Wedding and Engagement Rings � Diamonds

What is a diamond?

Diamond is produced as a result of tremendous heat and pressure within the earth's surface. Recent research has suggested that a temperature of 690°F would be required, together with a pressure of 70,000kg to a square centimetre. Such conditions would only be found at a depth of some 120 miles below the earth's surface. Diamond is then brought to the surface as a result of volcanic activity; all this happened between 75 and 120 million years ago.

Diamonds have been treasured by man for at least 3,000 years. Named from the Greek word `adamas' which means 'invincible' diamond was prized for its hardness and rarity; it was only in the Middle Ages that the full beauty of diamond, which is achieved by the cutting of facets to its surface, could be realised. Until the l8th Century most of the world's diamonds came from India and this included many of the famous stones about which so many myths and legends have been woven. Stones such as the Koh-i-noor (which means `Mountain of Light'), of which the first mention was made in 1304, and is now to be seen in the Queen Mother's Crown at the Tower of London; or the Orloff, which served as the eye of an Indian idol and was given by Prince Orloff to his ex-lover, Catherine the Great.

Finds in Brazil in the l8th Century meant that for a hundred years or so that country was the supplier of most of the world's diamonds, and then just as these mines were being worked out, diamonds were discovered in South Africa in the 1860's. The largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan, was discovered in the Premier mine in South Africa 1905. Weighing about 1.5 pounds (over 3,000 cts.) the diamond was presented to Edward VII, who had it cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller ones. The largest of these is known as Cullinan 1, and at a weight of 530cts, still the largest cut diamond in the world, is in the Royal Sceptre. Today, Australia is the world's major producer of diamonds, followed by Zaire, Botswana, Russia, and South Africa. Stones do however come from many other countries including Venezuela, China, Brazil, and other parts of the African continent.

Diamond Shapes

The 4 C's - Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat

Cut is considered to be the most important of the 4C's because a well cut diamond sparkles more than any other gem. Exact little planes called facets direct rays of light into the diamond. The light is then reflected outward, creating the diamond's fire and brilliance. Fire is the intensity of the rainbow of colours emanating from a diamond, and brilliance is the liveliness of a diamond. It's important to distinguish between the cut and the "shape" of a diamond.

Clarity is determined by the degree to which a diamond is free from natural internal inclusions or imperfections. Most diamonds contain some inclusions, visible only through a jeweller's loupe, the magnifying instrument professionals use to examine and evaluate gemstones.

In a diamond, the best colour is no colour, allowing the stone to cleanly reflect and refract light. Diamonds are rated for colour on a letter scale beginning with D, which is perfectly colourless, to Z, the lowest colour rating.

Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, not its size. There are 100 points in a carat. Therefore, a diamond of 50 points weighs 1/2 of a carat. Larger diamonds of one carat or more are rare and of greater value per carat. Understanding what makes every diamond different ensures that your engagement ring will be a unique symbol of enduring quality and love. Remember to shop from a reputable jeweller and request a detailed, written gemological evaluation of any significant stone you choose to buy.

*The 4C's tips are reproduced from non-copywrited publications