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Diamonds: between tradition and modernity

What are diamonds and why do we love them?

When you think of gold jewelry, the first image that comes to mind is certainly that of a solitaire set with a sparkling diamond. Of all gems, diamonds are the most prized and precious. They have been considered precious stones since antiquity. If diamonds are so famous and celebrated today, it's because of their history, but also because of their properties. 

The first diamonds were found in India over 3,000 years ago, near rivers in the Golconde region. It remained the diamond mecca for centuries. Until 1725, India and Indonesia were the only places where diamonds were mined. The discovery of America also led to the discovery of large diamond deposits in Brazil. While we're all familiar with the gold rush, we're less familiar with the "diamond rush" triggered by the discovery of these deposits. As a result, the price of diamonds fell by almost 3 times.

Diamonds are made of crystallized carbon, and contrary to what you might think, they come in a wide range of colors. Diamonds scatter light like no other gem, giving them their superior brilliance.

The word diamond comes from the ancient Greek "adámas", meaning "indomitable". The hardest material in the world, diamonds have always been a complex material for lapidaries to master. Diamonds are highly prized by jewelers. Its properties also make it very useful in the industrial and scientific spheres.

Diamond grading

Diamonds are classified according to several characteristics. In the trade, we call these the 4Cs of diamonds. These 4 criteria determine the rarity and price of a diamond.

C for cut

Cutting a diamond is one of the most important things you can do. It's how a diamond reveals its brilliance, and disperses the rainbow spectrum of light. Due to its extreme hardness, a diamond must only be cut and polished by another diamond. Today, the main diamond manufacturers are located in Antwerp, Belgium, and Tel-Aviv, Israel. The most common cut is the "brilliant" cut, which brings out the diamond's natural brilliance. As a follow-up to the work of lapidaries, laboratories grade diamond cuts according to the following notation:

CodeSize (cut)
EXExcellent (Excellent)
VGVery Good
GGood
FFair (Acceptable)
P Poor

C for "color

Diamond color is a very important characteristic for many jewelry customers. Diamonds are graded on a scale from D to Z, with D being the best quality with a very pure white, and Z being the worst quality with a very pronounced color.

This classification is only valid for white diamonds. Other diamonds known as blue, red or green are graded differently. 

CodeColor
DExceptional white +
EExceptional white
FWhite extra +
GWhite extra
HWhite
I and JShaded white
K and L Slightly tinted
M to ZColor Marked

C for "clarity

Diamonds, like most other gems, contain inclusions. An inclusion is an impurity, usually appearing as dots or spots rarely visible to the naked eye. Diamonds are therefore also graded according to the visibility and number of these inclusions.

CodeMeaning
IF / FLAbsence of internal and surface inclusions at 10x magnification
VVS1 / VVS2Tiny inclusion(s) very difficult to see with a magnifying glass at 10x magnification
VS1 / VS2 Very small inclusion(s) difficult to see with a magnifying glass at 10x magnification
SI1 / SI2 / SI3Small inclusion(s) easily visible with a magnifying glass at 10x magnification
I1 / I2 / I3 Large and/or numerous inclusions visible to the naked eye

C for "carat" (weight)

Caratage refers to the weight of a diamond, and is probably the best-known criterion. 1 carat is equivalent to 0.20 grams. The name carat comes from the name of the seed of the "kuara" tree. This seed has the particularity of always having the same weight. It was therefore widely used in the gold and diamond trade. It is also the criterion that most influences the price: the value of a diamond is exponential according to its caratage. A 2-carat diamond will not be twice as expensive as a 1-carat diamond, but even more so, since they are rarer and the loss during cutting is higher. 

Where does my diamond come from?

Before talking about where diamonds come from, it's important to know that diamonds used for industry and science are not the same as those used for jewelry. Today, there is no longer a diamond monopoly, as was the case in previous centuries. But the distribution of diamond production remains uneven. 4 countries produce 70 % of the world's diamond jewelry. Among these countries, Russia is in first place, followed by Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Australia. At Façonnier, we use diamonds sourced from only responsible mining, our certification RJC guarantees it.

Famous diamonds

Among all diamonds, there are some that stand out. Some have adorned the most beautiful crowns, others have sold for record prices. These diamonds all have a story to tell. 

Koh-i Nor

The Koh-i Nor is the jewel of the British Crown. This 105-carat diamond was found in India by the famous Compagnie des Indes, which they presented to Queen Victoria on their return. Legend has it that this diamond has the power to bring misfortune to its wearer if he is a man. By order of Queen Victoria, it could only be worn by women. Today, it is displayed in the Tower of London alongside other British crown jewels.

Bleu de France & Hope

The story of the Hope diamond begins with that of the Bleu de France diamond. This diamond was purchased by the Sun King in 1668 from Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a pioneer of trade with India. Louis XIV had it cut and its weight reduced from 112 to 67 carats. The diamond was stolen in 1792 during the French Revolution, and once again cut to ensure that the theft went unnoticed. Its final weight was 44.5 carats. It was later renamed the Hope diamond, after one of the families who owned it. Its sad history has given it the reputation of being cursed, but this jewel remains uniquely beautiful.

Cullinan

The Cullinan is the largest diamond ever found in the world. Weighing 3,106 carats, it was discovered in the Premier mine in South Africa and is totally colorless. It was sold for a total of 750,000$ in 1907 to King Edward VII of England. This rough diamond was cut into 9 pieces, the largest of which is a 530-carat, pear-shaped cut. This exceptional diamond adorns the British imperial scepter. The Cullinan I and II are now on display at the Tower of London, as is the Koh-i Noor.

What are synthetic diamonds?

When it was discovered that diamonds are just a different form of carbon, physicists and chemists set themselves the challenge of synthesizing it. The first synthetic diamond was produced in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953.

Synthetic diamonds are composed in much the same way as natural diamonds. To the naked eye, it's impossible to tell the difference, and almost impossible to tell them apart with a magnifying glass. A natural diamond needs a long process to form, which is the complete opposite of synthetic diamonds and the methods used in the laboratory. The advantage of synthetic diamonds is their price: they are logically less expensive to produce and cut than natural diamonds. 

Today, there are two methods for manufacturing synthetic diamonds. One of these is the high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) method. Using this method, the majority of diamonds are lightly tinted an orange-yellow, which is quite rare for natural diamonds. The other method is called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), which differs from the HPHT method in that these diamonds are very clear, with very few inclusions.

The diamond advantage over synthetic diamonds

Unlike synthetic diamonds, real diamonds age very well. Over time, all diamonds, even those of poor quality, retain their natural brilliance. Due to their natural hardness, diamonds are never scratched like other stones.

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