The Diamond

Diamond in classic round brilliant cut

It’s name derives from the Greek word referring to hardness, Adamas, which means “unconquerable”. Diamonds are crystals of carbon that are formed in the earth’s crust over millions of years, under conditions of intense heat and pressure. There is nothing close to its hardness and only another diamond can cut a diamond. This being said, it is possible to break a diamond due to its strong cleavage, which is the ability of a crystal to “split” along certain flat planes. With care, it is possible to solder right up close to a diamond as it can withstand high temperatures.  X-rays cannot permeate diamonds, which is unlike any of the synthetics produced to look like diamonds.  This is often a method used to identify genuine diamonds. Because of its hardness, it is the most “brilliant” of all gemstones and  has been known as the “king of gems”.  A diamond’s facets have very distinctive “crisp” edges. This “fire” is what has made the diamond desirable for adornment since the beginning of time.

The first diamond deposits were discovered in India and thereafter a few were found in Borneo. In 1725 diamonds were discovered in Brazil, and for some time Brazil led the world’s diamond production. In 1867 the first diamond deposit was discovered in South Africa, and since then, this country has led the world’s diamond production. At first most mining was alluvial (above the surface). A method known as “panning” was used, where they used a sieve and worked the surface layers of sediment on the river beds. Today, mining is mostly underground and highly sophisticated, where a main shaft is sunk and then levels are blasted into diamond bearing rock, called kimberlite. On average, one ton of diamond-bearing rock yields half a carat of diamond, so it is incredibly labour intensive. Namibia has large alluvial deposits of diamonds, which are mined off the Namibian desert coast. In recent years, Russia has become the second largest producer of commercial diamonds, with numerous alluvial deposits of large stones being found in eastern Siberia. Before 1949 they had mostly industrial quality, not gem quality diamonds.
About 80% of the world diamond production is “managed”. All diamonds of gem quality are sent to the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) in London, where parcels are made up for particular customers. Only a few diamond manufacturers are “invited” to buy these “lots” at fixed prices. They cannot buy part of a parcel, and it has been known that if you refuse a parcel too many times, you are never “invited” to buy again. Further sales and sorting happens by members of diamond “bourses”, clubs or wholesalers. Bourses are found in Antwerp, Amsterdam, New York, Israel, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Paris and Vienna. This is how the producers control the prices of rough diamonds in order to maintain the value of diamonds. In other words, the price of diamonds is controlled. I always think it is better to decide what you would like to spend on a stone, and then choose the stone that best fits your budget. If you are paying a commercial or retail price for something, and you wanted to sell it a year after buying it, you would not be able to resell it near the amount you paid for it. You must buy it because you love what it looks like, and that you are going to get pleasure out of wearing it or giving it to someone to mark an occasion. Due to the high price of diamonds, there are many synthetics manufactured, or doublets, which are made with the top half of the stone being diamond, and the bottom being rock crystal or glass. In my opinion, when purchasing anything of value, one should have a little bit of knowledge, and, especially in this day and age, make sure you buy from a reputable jeweller or diamond merchant, and definitely have assurance or proof that they are not conflict diamonds. If a stone is larger than a quarter carat, 0,25ct, you can insist on a certificate of authenticity. “Smalls” as they are known, are usually sold in parcels, and it would be unusual for each and everyone to be certified. However if you purchased a piece with many smalls, you could ask for a valuation certificate specifying what the piece is made up of. The Jeweller should be a member of the South African Jewellery Association. This affords you the peace of mind that they have to adhere to basic honest rules of conduct in terms of running their business and that they are not selling you conflict diamonds.
The size or weight, the shape, the colour and the clarity of each individual stone determine diamond pricing.

The size/weight:

The size, which is determined by its weight in carats, determines part of the price of a diamond, and it goes up exponentially. A 0,10ct stone (a ten pointer) is not half the price of a 0,20ct stone (a twenty pointer). For example 0,01ct – 0,09ct stones are in one price bracket, then the price per carat jumps say from 0,10ct – 0,15ct and so on. If you find a 0,49ct ( which is very rare as they will try and cut it so that it hits 0, the price will be substantially lower than a 0,50ct, even though the diameter size might not seem that different to the average person’s eye.