Diamonds are beautiful, rare gemstones that are considered to be highly valued all over the world. These incredible stones are some of the most treasured and prized precious stones known to man and are often used for commemorating.
Whether it’s an anniversary, an engagement, or even celebrating a loved one who has passed on through a memorial diamond, these stones can serve a special purpose. More than just sparkling in the light or being beautiful to look at, a diamond carries with it a certain sense of meaning and importance. However, with so much love and popularity for this gemstone, it may not be surprising that not a whole lot is commonly known about diamonds.
For instance, where does a diamond come from? What is it made of? Why is it so unique and why is it so valuable? Another important distinction for a diamond is the question of whether it is an element or not.
In order to understand these questions, you’ll have to first understand what an element is and how that makes diamonds uniquely valued as gemstones. Here is everything you need to know when it comes to understanding diamonds.
Why Does This Knowledge Matter?
As was already stated, diamonds are more than just beautiful gemstones; they are most often associated with celebrations and commemorations. For instance, the popular phrase ‘a diamond is forever’ has become synonymous with using these stones to commemorate commitments or events.
Marriage is typically commemorated through the use of a diamond as a symbol of eternal love and commitment. Another way of using diamonds is through the art of memorial cremation diamonds. This unique, one-of-a-kind method of celebrating a loved one who has passed on is as beautiful as it is meaningful. This process is relatively simple and uses the ashes of a loved one who has been cremated to then make a unique one-of-a-kind diamond that commemorates their memory forever.
This process involves taking the human ashes of a loved one and subjecting them to conditions that mimic the earth’s crust where diamonds are naturally formed. Through exposure to extreme heat and pressure, the carbon atoms from the ashes will actually re-arrange into a diamond shape. This creates a 100% real, valuable, diamond that is then graded by the IGI and fitted to your specifications to any piece of jewelry you would like.
What Is an Element?
To best understand what a diamond is and how it is unique, you need to go all the way back to the drawing board and understand exactly what an element is. An element itself is a complete reduction to just one type of atom. For instance, carbon is an element. It is uniquely different from Nitrogen or Phosphorous, which are other elements.
Elements themselves are simply atoms that have a unique number of protons in their nuclei. An element will share this main characteristic with other atoms that are of the same element. For example, carbon—one of the most abundant elements and a foundational building block of all life—has six protons. That means that all carbon atoms will have six protons. However, there are some exceptions, and here’s what you need to know about them.
Protons, Electrons and Neutrons
As has already been discussed, an element like carbon will have a unique set of protons in its nucleus that sets it apart from other elements. The number of protons, apart of the nucleus associated with a positive charge, are balanced out by the exact same number of electrons – a part of the nucleus that has a negative charge. The third aspect of an element is what is called neutrons. In fact, the proton number itself is the most important distinguishing feature when it comes to what makes an element an element.
Other aspects of an element can have variation and that element can still fall within the categorization of its atomic (proton) number. For example, an isotope of an element like carbon that has six protons will have a varying amount of neutrons. In normal carbon 12, there are six protons and six neutrons. However, in the isotope, carbon 13, there are still six protons—making it uniquely carbon. However, there is one extra neutron making it an isotope of the element carbon.
Allotropes: How the Element Presents Itself
So now that we have covered the basics of what makes an element an element, what about how an element presents itself? For instance, most of life itself is carbon-based. This incredibly important element makes up the very foundational substance of the actual fabric of reality as humans know it. So, how is it that carbon can have so many different presentations?
Even when it comes to the question of whether diamonds are an element – the interesting part of this question is that diamonds are only made up of carbon. So how can carbon be a foundational molecule in everything from hair follicles, plant stems and then also be the only element found in diamonds?
The answer: allotropes!
Carbon Has Three Allotropes: Graphite, Charcoal and Diamond
An allotrope itself is simply a categorization given to how an element can exist in more than one state. To understand this, you have to know that elements were meant to exist as building blocks. This makes sense since all of the physical world is made up of these tiny atoms all working together to make a structural reality. Everything from the helical DNA that holds the blueprint of life all the way to the rubber in the tires on the cars that we drive is made up of atoms working together.
When it comes to substances that are composed of simply one element it may seem interesting that they do not just have one way of presenting themselves. For instance, substances composed completely of carbon with no other elements can actually be present in three different ways.
For carbon-based allotropes, these three different presentations are graphite (a black brittle substance,) charcoal (a chalky black substance), and diamonds (one of the hardest substances on the planet).
But how does one element create three different substances that are so unique? If you have ever seen pure graphite you know what it’s massively different from a substance like charcoal and both are not recognizably related at all to diamond. So how can they all be large if not entirely made from carbon?
It’s All About Connecting
This comes down to the way in which the carbon atoms themselves are connected to each other. In order to have reality as it is currently known, atoms and elements need to work together. This happens through a complex interaction of magnetic and polar relationships between atoms. When atoms connect to each other they have the ability to change certain characteristics that make the substances they form unique.
For carbon, it can change its structural shape between atoms in three different and unique ways when it comes to the three allotropes of carbon. Graphite, charcoal, and diamonds all exhibit unique carbon linking and this is the reason why these three substances can be composed of carbon but be so extremely different from each other.
Graphite has a layered structure that is composed of rings made out of six carbon atoms each. These rings are layered and fitted together in such a way as to create the signature unique substance known as graphite. If you have ever used or touched graphite you know what this black substance is brittle and leaves behind a mark easily.
In fact, pencil lead has historically been made out of graphite because of its unique ability to leave markings and it’s safer to use than actual lead which has toxic qualities.
Diamond is unique in that it is also composed 100% of pure carbon. The carbon molecules take on what is called a tetrahedral shape. This shape is unique in that it creates a kind of 3D structure that allows each carbon atom to be attached to four other carbon atoms.
This kind of structure creates a couple of unique properties to diamond. First, a pure diamond that has no blemishes will be clear and completely colorless. Second, it creates a substance that is one of the hardest natural substances on the planet.
So, Is Diamond an Element?
In short, the answer is no. The statement ‘diamond is an element’ is misleading as carbon itself is an element. While a diamond is composed of 100% of carbon with no other elements involved, it is not an element but simply an allotrope of the element carbon.