Currently identified with love, diamonds are the gemstone of choice
in engagement, wedding, and anniversary rings. Contrary to popular
belief, we have not always given diamonds as love tokens. That
custom results from modern marketing techniques, not ancient
Our ancestors mined diamonds, but didn't use them extensively.
Diamonds' extreme hardness made them difficult to use in any way but
their natural form, which resembles lifeless glass, and they weren't
Their fiery beauty was revealed in the 1700s, when gem cutters
mastered faceting--cutting flat sides on a gemstone to enhance its
brilliance. Diamonds quickly became the most popular gemstone, a
position they still hold.
Those who believe in crystal magic assert that diamonds have
protective powers and use them to drive away evil spirits and
nightmares. They also claim that diamonds give wearers
self-confidence, especially in matters concerning the opposite sex.
Diamonds are very hard--their name comes from the Greek word for
invincible. They are not, however, indestructible. Diamonds are
brittle, allowing them to chip or shatter easily. Because they are
pure carbon, fire destroys them.
Common diamonds are transparent, or "white," leading to the nickname
"ice." We value white diamonds for their lack of color. As with all
other tiny amounts of chemical impurities create colors.
Red is the rarest of all colors in diamonds.
Except for the colored varieties, diamonds are plentiful. Diamonds
are expensive only because people covet them, and because cartels
control the market. The quality, and price, of diamonds are
evaluated using the four c's: color, clarity, carat, and cut.
When buying a white diamond, place it against a white surface to
detect color tinges. A truly colorless diamond will always cost
more. Colored diamonds, known as "fancies," are valued according to
the depth and intensity of their hues.
Few natural including diamonds, are perfect. They may
have bubbles, lines, or even other minerals embedded in them.
Gemologists call these flaws, which are often invisible to the naked
eye, "inclusions." Clarity is a measure of how much the inclusions
interfere with the passage of light through the gem. The greater a
diamond's clarity, the greater its cost.
Jewelers weigh diamonds by carats. Because larger sizes are rarer, a
two-carat diamond will cost several times more than a one-carat
Cut refers to the quality of the faceting. Diamond-cutters generally
cut 58 facets, the number that maximizes brilliance. Poorly-cut
diamonds lack fire. An expert cut can overcome flaws in clarity and
color. Many professionals regard cut as the most important of the
JUST FOR FUN Drill a small hole near the top of a dime and suspend
the dime on a safety pin. Attach the pin to your clothing. When
people ask what it is, tell them that it's your "dime-on-pin."
****Sandra I. Smith, Writer ****