When I first considered the Graduate Gemology program at GIA, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the diamond courses. Diamonds are a big part of the jewelry industry, naturally; but they weren’t exactly my favorite. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d like them much. How mistaken I was! I never could have dreamed how fascinating diamonds are; how beautiful and varied their inclusions, and how many colors they come in! The more I study diamonds, the more I grow to love them and the fascinating things found within them.
One of the first things I found interesting was that diamonds can burn. In hindsight this makes sense — after all, they’re made of carbon, and carbon burns — but until I saw a photo of a burned diamond, I hadn’t thought it possible. The diamond had survived a house fire, but came out looking more like an opal than the hardest substance known to man. I was also interested to learn about laser sawing, cutting and engraving, all of which work on the same principle (burning diamond, but on purpose.) It almost seems like a cheat, after centuries of struggle for even the crudest diamond fashioning. Technology marches on, I suppose.
I knew that diamonds frequently had inclusions, but I had no inkling that said inclusions could be tiny crimson garnets, or vivid green chrome diopside crystals… or other diamonds, for that matter. Thanks largely to the amazing microphotography of John Koivula, I was introduced to interior sights that almost seem fictional. Heart-shaped clouds of microscopic inclusions, unicorn-shaped feathers (breaks within the stone), gems within gems. I had no idea diamonds could be like this!
Another thing I was quite unprepared for was the range of colors diamonds come in. Some I knew about beforehand — it’s hard to escape knowledge of the Hope Diamond’s existence, I’d seen other lighter blue diamonds, pinks, yellows. But greens? Grays? Reds? Cognac and champagne browns? The range of natural color is staggering, and treatments expand the spectrum further! (I’m generally not “for” treatments or treated stones, but I acknowledge that some people want and like them. Don’t be such a snob, Danielle.)
Given all the colors I’ve just described (also seen in the poster image to your left, click for larger version), you’ll probably think me a weirdo for saying this, but I think the color diamond I’d like to own the most is gray. I’m a big fan of gray and silvery colors, and the thought of a gray diamond… I can hardly stand it. I want one. I’m also fond of the medium to dark steel blue colors, and I’d never say no to a pink diamond, or a cheerful yellow. (Actually, yellow is one of my favorite diamond colors. Really!)
The glamour of handling diamonds in person, in the five-day Diamond Grading Lab, wore off more quickly than I expected. This thrill was replaced by the frustration and pain that is the VVS and VS range of stones — “very very slightly included” and “very slightly included”. Or in other words, “there is something in this stone that is almost impossible for a student to find. Knock yourself out.” (I was going to add onto this that the teacher is secretly laughing at your anguish, but my teacher was extremely nice. And she liked the same Sanrio characters I do, particularly Chococat, which was a little odd. But I digress.)
I’m fascinated by diamond’s tendency to fluoresce, although none of the diamonds I graded exhibited this phenomenon. (Half the stones in my channel-set wedding band, on the other hand, did — and I have a ghastly iPod picture to prove it! See?)
I completed my requirements for the Graduate Diamonds certificate last month, and came away with a greater appreciation for “that stone” everyone seems to want. No wonder diamond is so popular! Not only is it extremely hard (10 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is 140 times harder than corundum, hardness of 9), but diamonds are formed under extreme temperatures and pressures, and endure when many other things would crumble to dust. No wonder it’s a symbol of love and devotion! With a range of colors, clarity grades and sizes, there is truly a diamond to suit every taste. And I love them all.