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What is a Diamond?

Diamond is considered to be a crystalline mineral. A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic material, with a characteristic chemical composition and usually an orderly internal arrangement of atoms. Diamond is very rare and unique because of its chemical composition. Essentially diamond is composed of pure carbon(c). There may be some minor traces of other chemical elements, which can influence its color and/or its shape. Within a diamond the carbon atoms will arrange themselves in a highly structured, well-ordered pattern and will crystallize according to the cubic or isometric, crystal system.

All other gemstones are composed of a combination of many different elements Each mineral will arrange its atoms according to a specific crystal system. There is one very important point about a diamond's formation, which must be emphasized, that is that diamond only forms at very specific temperatures and pressures. The conditions most suitable for a diamond's growth are found deep below the earth's crust. Diamond commonly crystallizes below the earth's surface in the upper mantle, at tremendously great pressures and extremely high temperatures. If the temperature-pressure relationship alters too much, the crystals could burn up, or change into graphite.

It is because diamonds form within these very specific parameters that many of their most desirable attributes arise. If you were to ask anyone who has purchased or is planning to purchase a diamond or a piece of diamond jewelry, "what is so special about a diamond?" The most common responses would be that "it is rare", "it is beautiful" or "it is durable" because these are the things which define a gem. Others may allude to the fact that a diamond signifies something deeper and more meaningful, between the giver and the receiver, like strength, purity and eternal commitment.

No matter what the individual response, we must keep in mind that diamond is used for many purposes, by many different industries. Of the total production of diamond, less than 30% is gem quality, which is polished and mounted into jewelry. Over 70% of all diamonds mined today are used for industrial purposes. The top producers of diamond in the world today Australia, Botswana, Russia, South Africa, Canada, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire). In the year 2000 the total estimated production of rough diamond mined worldwide was 120 million carats. During the cutting and polishing processes approximately 50% of the rough weight is lost. Therefore out of the original 120 million carats, only about 18 million carats end up as polished gem quality diamonds available to the open market.

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