The science of diamonds is fascinating, and tackling that science can certainly be intimidating. Although it may be confusing to start breaking down the scientific aspects, it does not have to be. Taking it one step at a time is essential for fully taking in the interesting scientific make-up of the diamond itself. The structure of a diamond is very interesting. It is an allotrope, which means that it is an element that has different physical properties depending on the ways that the molecules and atoms are arranged within the structure itself. Carbon comes in four different allotropes: diamond, buckminsterfullerene, graphite and soot. Why is soot not diamonds? That is determined entirely by the arrangement of molecules and atoms.
Natural diamonds can be understood through the following spectrum: Ia, Ib, Iia, and Iib. This has to do with the chemical make-up of the diamond itself, and what exactly the type and quantity of the diamonds impurities are. The most common type is going to be Type Ia, which contains up to 0.3% nitrogen. Ib is only 0.1% of all diamonds discovered, but almost 100% what synthetic industrial diamonds are ranked as. They can contain up to 500 ppm of nitrogen. Type Iia is very rare, and the nitrogen is so small that it can’t be detected using the traditional methods of detection, i.e. ultraviolet or infrared techniques. Type Iib is just as rare, and they contain so little nitrogen that the crystal is actually considered a p-type semiconductor!
Of course, this situation is going to be very different when you are looking at synthetic diamonds vs. natural. Synthetic diamonds are going to be ranked on the same scale but are treated slightly differently by the fine jewelry industry to account for the treatment process and craftsmanship. These diamonds are not discovered or mined, but grown according to their own specifications in a heat and pressure intensive environment.
The science of diamonds is fascinating, and understanding the way that they are made up only enhances the glamour and miracle of the densest material on earth. Diamonds are incredible, both in terms of their chemical make-up and their natural beauty. It really is no wonder that there are so many different ways we express our obsession and appreciation of diamonds internationally – through engagement rings, diamond stud earrings, and other celebratory ways of adorning ourselves with the most loved gemstones on the face of the earth.