The diamond is the official birthstone for April. It’s a popular gemstone for engagement and marriage rings, and is a traditional gift for the 60th wedding anniversary.
Diamonds are linked with the highest spiritual energies and metaphysical powers. It is the gemstone for the Crown (7th) chakra and is used also for the Third Eye (6th) and Heart (4th) chakras, and has a balancing effect on all of the chakras. Diamond is said to be a very intense, high-frequency stone that can amplify the energies of other high-frequency gems, the body’s energy systems, and even to magnify the state of one’s emotions.
The clear white diamond’s most important and most popular characteristic as a faceted gemstone is its ability to break up (disperse) white light into rainbow colors (fire), and to sparkle with brilliance as it’s moved (scintillation). Many gems resemble it but few can match its luster, especially in combination with its hardness. Most clear natural gems are too soft to be worn as jewelry or do not disperse light very well. The natural zircon is said to be the best of the non-synthetic diamond look-alikes.
Among synthetics, the two top imitators of diamond today are moissanite and cubic zirconia. Moissanite has excellent fire but some say that it has a recognizably different kind of sparkle, while CZ are said to show too much fire and little or no scintillation. Of course such modern synthetics have no metaphysical history, and their primary function as imitators significantly dilutes their power to symbolize.
Some believe that an uncut diamond has the most talismanic power and is more suited to metaphysical uses than the faceted stone. In its rough state, the luster of diamonds has been called waxy or greasy. Its famous sparkling adamantine luster is only revealed after cutting and polishing. This characteristic gave rise to the saying, “a diamond in the rough,” meaning that a person has great potential, or is very special even if they may not seem so in outward appearance.
All gemstones are rare on earth. With that qualification, it may be a surprise to learn that diamonds, far from being rare gemstones, are much more commonly found than emeralds, rubies, sapphires, precious opal, and oceanic pearls. Diamonds actually were scarce until the late 19th century. But today, discoveries in many parts of the world show that diamonds may actually be one of the most common of gems. Their reputation for being rare has mainly to do with De Beers Corporation’s advertising and manipulation of the market, by dishonest and allegedly even criminal means, as well as the diamond industry’s general willingness to cooperate, in order to maintain their inflated pricing.
Incredibly, astronomers think that a white dwarf star in the constellation of Centaurus may have crystallized into a gigantic diamond. Officially tagged BPM 37093, it was nick-named “Lucy,” after the Beatle’s song (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). This tiny (relatively speaking) dead sun, made of crystallized carbon, is estimated to be about the size of our earth.
Although diamonds are popularly thought of as being white or clear, they are usually tinted yellow, grey or brown. The more that a diamond is free of its typical yellow cast, the higher its grade and price — unless the yellow color is so vivid that the stone is graded as a colored diamond, which is more expensive still. All strongly colored diamonds excepting for brown are far more rare than white diamonds, with red diamonds among the rarest of all gemstones. Of the more numerous brown diamonds, high transparency and a tinge of orange or red significantly elevates the quality of color (and price).
Diamonds are the most transparent of gemstones, as well as the hardest of any substance (not just gemstones) found in nature. This hardness is actually their greatest distinction. They will burn, like all forms of carbon, but this is only possible in 700°F+ heat, and only in the presence of oxygen. Diamonds will break if you hit them hard at just the right angle, because of a quality known as “perfect cleavage,” so the stones must be mounted in their settings in such a way as to protect them.
However, if you’re not in the habit of hammering or firing up your jewelry with a blow torch, you can safely assume that you pretty much have an indestructible jewel that will retain its edgy brilliance forever. Diamonds are virtually impossible to melt, dissolve or even to scratch. It is for this reason that they continue to be prized as a symbol for permanence and endurance in marriage and other meaningful endeavors.
All natural diamonds are ancient in the extreme. They were formed, over long periods of time, from one to three billions of years ago. That pretty much blows the idea that diamonds are compressed coal, since plant life (where coal comes from) didn’t even exist until about 450 million years ago. Nearly all the diamonds that have been dated were formed at least 100 million years earlier.
Geologists have narrowed down the conditions for diamond formation. It’s now believed that diamonds form in earth’s mantle only beneath continental plates -- in the interior where it’s stable (not the edges where all our geological catastrophes happen, such as earthquakes) -- and only when the right pressure (at around 90 miles deep) occurs simultaneously with heat at a minimum of 2000°F.
Diamonds only rise to the surface during a rare type of “deep source” volcanic eruption. The crystals are carried up by magma, which act like a conveyor belt, rising up relatively fast, through natural tubes (called “kimberlite pipes”). They easily survive such fiery and violent explosions, and once on the surface they remain unscathed by erosion.
It’s no wonder this gem was named after the Latin term adamas, linked to such meanings as adamant, hard, unyielding, invincible. It was believed that diamonds imbued men with this quality, making them strong, courageous and thereby victorious. This led to the belief that diamonds helped win wars.
Though most fine gems have a dark side in their histories, diamonds are especially notorious for being linked to war and conflict -– not just the “conflict diamonds” in modern-day Africa, but also during Europe’s colonial era. In ancient India, where diamonds had a much older cultural presence, conquering princes claimed famous diamonds as spoils of war. Many such gems were looted by the British. Kings and queens everywhere have historically coveted diamonds. It’s said they placed them on crowns, believing that locating them near the brain gave access to divine sources of power, knowledge, authority, and even clairvoyance.
There are fascinating stories of mystery, intrigue, tragedy and even curses involving famous diamonds, which is true of all gemstones that are extremely rare and valuable. In “Gem Magic,” Cornelia Parkinson points out, “Big diamonds mean international adventure, a king’s or a country’s ransom one can hold cupped in the hand. A large gemstone is so incredible a prize that its very existence arouses covetousness in the heart. The truly magnificent diamonds have all counted their worth in human lives.”
This is an unfortunate truth that must be said even of small diamonds found by subsistence miners in areas such as the alluvial deposits of various African countries (in particular Sierra Leone). Despite various sanctions and laws against “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds” (including a UN resolution), illegal trade continues.
However, while the diamond is most notorious, it must be said that other precious gems (such as the Burmese ruby) have funded atrocities and crimes against humanity. In fact, all precious gems may be tainted to some degree by unethical mining and labor practices world-wide. Today, there are suppliers and gemstone organizations that do take the trouble to verify sources, but generally it's still up to the consumer to take the trouble to choose ethical sources of gemstones.