Week of April 30, 2023

Facts are Forever


Diamonds originated about 100 miles underground, formed from carbon hundreds of millions of years ago under the phenomenal heat and pressure of the earth’s mantle. The natural channels of volcanic pipes bring the diamonds closer to the surface for mining.


Though we often see clear diamonds on jewelry, natural diamonds come in almost all colors. The color comes from “impurities” within the carbon structure (trapped nitrogen makes yellow diamonds, for example), and in some cases the diamonds are even colored by radiation exposure.


The regular and uniform seeds of the carob tree were used for centuries as the standard for weighing gems before a 1908 international standardization. The Greek name for this tree is keration, which is where we get carat, the measurement of diamond weight. Diamonds smaller than one carat are measured in points, and there are 100 points to a carat.


The largest diamond ever found was discovered by a mine superintendent in 1905 in Pretoria, South Africa. It weighed 1.33 lbs., or 3,106 carats, and was dubbed the Cullinan after the mine’s owner. Cut into over 100 smaller diamonds, the three largest are now among the British royal stones, and the “Cullinan I” AKA “Star of Africa I” is the largest cut fine-quality diamond in the world.


Only about 30% of diamonds mined are gem quality, so the remaining diamonds often find industrial uses because of their exceptional hardness, including cutting, sanding, boring, and coring.


Most diamond mines are obviously privately-owned, but Murfeesboro, Arkansas, hosts Crater of Diamonds State Park, the world’s only public diamond digging facility. Visitors may search a 37-acre field for diamonds they can keep. For inspiration, consider that the Uncle Sam Diamond, the largest diamond ever found in the US at 40+ carats, was found here.


Money may not grown on trees, but diamonds might rain on other planets, research indicates. 1000 tonnes of diamonds a year may be created on Saturn alone.