Historically, the first diamonds were extracted 3,000 years ago in India. As they are only extracted from alluvial deposits (found on riverbanks), and because of their great beauty and extraordinary resistance, diamonds are an important symbol in many cultures. Indians call it the “fruit of the stars,” and deem it to come from sacred sources; it is also an object of worship in Bhuddism, Hinduism, and as part of both the mysticism of Jainism and Lamaism. It is thus primarily used as a religious ornament in these cultures.
It was during antiquity that diamonds gained their status as a precious stone in Egypt, Greece and ancient Rome, where its rarity and popularity made its value greatly increase. It is worn as an amulet protecting its bearer from poisons, and is symbolically associated with eternal love in Greek-Roman mythology. During this period, it was used in its raw form. Indeed, faceted diamonds did not appear until the middle of the 11th century, for fear that altering the gem’s appearance too greatly would remove its powers. It wasn’t until much later that the sharp edges of cut diamond that we know and love appeared.
It was in the 18th century that diamond’s composition, which is primarily made up of carbon, was uncovered, and only in the 20th century was it synthesised for the first time. Diamonds then became an industrial material, and its global production now exceeds 100 tons per year.
As popular as ever, diamonds are today found on many types of jewellery for all dress codes and events. They are highly prized as much for their purity and rarity as for their delicate lines; white or colourful, transparent or opaque, French jewellers help to demystify diamonds and make them accessible to the general population, with or without inclusions.
Etymologically, the word diamond comes from the Latin diamas, ‘hard matter’ derived from the ancient Greek adamas: “unbreakable.” Initially meaning “indomitable mind,” this term later referred to the strongest metals, in which the Greek gods would have forged their weapons and instruments. It is generally referred to as “diamond” in the English-speaking world.
Diamond was produced exclusively in India and the Borneo region from its discovery until the 16th century. Later, it was Brazilian diamonds that became established on the Western market until the end of the 19th century. South African deposits were later discovered, and since then, the majority of diamonds have come from Africa.
The main producers of diamonds on the market today are Botswana, Australia, Russia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together they produce around 73% of global production.
Diamonds are a metastable form of carbon under normal pressure and temperature conditions. Its molar mass is 12.02 g mol−1 with a density of 3520 kg/m3. Diamonds (without structural modifications) withstand a temperature of 1700 °C in a neutral atmosphere without oxygen. Exceeding this, they morph into graphite; on contact with the air, a temperature of 700 °C will suffice for their transformation. Diamond’s ignition point is between 720 °C and 800 °C in the oxygen, and between 850 °C and 1000 °C in the air.
There is no natural material that is harder than diamond, even though its hardness depends on its purity. Diamond’s purity corresponds to an atomic structure characterised by a very particular orientation of the carbon atoms of which it is made up of. Diamond’s hardness is one of the primary characteristics that contribute to its popularity. Unlike many other minerals, it resists scratches and can therefore be worn on a daily basis without tainting the quality of its polish. Diamond stone is thus the perfect gem for engagement rings or wedding rings, as well as for any jewel worn on a daily basis as it is impossible to damage.
This is the weight measuring unit used for gems. Carat measurement surfaced during the 20th century, and was used to determine the price of gems. Of equal quality, the value of a diamond is proportional to its weight, which also depends on its density, i.e. the pressure exerted on the gem whilst it was buried. The denser a diamond is, the heavier it is, and thus the greater its value: up to tens of millions of euros.
Naturally coloured diamonds are classified by the jeweller in terms of intensity. To characterise a coloured diamond, the terms “fancy light”, “fancy”, “fancy intense”, or “vivid fancy” are used to denote the weakest colour to the deepest. For example, a vivid fancy red is a naturally red diamond with a particularly deep tone. The naturally coloured diamonds available on today’s market are:
There are transparent natural diamonds and opaque varieties; Whilst the shades described above are characteristic of natural gems, you may also find fluorescent, yellow, purple, green or red synthetic diamonds on the market.