For most people, the journey from the day of your marriage proposal to your actual wedding day kiss was probably longer than what you would have imagined.
Now, if we were to go backwards step-by-step from the wedding kiss, we would probably see the fretting and struggle of a guy trying to choose a perfect engagement ring.
And if we further interpolate the steps required to get a polished diamond from a rough, you could imagine the complex financial process that goes on between different members of the trade, the sweaty hands of miners working to bring the roughs to the surface, and so on and so forth.
For the majority of us, learning about the process in which diamonds come into existence is a much more interesting topic to enhance your general knowledge. In this article, let us take a look at how diamonds are formed in nature.
Carbon is, without any doubt, the most important chemical element in the universe. It takes on many forms and appearances, out of which diamond is the one that is most valuable. The others include a myriad of organic and inorganic substances. Pure carbon on its own, has three major forms of appearance – coal, graphite and diamond.
From a chemist’s point of view, these three materials are identical as they contain the same type of atoms. The differences lies within their molecular structure which gives each of them unique material and physical properties.
Now, you might have heard of an urban legend which associates diamond formation with coal formation. This myth states that diamonds are actually pieces of coal which had been transformed under high pressure and temperature.
Yet, science has proved this wrong. We now know this cannot be true because coal is formed from early vegetation and their remains. On the other hand, most of the diamonds we use today are much older (!) than the plants which had been the main ingredient for coal formation.
The majority of diamonds found in commercial mines and deposits was formed in Earth’s mantle. Through violent volcanic eruptions, they have been brought to surface in large chunks of diamond-containing rocks called xenoliths. These eruptions create pipes in the upper layers of Earth’s crust called kimberlite pipes.
Now, before these deep-source eruptions could even bring anything to the Earth’s surface, the diamond has to be created in a “diamond stability zone”, located in the upper mantle of Earth. In order for diamonds to form, a temperature of over 1000 degrees Celsius and very high pressure is required. In the natural environment, these conditions are only found deep beneath the surface (est~ 150km below the Earth’s crust).
Interestingly, not all kimberlite pipes contain diamond bearing ore and a huge amount of factors have to come together in place for that to happen. Besides that, the discovery of kimberlite pipes containing diamonds have to be surveyed intensively for economical viability before any large scale extraction could begin.
There are a number of scenarios where diamond formation is also possible. The most interesting out of these is probably the formation of diamonds in the outer reaches of our solar system. NASA researchers have found very tiny pieces of diamonds in extraterrestrial bodies, which have formed either in space or in the mantle of some other planets.
Also, there do exist obscure places on our planet which are ideal for diamond formation. For example, diamonds were discovered in subduction zones where two different tectonic plates meet each other.
Diamonds are a byproduct of some very interesting processes in nature. Besides occurring in many types of shapes, colors and sizes, there are some cool looking features on a rough diamond you probably never seen before.
On the next page, I’ll show you some birthmarks called trigons. These are features that are found on a rough diamond’s skin when they are extracted from the ground.