Diamonds come from carbon, the same natural resource from which pencil lead and coal are derived. A treasured gem, the diamond embodies the most desirable characteristics of unsurpassed faceted brilliance, rarity and hardness.
Carbon becomes a diamond under extreme pressure and heat, while underground, over time. Diamonds are pushed to the earth's surface through kimberlite and lamproite pipes -- cylindrical volcanic conduits that are found mostly in Australia, Africa, Russia and Brazil in South America. Many natural gems resemble diamonds. However, they are all softer materials and lack the luster of diamonds. Examples of synthetic diamonds are synthetic spinel, strontium titanate, cubic zirconia, and moissanite. They also lack the hardness of a natural diamond.
An ancient Sanskrit manuscript discovered in India in 1905 titled Artha Sastra of Kautilya, or The Lesson of Profit, reveals that in the fourth century B.C. diamonds were a commodity involved in active trade and were also subject to taxation. Ever since, diamonds have been the subject of intrigue and murderous greed. Over the centuries, they have signified status, power and wealth and many large ones dwell in the realm of royalty. The British Royal family owns the largest cut diamond in the world, the priceless Cullinan I, also called the Star of Africa. In modern times, brides-to-be anticipate the bright white diamond ring that has come to represent the purity of true love and betrothal.
Diamonds are ideal for industrial purposes because of their versatility. Diamonds excel for use as cutting tools, and their ability to withstand heat and cold makes diamonds a preferred choice in optical materials. Only 20 percent of diamonds are used as gems. Value is based on color, cut, clarity and carat, meaning weight.