The oldest diamonds are believed to be over 3 billion years old - nearly as old as the earth itself. Each diamond is the result of an amazing journey, turning a natural element into the world's most sought-after treasure.
The journey begins hundreds of kilometres below the earth's surface, when heat and pressure cause pieces of carbon to form into diamond crystals held in molten rock.
The same extreme heat and pressure causes the surrounding rock to crack, pushing the diamonds up to the earth's surface under some of the most explosive forces in nature. As the molten rock cools and hardens it forms what is known as a kimberlite pipe - the primary source of diamonds.
In extraordinary conditions, nature can create diamonds of many colours. Minute traces of nitrogen result in dazzling yellows; the influence of boron produces intense, liquid blues. Even a rich, deep green can result from uranium combining with carbon at a critical point. And simply a different form of intense pressure, distorting the molecular structure of the crystal as it forms beneath the earth, turns the final diamond a delicate pink.
Cut is the factor most involved in the sparkle of a polished diamond. Cut is expressed in terms of the brilliance, fire and scintillation of a diamond.
It takes a master craftsman to reveal a diamond's ultimate beauty. Diamonds cutters skillfully cut and polish every facet to release a diamonds full brilliance.
To maximise sparkle, a diamond must be cut to very specific parameters of angle and dimension with a strict attention to the polished finish of the diamond. The finest diamonds are those polished to precise measurements proven to maximise sparkle and crafted with perfect polished finish and symmetry.
A well-cut diamond will reflect light within itself, from one mirror-like facet to another. If a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow, light will be lost through the side or bottom. This reduces its brilliance and, ultimately, its value.
A well cut diamond also provides a balance between brilliance, fire and scintillation. Brilliance is the white light reflected from the internal and external surfaces of the diamond. Dispersion or 'fire' as it is more commonly known are the flashes of colour that come from the diamond. Scintillation is the sparkle or flashes of light you see as the diamond moves.
The cut of a diamond can also affect its visual size. Two diamonds with the same carat weight can appear to be different sizes depending on the shallowness or shape of its cut. Cut also refers to the shape of the diamond. Round, princess, oval, square, marquise, pear, emerald, or cushion-shaped are some of the more common variaties.
Diamonds occur naturally in all colours of the rainbow. Generally, the rarest diamonds exhibit no colour at all (apart from fancy colours), but most contain traces of nitrogen which give a faint hue of yellow to the diamond.
Polished diamonds are graded for minute variations in depth of colour, from 'colourless' to 'light yellow' and 'light brown'. This is universally known as the D to Z colour scale.
In this scale, colourless diamonds D, E, and F show so little difference that it takes an expert with sample diamonds of known grades to distinguish one from another. 'Near colourless' G, H, I begin to show faint hints of yellow only when compared with diamonds of better colour. And near colourless diamonds J and K will show hints of yellow when compared against a pure white background.
Colour variations can be so slight that colour grading is done by an expert under controlled lighting conditions using a master sample set for accuracy.
The internationally accepted system of grading divides clarity into five distinct groups:
- Flawless - Internally Flawless â€“ the rarest of rare diamonds, known as Flawless (FL) diamonds are those with no internal features and nexternal features or blemishes visible at 10 x magnification. An Internally Flawless (IF) diamond will also have no internal features, but may exhibit a minute scratch left over from polishing.
- Very Very Slightly (VVS) Included diamonds are those with minute inclusions so small that they are extremely difficult for even a skilled diamond grader to see at 10X magnification. A VVS1 diamond may have a single pinpoint, whereas a VVS2 may have a pinpoint and a tiny needle-like crystal of another mineral as its internal features.
- Very Slightly (VS) Included are those diamonds with minor internal features deemed difficult for a skilled grader to detect at 10X. A VS1 diamond may have a tiny cloud of inclusions, or a pinpoint or two, whereas a VS2 diamond could have, for example, a small included crystal.
- Slightly Included (SI) diamonds are those with internal features that are easily seen by the skilled grader at 10X magnification. Divided into SI1 and SI2, even an SI2 diamond may contain internal features that are still not visible to the unaided eye.
- Included (I-1, I-2, I-3) diamonds are those with features that are obvious at 10x magnification, can be visible to the unaided eye and may even affect the durability of the diamond.
Carat is a measure of weight equivalent to 200 milligrams. Carats are divided into hundredths, called points and a polished diamonds weight is expressed to two places after the decimal point (e.g. a 0.75 carat diamond may also be described as a 75-point or 3/4 carat diamond).
As diamonds increase in size, they become increasingly rare in nature. As rarity is an important component of value, a one carat diamond will be worth a great deal more than two 1/2 carat diamonds of equal colour, clarity and cut.
The World Diamond Council has worked successfully with the United Nations, governments and groups such as Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada to introduce a system for the certification of the source of uncut diamonds to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds. This system, known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), was formally adopted in November 2002, and came into operation on January 1st 2003. Andrew Coxon, President of the De Beers Institute of Diamonds, is a founding member of the World Diamond Council and spearheaded this initiative on behalf of the diamond industry.
Today, as a result of the Kimberly Process's success, 99.8% of the world's diamond supply is conflict free.
The Kimberly process requires participating governments to ensure that each shipment of rough diamonds exported be in a secure container and accompanied by a uniquely numbered, government-validated certificate stating that the diamonds are conflict-free. As of November 2008 there were 49 members, representing 75 nations with significant involvement in the diamond trade. All participating nations agree not to accept any rough diamonds without an approved Kimberley Process Certificate.
Riverstones Fine Jewellery supports this process and is committed to providing diamonds that are conflict free, we only use trust worthy sources that ensure none of their diamonds have been sourced from areas of conflict.
A Few thoughts From Us
Last but not least, a couple of tips to ease your expedition.
Firstly, and most importantly, choose a diamond because you absolutely love it.
- If the price of a diamond seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you are shopping for a diamond together, talk budgets before you leave the house! Nothing makes for a more uncomfortable experience than either a domestic, or a man with a financial meltdown.
- Consider as many different shapes and styles as you can. Don't be intimidated by pushy sales people, or feel you have to buy something on the spot. In our store, we will always have a loose diamond to fit with your hopes and dreams, and any item of jewellery can be made up to order.
- If you are brave person to choose a diamond as a surprise, then keep it simple. Do your big thinking in advance, what is his/ her fashion style, build and even job? Which ring is going to fit into their lifestyle?
- Go for timeless - it might be fashionable now -but will you still love it in 20 years...?
- Scary as it is - think ahead. Will the design you like work when it comes to wedding bands? Talk to the jeweller, and make sure if it's unusual, that there's an unusual wedding band to match!
That's it folks. Our thoughts and advice is always free - so don't hesitate to pick up the phone, or come see us. We are always happy to help.