer as opposed to exiting the opposite side. What we perceive as brilliance depends on faceting (the skilled cut and polish to catch the light traveling inside the stone, make it bounce inside numerous times before exiting the stone, and exit towards the viewer) and the innate RI which cannot be changed. 

Diamonds have RI of 2.41, exceptional potential for brilliance if adequately cut. Yet, the rutile’s RI is 2.90! Not counting synthetic stones which have high RI, there are at least fifteen minerals with the RI higher than the diamond’s one. It means if you take one of them and the diamond and give them the same cut, they would be more brilliant.

I Can Get Rich If I Find A Diamond! - Very Unlikely. 

Now, as the Internet-connected the sources of diamonds with the end buyer, and due to more settled international diamond grading systems, the margins on cut diamonds became extremely thin. So you would have to have a skill and equipment (which is a considerable investment that you would be paying off for years) to create some uniquely skilled cuts with an established personal brand to increase the margin. Or have a scale of DeBeers. So selling diamonds does not make the best margin anymore.

The same goes for finding diamonds: the Diamond Crater in the US allows you to search for your own ones, but your chances to find a 1-carat diamond that would just pay back your trip and ticket are about 1 to 7000… Any job would provide for you better than looking for a diamond there. 

About the Author

Antonia is a sociologist and an anglicist by education, but a writer and a behavior enthusiast by inclination. If she's not writing, editing or reading, you can usually find her snuggling with her huge dog or being obsessed with a new true-crime podcast. She also has a (questionably) healthy appreciation for avocados and Seinfeld.


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