Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Diamonds are forever

The first diamonds were discovered more than five thousand years ago in India and have held mankind for many enigmas since then: how was it that diamond was harder than any known matter, what was the composition of this mineral, etc.
The rough, sometimes unsightly looking stones were so hard that they could only be polished after it had been discovered that this was possible by ‘rubbing’ two rough diamonds against each other. This allowed to create "windows" on the surface of the rough stone, which caused the incident light to reflect in a superior manner.

Since long diamond remained draped in a veil of mysticism and it was considered a stone with magical powers. Plato argued that diamonds (and other precious stones) formed the shell around heavenly spirits, and thus they were living beings. Around the year 100 BC, Pliny the Elder wrote that nothing in the world is harder than diamond, it cannot be split with any metal tool and cannot be affected by fire. Just by covering it with the fresh, still warm blood of a ram, the stone could be cleaved with a powerful hammer on a heavy anvil.

The development of diamond cutting had to go a long way in order to optimally exploit the huge source of light present in the stone. In India, which for thousands of years was the only country in the world where diamond was mined, it was learned how to split and polish this material. At the end of the 14th century, Europe only availed over some diamond polishing skills, but it remained an attempt. Only in the middle of the 15th century it became possible to create some facets on the surface of the stones, causing the glare to come out more pronounced than before.

It was the English chemist H.Davy who discovered in the early 19th century that diamond is composed of 100% carbon. Graphite is the softest and diamond the hardest form of carbon. In short, diamond is a very common mineral that, under extreme circumstances, is formed into one of the most special products that has emerged from the interior of the earth.

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