Diamond: Birthstone for April.
Diamonds are about superlatives: the most desirable of gemstones, and unparalleled in brilliance, diamonds have been sought after for millennia. Diamond is 58 times harder than the next hardest substance (corundum). The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes that “diamond is the only gem made of a single element.” Diamond is almost pure (99.95%) carbon, and its unique atomic arrangement (carbon atoms bonded the same way in all directions) results in its extreme hardness. It is interesting to note that diamond and graphite (traditionally used for manufacturing pencils) are both composed of nearly pure carbon, but the two minerals are polar opposites, in terms of hardness.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the etymology of diamond to the Latin adamas, signifying a very hard substance; adamas in turn can be traced to a Greek word of the same spelling, “a name of the hardest metal, probably steel, [but] in Hellenistic Greek [signifying] diamond.” The word still finds currency in modern English with the adjective adamant, meaning “unwavering” or “unyielding”, which also exemplifies the hardness of diamonds.
Diamonds are found throughout the world: Angola, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, India, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, United States, and Venezuela. According to the GIA, India was the first early source for diamonds, with evidence of trade going back the fourth century B.C. The Portuguese discovery of diamonds in Brazil led to the dominance of Brazilian diamonds during the 18th and most of the 19th centuries. Diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1866; De Beers was founded in 1888, and that company would soon control the vast majority of the world’s diamond supply.
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