To say that the diamond is the most beautiful gemstone in the world is asking for trouble. It is a matter of taste of course. But adding it to the most intriguing and most wanted gemstone list is – anyway for me- the least I can do for this beauty.
There is so much to say about this unique gemstone, that it takes at least a large blog to cover the most important features. I will cover:
- the symbol of love
- synthetic variety
- fake ones
- influence of The Beers Company on this industry
- very special copies
If you want to read a certain chapter, use the table of content, to get fast where you want to be.
The symbol of love
The diamond is the symbol of love. And here’s why! My father is a jeweler and on the day of my birth, my parents receive it as a present from their best jeweler friend, a diamond. Turning 21 years old my father gives me that stone in a solitaire ring and tells me this story. I am soooo happy with it. About 15 years later a thief steals my ring. When I hear this I lose my confidence in mankind at least for a few months.
Later I wonder why I am so sad losing that ring. Is it the value of it, or the symbolism? Maybe because I get it from my parents on my 21st birthday and there is no chance that I get such a present from them again? After a little while, I figure out that this ring is the symbol of love and that thief took that love from me. To be honest, I am still sad about that.
What makes this gem a symbol of love?
Diamond means in the old Greek language: ‘unbeatable’. And it is an unbeatable mineral: it exists only of carbon and ‘made’ in the deep layers of the earth. Under high pressure and very high temperature, you mine this gemstone. Only in a few places in the world, you find it (mostly in Africa). That makes this gem very rare and expensive. On top of that only 15-20% of the stones that people find, are used to be cut and polished and make pieces of jewelry out of the material.
Not easy to handle
It is not so easy to cut and polish diamonds. And it is the hardest mineral on earth: on the scale of Mohr, it is hardness 10. When you see the stone before cutting is it like an ugly pebble: black and a little shiny. You lose 15-20% of the material when you cut the stone: also, therefore, they are expensive. And the value depends on the clearness of the stones. The clearer the stone, the more you have to pay!
But nothing beats the diamond as a symbol of love, the love that is ‘unbeatable’, that endures high pressure and is so hard that it will resist all evil? This is also the reason that you get a diamond ring for your engagement or wedding. There are jewelers in the Netherlands who make them out of the ashes of your loved one (under high pressure) and make a ring or pendant out of that. In this way, you carry your loved one with you.
A symbol of exclusiveness & love!
A diamond is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world and that is pretty amazing for an –in origin- ugly black pebble made of carbon. Some of the reasons that they are so expensive are obvious: there are only a few places in the world where you find rough ones that are very hard to find. It cost a little fortune and a lot of time to cut them and polish them. And in that process, you lose about 15-20% and only 20% of all diamonds that are found have enough quality to use in pieces of jewelry.
Diamond and love
There are a lot of legends and stories in which this gemstone has a negative power, and that is not the basis of giving a fiance or bride a diamond ring. No, it’s because the diamond is the symbol of pureness, rareness, richness, and clearness and therefore lovers give each other ones.
The diamond that I get from my father when I turn out 21 years is a symbol of love. It starts with great positive powers. When it is stolen the curse starts. But it ends positively. When my mother dies (not positive at all) I inherited a beautiful diamond, that my father gave to my mother once. I have a solitaire ring made of it, as a beacon of everlasting love for my parents.
It was in the 1970s and my father, who was a jeweler got a visitor. He presented himself as a diamond seller. My father did not know him and in this jewelry business, you have to be very careful with whom you are dealing with. My father asked me to join him. I was interested in the jeweler’s business but still attended high school.
The seller opened his suitcase and showed us different little parcels of stones. You have to know that in those days as a jeweler designer you did not buy one stone, but always a little parcel of a certain weight. And you never knew whether there was a 1-carat diamond in the parcel or several smaller ones, but you know the weight. the color and the quality.
This guy opened a little parcel with several gemstones and they seem to be the same weight, color, etc. My father and I looked at each other and we both got a bad feeling about it. The seller offered us 10 gems of exactly the same weight: 1 carat. And he told us that they were mined in Russia. Not a large diamond mining region.
My father took one diamond and went upstairs to his equipment (refractometer), with which he could see whether there are inclusions in the stone, check the color and the refraction of the stone. That means you can see how the light bends or refracts.
The result of that check was that the color was right, there were no inclusions in the stone, but there was something funny with the refraction. The diamond was a synthetic diamond and so a fake one!
My father came down and told the seller that he was not interested. After he left he explained to me what he discovered and warned all his colleagues. In times when a product is hard to get or is getting very expensive people try to copy that product and in this case made a synthetic copy.
Is it worth producing?
Producing such a synthetic copy is not cheap. You need a lot of carbon and very high pressure to make a synthetic stone. Because the production process is expensive, they make only one seize: 1 carat. From that moment on I never ever bought another 1-carat diamond. Too scared that the production process improved and we cannot see the difference anymore in an easy way.
2 stories about this synthetic variety
I remembered this story when I read two disturbing articles in the newspaper. One story about a diamond mine in Australia that was nearly exhausted. And another one is about de diamond mining company of De Beers in South Africa that controls the gems that come on the market. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the diamonds were not sold in the same way as before and he stopped the supply. To get more money! But the result of those two stories is that the market for synthetic diamonds is rising even harder than before.
The pink diamond mine stops production
The Argyle mine in Western Australia produced about 90% of all the pink variety in the world. The pink diamond is very rare, loved, and extremely expensive. Also, the ‘normal’ ones were mined here, but the closure of this mine has not such large effects on the normal gemstones, because there are more mines left, especially in Africa.
The Australian diamond mine was discovered in 1979 and the production started in 1984. Between then and now about 865 million carats of rough stones were mined. Including that pink diamond. Jewelers expect that prices for the pink ones will rise and you may have to pay about €2.6 million or $3 million for 1 carat (0.2 gram).
Producing a pink synthetic diamond may become profitable. Watch out!
The synthetic copy in the polishing industry
Many years before when a mining company mined rough diamonds that could not be used for the jewelry industry they sold those to the polishing industry. The ones that had the wrong color, a lot of inclusions, etc are excellent for cutting heavy stuff or polishing for instance other gemstones.
Nowadays synthetic stone is used for the cutting and polishing industry. And the diamond mining companies are only interested in the high-quality diamonds that they can sell to jeweler designers and producers.
Yellow synthetic variety
In the beginning, the synthetic diamond was made with a mixture of graphite and iron, pressed at a temperature of 1500 Celsius. And nitrogen was used as a catalyst. The result was that they looked very yellow and easy to distinguish from the real ones.
Nowadays they use a different mixture to get colorless diamonds that cannot be distinguished from the real ones. In fact, there is no difference in material between a real and a synthetic diamond. The only difference is that a real one is about 1-3 million years old and originated in a natural way. And the synthetic stone is maybe a few weeks old and originated artificially.
To be honest, there is no way to see what is real and what is a synthetic diamond. Maybe only that the synthetic one is perfect!
And the fake ones
On June 12 2021 a glimmer of hope lit up Velile’s eyes. She heard about a cattle herder Phoka Mofokeng who found diamonds in KwaZulu Natal, just 5 hours drive from her home town Johannesburg/South Africa. It took her about one hour to pack her belongings and her family, together with shovels and picks, to go to that paradise. To start digging for those glimmers and dreaming about a future for her family.
You have to dream to get a future
Living in South Africa and especially in Johannesburg is hard. There is a lot of unemployment and therefore poverty. People try to survive by stealing or drug dealing and there is huge criminality. Velile knows her situation, living in a small and inadequate house with 4 daughters and no husband in the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic. And she thinks that ‘wishful thinking is better than remaining in poverty. So she starts her adventure by digging for diamonds, that will bring her the money she needs.
The adventure of digging
At the back of a pick-up truck to the hamlet KwaHlathi, where the cattle herder has found his diamonds she dreams about her future. She wants to emigrate to Dubai, buy a two-story house and send her girl to a private school. Velile knows that South Africa is very rich in gemstones, gold, and other sources, that are – until now- not reachable for her.
Sized like a ping pong ball
Velile and her family are not the only people going digging. More than 3000 people, mostly from Johannesburg and its surroundings traveled to KawHlathi to look for a better future. In one week’s time, they have plowed more than 50 hectares and went one meter deep digging. And they found transparent pieces of quartz, that they assumed they found diamonds. And big ones, stones in the size of a ping pong ball.
Those people and Velile too were euphoric findings so many beautifully shining stones, and all are their property. They were rich. But there was a very big but….
No diamond area
Geologists already stated that in KwaZulu Natal, and certainly in the surroundings of KwaHlathi there are no diamonds, no alluvial ones, no gemstone veins, and digging for them has no chance of any success. Besides, rough diamonds look like black stones and not like shining transparent stones.
Keep on dreaming
But Velile and her daughters can not afford to believe the geologists. Besides that she heard about the discovery of the Cullinan, the largest diamond in the world, weighing more than 3 carats. It was found in 1905 by an ordinary man using a pocket knife. So why could not she be just as lucky and find one, that -just like the Cullinan- she could sell to the Queen of England, to set in her crown. If you are poor like Velile the only wealth is in your dreams.
After a week of hard digging and moving a tremendous amount of soil, finding enough shiny stones to keep on dreaming, the South African government announced that specialists examined the stones and they found out that the ‘diamonds’ were quartz crystals, the most common mineral in the world.
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
The dream of Velile and her daughters exploded. And the only thing they could do is return home without a penny earned. And hopefully, this diamond run was not a spreaders event of Covid-19. But she will still, also after this experience, try to get a decent future for her daughters, maybe not with digging, but chasing another dream and better finding work, somewhere, somehow. Singing the song of Ladysmith Black Mambo and Paul Simon ‘diamonds on the soles of her shoes’.
This story was breaking news in June 2021. The difference between the people digging for diamonds, without knowing what they are looking for exactly and the large mining company De Beers is striking. Although there are true stories about finding large and expensive gemstones by ordinary people, they became rather rich.
I say ‘rather rich’ because finding those gems looking like black stones is one thing, but turning that stone into a beautiful faceted full of luster diamond is another one. Experts in Antwerp (Belgium) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands) work hours and hours to accomplish that result. And the profit has to be shared by the founder, the intermediates, the cutters, and the sellers.
A real one, and still a bit fake
Sometimes a real diamond has black inclusions and is therefore useless. Anyway not acceptable for the jewelry industry. This variety is getting prepared so that they look awesome again. With a kind of laser they make a tiny little hole to the inclusion, and a very acid fluid is brought in. The inclusion is getting bleached and you hardly see anything of the previous black inclusion.
FlorenceJewelshop has a necklace in her collection made of black diamonds. Real diamonds, but full of those black inclusions. Beautiful and affordable!.
There are also gems that have a visible fracture in the stone. Also not acceptable for the jewelry industry. For these diamonds, there is also a solution to get accepted again. They inject a fluid of glass and lead into the fracture and the fracture becomes invisible.
How to see whether I buy a synthetic one?
The only way to see or check whether you buy a synthetic diamond or a real one is to use short-wave UV radiation. Real ones turn out bluish and you see an octahedral growth structure. While a synthetic copy is green and has an hourglass pattern. The change in color is easy to see in contrast with the pattern.
Copy, paste a diamond?
Nowadays men can make a complete copy of the natural or real diamond, with the same crystal lattice structure, the same color range as the real one. The great difference is that natural copies are over 3 billion years old.
The fake or synthetic ones are made of carbon, that is put under very high pressure and temperature. In a lab with these possibilities, they can make a diamond crystal. Another, more complicated way is to take a small core of that crystal and through chemical vapor deposition, its core grows layer by layer.
Making a synthetic gemstone is a pricey process. But a synthetic diamond is about 20 to 40% less expensive than a natural real copy. The actual price depends on the color, the size, and the quality of the synthetic variety.
Is buying a synthetic stone so bad?
Buying a synthetic diamond can have advantages. The environment will not be poisoned or destroyed when diamond mining will stop. And a lot of poor people will not be exploited anymore by the diamond industry.
On the other hand, in Botswana the government has earned so much money with this industry that every child until 13 years old can go to school, free of charge.
Is there an alternative?
Yes, there is, actually there are. Moissanite is probably the best imitation available. The color is the same, they look the same and the hardness on the scale of Moh is 9.5, while a real diamond is 10.
Another great imitation of the real one and an awesome alternative for the synthetic diamond is the Herkimer diamond. The name comes from the city of the mine ‘Herkimer’, in the neighborhood of New York/USA. It looks exactly like a diamond, the cut of the diamond is man-made, but the Herkimer diamond that same cut is natural. The hardness is less and the material is rhinestone quartz.
For me, as a jewelry designer and a jewelers daughter my all-time favorite is the real thing. I love the stones and luckily I inherited some from my mother. The diamond is a member of the fabulous 4 precious stones (ruby, emerald, sapphire) ánd is the birthstone of April. When you are married 65 years, you have your diamond anniversary. A diamond has much to offer.
The influence of De Beers Company on the industry
Talking about a real diamond. Do you know the song ‘Diamonds are forever’ sung by Shirley Bassey? The title song of the James Bond movie with the same name? The story is about a large network of diamond smugglers that has to be stopped because when they continue the market can collapse. In the movie, James Bond smuggles also fake ones to set the enemy on the wrong path. And nobody sees that the stones are fake. Can you see the difference and when you cannot, why should you buy the real ones?
That is what De Beers Company, the largest diamonds mining company in the world (situated in South Africa) asks themselves to do, and therefore after 130 years of dealing with the real stuff, there start to sell synthetic stones. This is no less than an earthquake in real diamond land.
The firm De Beers owns the mining- and selling rights of nearly all the diamonds in Africa. They are so powerful that when the Covid-19 pandemic was on and these gemstones were not sold anymore, he stopped the auctions, to control the price of the diamonds. 8% of the total South African workers live from digging for them and stopping that work means a disaster for a lot of people. But the Beers is high and mighty and can afford to do this.
From the start of De Beers company in 1888 until now they controlled about 80-85% of all the rough diamond mining and distribution in the world. They operate in 36 countries. Although they were forced to dismantle a part of the company due to laws to prevent a complete monopoly in certain sectors, De Beers still sells about 30% of all the rough diamonds in the world.
Cecil Rhodes rented water pumps to diamond miners during another rush in 1869. During that rush ‘the Star of South Africa’ diamond was found near the Orange River in South Africa (North of Capetown). That stone was large (83.5 carats) and valuable. All his profits were invested in buying small plots of land, which he thought were diamonds to mine.
Together with a lot of rich (the Rothschilds and J.P. Morgan) and powerful people, he started the De Beers company in 1888.
Nothing, but the real one?
Every real diamond is unique, never duplicated and one of a kind. It is formed about 150 to 200 kilometers (93 to 124 miles) below the earth’s surface. And formed a few years back, like 3 billion years ago (3.000.000 years). It has to be mined and you never know what you will find: a large piece or a tiny piece? And what color? What clarity? You need your luck to find the right real diamond that will make you very rich!
While the costs are so high to find and cut a real diamond people try to find a way to make fake ones. That took some long and extensive research and a whole bunch of scientists to find the right way to make it. But they succeeded.
Another reason why they are expensive is the policy of the De Beers Company. You find a lot of these gems in South Africa since De Beers has a mining company there. At the moment, when one finds more and more material, De Beers decides to bring every month only a few diamonds to the market. And something that is not available, is expensive.
There are some very special ones, like the Cullinan; the until now biggest diamond in the world of 3106 karats. The rough stone was found in 1905 in South Africa. After cutting in Amsterdam / The Netherlands they end up with 9 big and 96 small diamonds and use them for the crown jewels of the Queen of Great Brittain.
De Beers Company keeps his stuff in store.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of jeweler shops in the world had to close their doors. If you cannot sell the diamonds anymore, they get cheaper. The rough gems are cut in India and also there due to the pandemic, they are not able to cut this precious stone now. The auctions in Botswana, where De Beers sells its diamonds to the international market, are closed and international buyers are not allowed to enter the country.
The result of all this is that De Beers company decided to cut the mining by 20%. In this way, they try to control the market again.
The pandemic of Covid-19 came on top of earlier problems due to the surplus of rough and polished gemstones in the world. And the fact that synthetic diamond is conquering the world resulted in the decision to the 20% mine stop.
De Beers considers starting a marketing campaign to try to get them sold again, telling the public that this gemstone keeps its value, which is a nice feature in this crisis. The only thing is that there is the Western World, not a real economic crisis, in which rich people still can afford to buy diamond jewelry. And people need to trust this industry, a bit difficult when you have a chance to buy a synthetic diamond instead of the real one.
Ver special copies
Rich people love them
The most expensive diamonds belong to kings and very rich people, like the Cullinan (the biggest one ever found) or the Golden Jubilee, which belongs to the Thai King Bhumibol. Lately, some big and famous diamonds are auctioned and the prices go sky-high.
It’s big business for Sotheby’s. And anybody can make a bid. The highest price for a diamond sold at an auction is for the Blue Moon Diamond. It weighs 12.03 karats, is blue in color and a very rich man from Hongkong buys this beauty for the price of 42 million Euro / 45 million dollars. It is a present for his seven-year-old daughter!
‘Love’ diamonds in auction
Last year Sotheby auctioned a huge 15.38 karats pink diamond. It is very rare that you find one with that color. You have them in yellow, blue and pink. This pink diamond is cut in a drop shape and set in a ring. It is an unusual shape, but sometimes there is no option, otherwise, you lose too much of the precious material. That ring is auctioned for 28 million euros or 30 million dollars. The present owner is not known; he or she is probably afraid of thieves.
Another pink diamond ring is auctioned on the last 29th of March (2017). The new owner is a rich man from Hongkong and he pays about 71 million dollars / 67 million euros. This ring is auctioned before but the buyer does not pay for it, so they auction it again and for a higher price.
A diamond skull
Really, this skull is too much. In the middle of Amsterdam/The Netherlands is the Diamond Museum. A real ‘must-do’ for jewelry lovers. You walk around with a magpie look in your eyes. This feels OK and you know these diamonds are mostly for the rich and famous on this earth. They love them, cherish them, and wear them.
Then you arrive on the second floor of that Diamond Museum and after the exhibition of crowns, it gets over the edge. And I can imagine that the mother of Damien Hirst shouted out loud ‘For the love of God’. This diamond skull is too much.
Does this skull belong a man???
In 2007 the exorbitant artist Damien Hirst buys in a shop in Islington a skull of a European man, who lives between 1720 and 1810. The guy is about 35 years old at his death.
Hirst makes a cast of platinum of that skull and decorates it with 8106 flawless diamonds. And on the forehead, you see a pear-shaped pink one, the Skull Star Diamond. The teeth of the skull are original. The total skull weighs about 221 grams or over 1100 carats. And Hirst states that the stones are ‘ethical sourced’, so no blood diamonds are used.
Damien Hirst made this artwork as a memento mori as a reminder of the mortality of mankind. The Dutch art historian and well-known museum director Rudi Fuchs describes this work as ‘out of this world, celestial almost. It proclaims victory over decay’.
The mother of Damien Hirst reacts more in my style and she asks him after she sees his newest art product ‘For the love of God, what are you going to do next?’.
It may cost something, this skull!
This artist is already very rich and he sells very well. Besides that, he has followers that can afford his art. The production costs of this skull are 14 million pounds or 15,4 million euros or 18 million US dollars.
The skull is exhibited for the first time in the White Cube Gallery in London. The exhibition title is ‘Beyond Belief’. And the price tag on the skull is 50 million pounds. Unnecessary to say that Damien Hirst does not found a buyer for this piece of art. Although there is a rumor that George Michel is interested (or was interested).
More, more and again more
You can wait for it… there is always an artist who tries to make a piece of art even more expensive than this skull. In the Diamond Museum in Amsterdam, there is a monkey skull fully covered with diamonds. I must say that I think this diamond skull is somewhat more refined.
And just around the corner of the skull exhibition hall is a tennis racket with a ball fully covered with diamonds. You can win this racket at some tournament and the value is 1 million Euro.
Visiting this Diamond Museum is fascinating. You see a lot of gorgeous and stunning gemstones in all kinds of colors and in all kinds of jewelry. The skulls and the racket are beyond a doubt impressive, very pricy, and over the edge. But still, I like to wear them instead of gluing them on a skull and keeping them in a safe. Or in an exhibition with a lot of security.
The legendary one
There are many legends about diamonds. They are symbols of protection and people attribute magical powers to the stone. It is the symbol of richness. But also of pride, calling, and self-awareness.
In most of the legends, one talks about them in a positive way. But sometimes we find a story that is very negative about them. Like a Swiss soldier, he steals a diamond from king Karel de Stoute and brings it to another king Henry III in France. It means bad luck ever since. The diamond Blue Hope, the Regent, and the Koh-i-Noor have a very bad curse.
I wrote a great and free e-book about birthstones. Do you want to know everything about your birthstone and about the birthstone of your best friend? It is free. You just have to let me know where I can send it too.
Hugs Florence from FlorenceJewelshop