Every month comes with its birthstone. While some jewelry aficionados couldn’t care less about the precious gemstone associated with their birth month, others love having a gemstone that they can consider all their own. For those lucky ladies born in April, the birthstone is diamond (which is excellent news as well if you don’t particularly care for the theory of birthstones, but your family always buys you birthstone jewelry — you get more diamonds out of it, which about everyone loves; who is going to say “no” to a diamond, after all?).
So, whether you are on board with the whole birthstone thing or not, what do you need to know about diamonds in particular? Here is a quick guide.
How Diamonds Form
Diamonds form hundreds of miles below the ground’s surface. There, carbon is exposed to elevated temperatures and high pressure, allowing the formation of crystals, and, eventually, diamonds. Geological movements and events allow those miles-deep diamonds to move closer to the surface, making for easier access for miners.
Diamonds in History
While, today, we have a good understanding of how diamonds are formed, diamonds traditionally were thought to come from a variety of mythological sources. In Ancient India, diamonds were said to form from lightning striking the ground. In ancient Rome and Greece, diamonds were said to be the tears of the gods that had fallen to earth.
Diamonds were used in jewelry design as early as 400 B.C., when they were used for religious purposes, to ward off evil spirits. Like much jewelry of early history, diamond jewelry was often connected with spiritualism and superstitions, and diamonds were thought to not only ward off evil spirits, but also potentially heal illnesses (and this led to some unfortunate people even ingesting diamonds!).
One of the earliest lasting examples of diamonds being used in jewelry, though, is the Hungarian crown from 1074. The earliest record of diamond cutting comes several centuries later, in 1407; the Parisian records indicate that jewelry cutters were cutting and polishing diamonds on a large scale at that time.
While diamond engagement rings are a new fad, the very first known diamond engagement ring dates to 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave fiancé Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring
If you’re shopping for a diamond, you’ll quickly come upon some terminology that can be confusing for the uninitiated. The Gemological Institute of America provides a wealth of information for the curious, but here are the basics.
Diamond quality is ranked by 4 Cs: carat weight, color grade, clarity grade and cut grade.
When a diamond’s color is evaluated, the evaluator is more so looking for a lack of color. You want a diamond to be pristinely clear and free from any discoloration (unless, of course, you’re getting into fancy-colored diamonds, which is an entirely different matter). The Gemological Institute of America uses a D to Z diamond scale. The closer to D the letter grade is, the clearer the diamond. The closer to Z the diamond is, the more yellow or brown it might be. Diamond color can change very subtly, so you may not notice the difference between a D and an H diamond, unless you’re looking at the two diamonds side by side.
Diamond clarity, on the other hand, refers to the absence of inclusions or blemishes. While this can be easily confused with diamond color, the inclusions and blemishes aren’t actually color issues. Instead, inclusions or blemishes are typically irregularities in the atomic structure of the diamond (and therefore exceedingly difficult to detect with the human eye).
The Gemological Institute of America ranks diamond clarity in six categories, from flawless (which means an inspector cannot see any inclusions or blemishes in the diamond under 10x magnification) to included (which means inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification and can impact the diamond’s transparency and brilliance).
Diamond cut is often confused with diamond shape. While you might know you love a round or oval diamond, don’t make the mistake of thinking those terms refer to the diamond’s cut, when it refers to diamond shape. Diamond cut, instead, refers to how a diamond is specifically cut so that the facets interact with light in a certain way. The diamond cut will directly impact the end look of the stone.
And, lastly, of course, a diamond’s carat weight refers to its size by weight. Each diamond carat is the equivalent of 200 milligrams. While it might be easy to assume that a diamond with a larger carat weight might be more valuable or cost more than a diamond with a lesser carat weight, that’s not always the case. Many times, a diamond’s clarity, cut or color will influence the price or value as well, as sometimes quality matters over quantity.
Kashmir sapphires are separated from other sapphires by their trace elements and color. Additionally, they can be spotted in a range of Victorian and Deco pieces, when set, as these pieces would have been in vogue around the time that Kashmir sapphires were first being discovered. They’re also typically cushion cut or oval cut. As mentioned, Kashmir sapphires are known for their unique blue velvet, cornflower blue hue.
Comparatively, Ceylon or Sri Lankan sapphires are very close in quality, but also far more plentiful, meaning that you’re likely going to be able to find a Ceylon or Sri Lankan sapphire for a more affordable price.
Australian sapphires, meanwhile, are some of the most affordable sapphires on the market, and often used by large jewelry manufacturers. Most Australian sapphires have a navy hue. Meanwhile, Montana sapphires are usually light, small and likewise affordable.
It’s Madagascar sapphires, however, that are most likely to be confused with Kashmir sapphires. The hue is similar and the material is similar. Additionally, some consumers may be confused as, occasionally, a Madagascar sapphire may list Madagascar as the stone’s origin, but then the stone may be listed as “Kashmir Type” elsewhere, for its qualities and hue. Many times, to distinguish between Madagascar and Kashmir sapphires, an expert will need to look at the gemstone’s internal make-up beneath a microscope. There, they’ll find particle patches and tracks arranged in varying patterns that can help to indicate a gemstone’s geographic origins.
Taking Care of Your Diamond
Once you’ve picked the perfect diamond jewelry for your collection, or if you have a few diamond pieces languishing away in your jewelry box currently, you want to keep those diamonds sparkling like new. While diamond jewelry does remain relatively clean and shiny without much work, you will still want to take a few precautions.
Store your diamond jewelry in soft-lined boxes or bags away from other jewelry, including other diamond jewelry, as diamond-on-diamond contact can lead to scratching. If you do want to clean your diamond jewelry, do so with a soft toothbrush and jewelry-specific cloth, with warm water and mild dish soap. If possible, it is best to allow the professionals to clean your diamond jewelry on your behalf.
Another part of diamond care that is often overlooked but oh-so-important is insurance and appraisal. Having diamond or jewelry insurance can protect your high-value items in the event of theft or loss (and, often, your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover items like this anyway, so extra coverage is needed). Diamond appraisal is a necessity when shopping for jewelry insurance, to gauge the right insurance plan for your needs. It’s always important to hire a professional and experienced appraiser for these purposes.
Need to Know More?
Need to know more about diamonds, diamond buying, diamond investing or diamond care? Or, want to know more about another favorite gemstone?
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