Diamonds can come in an array of colors: white, pink, yellow, blue and even green. But the rarest and most expensive diamond of them all is the black diamond. Black diamonds are formally known as "carbonados diamonds," a name coined by the Portuguese in reference to their resemblance to porous charcoal. These diamonds are the hardest substance known, and can only be cut with another carbonados. While diamonds of other colors have been found all over the world, the black diamond has only been found in Brazil and Central Africa.
How Black Diamonds are Created
There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the creation of the black diamond. Traditional diamonds are made entirely of carbon atoms, and formed a hundred miles beneath the Earth's surface through intense heat and pressure. These diamonds are believed to have reached the Earth's surface through a series of volcanic eruptions between one billion and 100 million years ago. Black diamonds, on the other hand, are believed to be 3.8 million years old. Unlike traditional diamonds, black diamonds are composed of carbon atoms and small amounts of hydrogen. This has led some prominent scientists to theorize that black diamonds are formed in hydrogen-rich interstellar space, most likely by the explosion of a stellar supernova, and came to Earth in via an asteroid crash some 2.8 million years ago.
Why Black Diamonds are Dark
In contrast to conventional diamonds, which are composed of a single crystal, black diamonds are made up of millions of tiny crystals bonded together. Numerous inclusions and microscopic deposits of sulfides between these bonds are responsible for the black diamonds' dark color. Most black diamonds are not uniformly black, but have a grey or dark grey appearance--the color varies depending on the degree of imperfections in the stone and the amount of sulfides.
Black Diamond Mythology
Black diamonds are believed to be unlucky or lucky, depending on your culture. In ancient Indian culture, black diamonds were considered cursed, due to their resemblance to a spider's or snake's eyes. The stone became a representation of the ancient god Yama, the god of death. On the other hand, in Italian culture, black diamonds were thought to bring good fortune to an ailing marriage. Called the "stone of reconciliation," Italians believed that touching the stone would cause the problems of the marriage to pass through the couple and go into the diamond.
Famous Black Diamonds
There are several famous black diamonds. One of the most famous is the Black Orlov (also called "The Eye of Brahma"), a black diamond weighing 67.5 carats. According to legend, the diamond brings death to anyone who owns it, and it was blamed for the death of two Russian princesses. Other famous black diamonds include the Black Star of Africa (202 carats), the Amsterdam Diamond (55.85 carats) and the Black Diamond of Bahia (350 carats). The Black Diamond of Bahia is particularly well-known as it is so hard, it was unable to be polished and thus remains in its natural state.
Black Diamond Jewelry
Because black diamonds are so difficult to cut, they have traditionally been used for industrial purposes rather than jewelry. However, black diamond jewelry saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1990s, due to heavy corporate promotion, and now many reputable jewelers deal in the stone. Black diamonds are found in necklaces, rings and earrings and are commonly set next to white diamonds to highlight the darkness of the stone.