What Is a Black Diamond and What Does It Mean?

Black diamonds were originally used for industrial purposes until they recently gained popularity in jewelry and engagement rings due to their brilliant and distinct look. 

They are referred to as Carbonado and when first discovered by the Brazilians, it was noted that it was actually a polycrystalline structure, meaning many small crystals that had formed together. They are also known as carbon isotopes, meaning they have the same chemical element (carbon), but different atomic weights and physical properties. These stones even absorb the light instead of reflecting it. 

When diamonds naturally form on the Earth, they travel through Kimberlite pipes to reach the Earth’s surface. Black diamonds have their own unique process being found in sedimentary rocks or alluvial deposits. It is where the deposit or sediments are left behind via a river or some other flowing water source. 

History of Black Diamonds 

During medieval times, the Italians saw black diamonds as a stone of reconciliation. It was thought if two spouses were in a disagreement, having or wearing this black gem would make everything well again. 

Originally, black diamonds were not seen as a prized possession in all of society until the late 20th century when they began being used in jewelry. The popularity started to rise when the first celebrities were noticed with their, never before seen, black diamond rings.

Famous Black Diamonds 

The Amsterdam Diamond is a pear shape at 55.85 carats. It was given its name to honor the city in the Netherlands for its 700 year anniversary. 

The Black Star of Africa, or the Cullinan Diamond, is a 202 carat stone and is said to be the largest colored diamond. The last time this gem was seen was in 1971 in Tokyo. 

The most famous black diamond named the Black Orloff, or the Eye of Brahma, was given its name by a Russian princess. She owned it during the mid-18th century, then in the 19th century, it was in a shrine in India. Lastly, it traveled to the American Museum of Natural History in New York in the 1950s. This cushion-shaped stone is measured at 67.50 carats. 

Three Types of Black Diamonds 

The black color in diamonds is real, yet there are three different ways a diamond can become black and there is a big difference in value. 

Man-Made: Lab-grown diamonds are colored based on who the diamond is for. At Eterneva, coloring a diamond black takes up to three months to turn completely opaque. Other colors can take only one to two months to be completed. 

Natural: these are called fancy black diamonds or Carbonados. They actually have a high amount of inclusions and clusters of graphite inside of them. The inclusions can be graphite, pyrite, or hematite. In their natural form, black diamonds were only found in Central Africa and Brazil. Eventually, small amounts were found in Venezuela and Eastern Australia. 

Treated: Essentially a white or colorless diamond can be exposed to heat and radiation treatments to ultimately turn into a black stone. When a colorless diamond has a lot of inclusions, they are usually turned black because then, the inclusions can’t be seen on the surface. These are the most affordable of all types. 

Brazil 

Brazil has been the main source for black diamonds with Central Africa right behind. 

Brazil has had global production since the 1700s. Overall, they have represented an extremely small percentage of the world’s production, yet some of the fanciest and fancy color diamonds are from here. 

Diamonds were mistakenly found when miners were looking for gold in the early 1700s. By 1840, black diamonds made themselves known. It is normal to find colored diamonds here as well, yet it is not always documented, as it is in other countries.

There are mostly independent miners in the alluvial deposits that use simple tools and don’t have access to primary sources that most miners use to extract diamonds. Pans are used to sift through the flowing water that came from higher terrain. As time progressed, suction pumps were used to extract the gravel from the river, then the water went through a filter to sort out the lighter material from the diamonds. 

The Jequitinhonha River has been Brazil’s main source for alluvial deposits and diamond production. A kimberlite pipe in Bahia was found in the 1960s’ and has been able to be mined.

Central Africa 

The Central African Republic is known for conflict diamonds due to the conditions of the country, economy, and how business is run. This country’s key source of income is the conflict diamonds. 

In 2014, The Kimberley Process was put in motion, as a certificate that banned the exports of diamonds because the profit was supporting rebels. 

Yet, rough diamonds are still bought and sold since they are not as easily detectable. With the government system being unconventional here, rebels are able to position themselves in high-volume areas, where they can control the entire diamond extraction process. 

Mining companies have not been successful because the stones are in alluvial deposits and spread across two large rivers. 

Instead, around 80,000 to 100,000 unofficial miners are at these rivers daily to see what they can find with their picks and shovels. Then usually West Africans, just like a broker, will purchase these rough diamonds at a cheap cost to then sell them at great margins. 

There are 40 million carats yet to be mined here, and all are likely to be conflict diamonds. 

Quality and Grade 

When it comes to assessing a black diamond, it’s different compared to other colors. First, it’s important to view the certification if it’s naturally formed, heat-treated or lab-grown. On the Mohs scale, carbonados have a 10 hardness rating. 

The main characteristic we want to focus on is the cut, meaning the shape and style of the gem. The many inclusions can make it tricky to cut and often leads to an expensive cutting process. They are more often in round, cushion, and pear shapes, so it can be challenging to find any other shapes on the market. 

The second most important grading quality to assess is the carat size. Black diamonds are denser; therefore, one carat for a black diamond is smaller than one carat of diamonds. 

All other diamonds are rated on a color scale of D to Z but black diamonds are not rated by this criteria because the color needs to be assessed independently. 

The clarity of the diamond impacts the value that it holds. Professionals are able to see the inclusions that are within the diamond, and we know that black diamonds have many of them. The most important thing with carbonados is that the color is uniform throughout the entire stone. 

Things To Consider 

Black diamonds are affordable, and more so when they have been treated to get their color. This color is still hard, as is the strength of a normal diamond, yet with the number of inclusions, they can be prone to fractures. The same is even true for a naturally created black diamond. Since they are made up of smaller black crystals that form together, it can create instability in their structure.

As we mentioned above, these stones absorb the light instead of reflecting it, which means they will not have the same sparkle as other diamonds. This color is still considered a unique option when it comes to engagement rings. So it is best to know that someone specifically is asking for a carbonado, instead of surprising them with one. 

It is also important to make sure that the black diamond in question is truly black. Oftentimes, other stones have such a dark look, they are mistaken for being a black diamond. The other gemstones that look similar are as follows: black cubic zirconia, black spinal, pyrite or marcasite, French jet, hematite, and black tourmaline. An expert will be able to use their tools to determine whether it’s truly a black diamond or another dark-colored stone. 

Black Diamond Symbolism 

Black diamonds have been seen as a symbol of justice and inner strength. It is thought that it can help with problem-solving and how to take the best approach in any given situation. The black diamond was also used to connect someone to the spiritual world to assist with communication on the other side. 

When it comes to being naturally made by the Earth, this stone has a rarity to it unlike anything else. Its symbolism has an element of mystic power to it. It’s all about cultivating our potential and transcending into our innate power, authority and wisdom. 

It’s also known for passion, guiding us to achieve the fame and recognition we want in life, and to create the future of our dreams. It is connected to our roots, the seat of our willpower. 

In Conclusion 

Out of all the colors of diamonds, carbonados have a distinct history in how they gained popularity, to where they are sourced from. These natural diamonds that come from the Earth, are not from the most stable countries, whether it’s how the miners are treated or the lack of documentation that takes place. 

Society continues to evolve in being more conscious of our purchasing power, and it makes sense that over time, it will be important to people to have conflict-free gemstones. 

We feel that treated or lab-grown black diamonds will continue to grow in reputation since it can be confidently guaranteed the stone is conflict-free and environmentally friendly. As more celebrities and well-known people in society are gravitating towards this colored gem, it’s only a matter of time that it gains more popularity. 

If you are ever in the market for a black diamond, be sure to take a look at the certification to see where it came from, unless you are working with someone like Eterneva to make a lab-grown cremation diamond. In that case, Eterneva takes pride in the transparency of how our diamonds are created from start to finish, including you in the process the entire way through. 

Sources:

Black Diamond Buying Guide – Dark & Stunning | Gem Society

Dangerous Little Stones: Diamonds in the Central African Republic | Global Policy 

Brazilian Diamonds: A Historical and Recent Perspective | GIA 

What is a Black Diamond? Are Black Diamonds Real? | Naturally Colored

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