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Roger Weller, geology instructor            regional geology  planetary  gems

Raul Villa
Physical Geology
Fall 2008



                                    What are Diamonds?

     Diamonds are foremost “a Girl’s best friend”.  Another description for diamonds is “an
allotrope of carbon in which the carbon atoms are arranged in an isometric-hexoctahedral crystal lattice” (Boser).  What the heck does that mean one might ask?  An allotrope is a behavior exhibited in certain chemicals, and another form of carbon is coal.  There are several types of carbon, diamond being the most coveted.  The structure of a diamond is unique in its geometrical shape, due to chemical elements and how it’s arranged with certain chemicals.  In this case, it would be carbon, and how under enough pressure it forms the beauty that is a diamond!


Loose Diamond 




What makes a diamond different from other gemstones?

     Diamonds are the hardest natural material known to man!  The test used to know the hardness of a diamond is scratching materials, and this usually determines the price of a diamond.  The hardness of a diamond is the determining factor in the selling of a high quality gemstone and a low quality gemstone.  Diamonds can only scratch other diamonds, which is a nifty if a fiancé ever wants to find out if she has a real rock or not!  Of course, scratching a diamond will damage both diamonds, and the value of the diamond will decrease which makes it high advised NOT to do. The uses of a diamond can be endless. From high-end jewelry, to face cleaning abrasions, and to cutting materials such as tools, or drill bits just to name a few. The diamonds used in the process of cutting materials are usually lower grade diamonds, and diamond powder.  A diamond nonetheless!



The Jubilee Weight: 245.35 carats  



Can diamonds come in different colors?

     Diamonds are primarily colorless, or there are the rare diamonds that have a hint of color.




If diamonds are supposedly colorless then why do they have gray, pink, or even brown colors?

     When certain chemicals mix in the making of a diamond, then the color of that gemstone will reflect what chemicals are mixed.  According to The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones, “Nitrogen is responsible for the yellow, brown and sometimes the pink color in diamonds.  Boron is responsible for the gray blue colors, and hydrogen is the coloring agent for some red, olive, violet and blue diamonds. Color in a diamond has two additional sources: atomic, normally gamma radiation, which causes the color in green diamonds and physical deformation of the diamond crystal known as plastic deformation. Plastic deformation is the cause of color in some pink and in red diamonds” (Wise).  As fun as colored diamonds may seem, the price of one will make it no laughing matter. Colored diamonds will usually range anywhere from the low hundred thousands to the millions.  Unless a woman is marrying a multi-millionaire, it's probably safer and cheaper to go for the colorless diamond, and besides it’s a classic look!



The Cullinan I - aka the Star of Africa
Weight: 530.20 carats




Has the trend of “bling” just started?

     Since diamonds form in the earth, it is safe to think that diamonds have been around since the beginning of time.  However, the uses of diamonds have always stayed the same. The first documented use of the gemstone was in fourteenth century India, and the diamonds decorated temples, although I am sure, there have been earlier uses of the gem (Harris).  According to Harris International, the “the improvement and spread of polishing  techniques developed greatly in Venice and Amsterdam, and by the end of the 15th century the diamond trade expanded increasingly. The earliest industrial uses of diamond were as fragments for engraving hard materials, as abrasive powder for polishing gem diamonds and for glass cutting” (Harris).




Beyoncé Knowles




The Price of Beauty!

     As beautiful as Diamonds are, the dollar price is sadly at times the smallest amount paid.  Diamonds mining occurs all over the world, and the process of mining can include a decline in health, and in some cases death. South Africa is the leading diamond mind in the world, and the job is not as glamorous as the seven dwarfs may make it to be. The constant fear of someone killing the miners for a diamond is the price that is paid by those brave men and sometimes woman.  For those that do not fear death, the price they pay for a diamond can include a decline in their health.

What is a Blood Diamond?

     The United Nations defines Blood Diamonds as diamonds that “originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council” (UN).



Diamond Mining - Kimberley & Big Hole Diamond Mine - 21


What is being done to certify diamonds as non-blood diamonds?

In 1998, the United Nations first released reports of the horrors of mining diamonds, but it was the diamond industry that set up a meeting to go through a process to declare if a diamond has been mined in a healthy manor, or if in fact blood has been spilled over a gem.  It’s simply known as the Kimberley Certification, and any country may become a member by just simply writing to the European Commission.

The requirements of the KPCS are as follows:

There are currently 48 members in over 72 countries.





De Beers scandal

     In "Glitter and Greed" (published by Disinformation, New York, 2003), author and investigative journalist Janine Roberts uncovered the sad secrets that occur on a daily basis when diamond mining in South Africa.  According to Ms. Roberts, diamonds bought today may be tainted by blood and conflict, although it may bear the supposedly clean "Kimberly" certification. Following is a comprehensive introduction written to coincide with the release of the 2006 film, "Blood Diamond."  On December 15, 2006, Janine Robert wrote, Blood in the Stones: The Real Blood Diamonds: TB, silicosis, asbestosis, and De Beers”.  The detailed report consisted of the diamond mine company De Beers, their diamond mining in South Africa, the effects on the miners, and how De Beers guarantees their diamonds are clean in every way, when reports show otherwise.  Robert’s discovered that millions of these diamonds wreck the lungs of the men mining, which caused incurable misery and death amongst the miners and their families.


What are companies doing to aide these workers?

     According to a shop steward at Finsch (a giant De Beers mine in South Africa); “The diamonds we mine are sitting in asbestos. We are ill protected with inadequate masks; the ventilation is always breaking down.  We are frequently covered in asbestos dust” (Roberts). The article showed that Doctors working on site hide this information from the public. The Doctors then excuse themselves by saying that asbestos is not a problem in their mines. Other diseases affecting miners are lung diseases, and Cardio-pulmonary tuberculosis.  According to the De Beers, “diseases due to respirable air-borne dust such as silicosis, asbestosis and chemical inhalation remain very rare” (Roberts). They insist that their mining sector remains one of the safest in terms of occupational disease rates. “Dust-related silicosis and TB are horrifically epidemic in other South African mines. From what it says, diamond mining is surprisingly and uniquely safe” (Roberts). Strangely enough past employees have lost a lung due to years of working in mine dust in this “safe environment”. When employees complain of symptoms that may stem from mining, they are first given a check up, and most of the time given a clear test result. What is most depressing of these mines and their miners is that the employees start working early in life to help themselves and their families, but for some, death is the reward given.


The Centenary
Weight: 273.85 carats




Work Cited


Boser, Ulrich (June 2008). "Diamonds on Demand". Smithsonian 39 (3): 52–59


Carbon Information:


Wise, R. W., Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones, 2001, Brunswick House Press. pp. 223-224


(United Nations)

Harris International Advanced Diamond Technology