Diamond is the hardest known natural material and the third-hardest known material after aggregated diamond nanorods and ultrahard fullerite. Its hardness and high dispersion of light make it useful for industrial applications and jewelry.
Diamonds are specifically renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities – they make excellent abrasives because they can be scratched only by other diamonds, Borazon, ultrahard fullerite, or aggregated diamond nanorods, which also means they hold a polish extremely well and retain their lustre. About 130 million carats (26,000 kg) are mined annually, with a total value of nearly USD $9 billion. About 100,000 kg are synthesized annually.
The name diamond derives from the ancient Greek adamas
They have been treasured as gemstones since their use as religious icons in ancient India and usage in engraving tools also dates to early human history. Popularity of diamonds has risen since the 19th century because of increased supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, growth in the world economy, and innovative and successful advertising campaigns. They are commonly judged by the “four Cs”: carat, clarity, color, and cut.
Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from central and southern Africa, although significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. They are mined from kimberlite and lamproite volcanic pipes, which brought to the surface the diamond crystals from deep in the Earth where the high pressure and temperature enables the formation of the crystals. The mining and distribution of natural diamonds are subjects of frequent controversy such as with concerns over the sale of conflict diamonds by African paramilitary groups. There are also allegations that the De Beers Group misuses its dominance in the industry to control supply and manipulate price via monopolistic practices, although in recent years the company’s market share has dropped to below 50%.
A diamond is a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms and crystallizes into the face centered cubic diamond lattice structure. Diamonds have been adapted for many uses because of the material’s exceptional physical characteristics. Most notable are its extreme hardness, its high dispersion index, and high thermal conductivity, with a melting point of 3820 K (3547 °C / 6420 °F) and a boiling point of 5100K (4827 °C / 8720 °F). Naturally occurring diamond has a density ranging from 3.15 to 3.53 g/cm3, with very pure diamond typically extremely close to 3.52 g/cm3.
Diamond is the hardest natural material known to man – its hardness set to 10 (hardest) on Mohs scale of mineral hardness and having an absolute hardness value of between 90, 167, and 231 gigapascals in various tests. Diamond’s hardness has been known since antiquity, and is the source of its name. However, aggregated diamond nanorods, an allotrope of carbon first synthesized in 2005, are even harder than diamond.
The hardest diamonds in the world are from the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, perfect to semi perfect octahedral, and are used to polish other diamonds. Their hardness is considered to be a product of the crystal growth form, which is single stage growth crystal. Most other diamonds show more evidence of multiple growth stages, which produce inclusions, flaws, and defect planes in the crystal lattice all of which affect their hardness.
The hardness of diamonds contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well, keeping its luster over long periods of time. Unlike many other gems, it is well-suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching-perhaps contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in an engagement ring or wedding ring, which are often worn every day. Industrial use of diamonds has historically been associated with their hardness; this property makes diamond the ideal material for cutting and grinding tools. As the hardest known naturally occurring material, diamond can be used to polish, cut, or wear away any material, including other diamonds. Common industrial adaptations of this ability include diamond-tipped drill bits and saws, or use of diamond powder as an abrasive. Industrial-grade diamonds are either unsuitable for use as gems or synthetically produced, which lowers their value and makes their use economically feasible. Industrial applications, especially as drill bits and engraving tools, also date to ancient times.
Other specialized applications also exist or are being developed, including use as semiconductors: some blue diamonds are natural semiconductors, in contrast to most other diamonds, which are excellent electrical insulators.
Toughness relates to a material’s ability to resist breakage from forceful impact. The toughness of natural diamond has been measured as 3.4 MN m-3/2, which is good compared to other gemstones, but poor compared to most engineering materials. As with any material, the macroscopic geometry of a diamond contributes to its resistance to breakage. Diamond is therefore more fragile in some orientations than others.
Diamonds can occur in nearly any color, though yellow and brown are by far the most common. “Black” diamonds are not truly black, but rather contain numerous dark inclusions that give the gems their dark appearance. When the color is saturated enough in yellow or brown diamonds, a stone may be referred to as a fancy colored diamond by the gem trade, otherwise they are graded for color in the normal color range of white diamonds. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Most diamond impurities replace a carbon atom in the crystal lattice, known as a carbon flaw. The most common impurity, nitrogen, causes a slight to intense yellow coloration depending upon the type and concentration of nitrogen present. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies low saturation yellow and brown diamonds as diamonds in the normal color range, and applies a grading scale from ‘D’ (colorless) to ‘Z’ (light yellow). The GIA labels diamonds that have more color than a ‘Z’ diamond fancy, along with those that are any color other than yellow or brown.