We know that it takes a precise amount of temperature, pressure, time, and carbon to make a diamond. Yet, have you ever wondered—where does the carbon come from in the Earth’s natural process or how long does it take for a diamond to form? Or maybe, will this diamond truly last forever?
We really do not know how long it takes for a diamond to form. Scientists believe anywhere from one billion to three billion years, and that is an incredible amount of time.
What Happens in the Earth’s Mantle?
We have mentioned the volcanic eruptions that catapult the diamond rocks to the Earth’s Mantle. Molten lamproite and kimberlite, which is magma, are found in the upper mantle and begin to rapidly expand. The magma is then triggered to make its ascension to the surface, at a fast speed through a pipe, and a diamond joins the ride to the top.
Most diamonds are found in Kimberlite pipes, although only one in 200 kimberlite pipes will have gem-quality stones. The first time a diamond was found in a kimberlite pipe was in Kimberley, South Africa, hence where the pipes, or pathways, got their name.
What Role Does Carbon Play?
We know carbon is required for a diamond to become a diamond! In fact, every carbon atom will attach to four other carbon atoms, and as this process continues, it is what makes the diamonds so strong.
For a diamond to form, there must be enough carbon nearby to bond with each other to form a rough diamond. Simply put, the carbon is magnetized to one another, over and over again until the diamond has formed.
Where Does Carbon Come From?
Scientists have educated guesses, yet there is no way to truly know what is happening deep in the Earth’s Mantle during this billion-year process. There is carbon that is already in the Earth. We also know that when two tectonic plates collide, carbon from plants, animals, rocks, and the like, falls down to the upper mantle and will contribute to the carbon needed for the diamond-making process.
Another factor is diamonds may not be growing at a continuous rate for one billion to three billion years for a gem to form. With other crystals, there can be interruptions that pause the process and have the stone waiting until the perfect element arrives to start the process again, where it left off. There is a good reason that diamonds follow a similar route, so in fact, it goes to show we really do not know how long from start to finish a diamond needs to fully form.
We know that inclusions in diamonds are considered potential contaminations and are often cut around when possible. These inclusions are other minerals and knowing what those minerals are, can actually help to determine when that element was first found on Earth.
This is one way to get an idea of how old a diamond may be. Another reason diamonds are probably as old as the Earth is due to how much hotter the Earth was in the beginning and allowed for continuous conditions for diamonds to grow and thrive.
Do Diamonds Last Forever?
One might think that once a diamond is created, it is here for good. Technically, that is true and not true at the same time. Eventually, a diamond could transform into graphite, as they are both pure carbon in crystalline form.
What makes them different from each other is how the carbon structures have attached themselves to one another. Carbon in diamonds forms a three-dimensional configuration, then in graphite, the same amount of carbon forms but it’s much more loosely connected to one another.
So when a diamond begins to form into graphite, it is really just the carbon structures relaxing in their bonds. At the same time, some kind of force, or strong energy is required for the diamond to shift in its configuration, not any kind of chemical reaction with an external substance will do it.
Without this energetic force, such as a massive increase in temperature, a diamond will essentially always remain a diamond. The atoms would have to gain a specific amount of energy to loosen the bonds, to then form into graphite. Most humans will never be around the energy that’s needed for this transition to happen.
So when someone says diamonds last forever, that is technically true!
Where Are the Oldest Diamonds in the World?
The Hope Diamond
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum has the Hope Diamond, which is at least one billion years old and was found in India. It is extremely uncommon to see the rock that carried the diamond through the kimberlite pipes, yet in India, there have been other rocks that scientists have been able to inspect. The ones they have found date the diamonds that were in the rocks to be one billion years old, so the Hope Diamond is more than likely even older than what is documented.
The uniqueness of the Hope Diamond is due to its size and color. Originally, it was 112 carats in a rough triangular shape, then was cut and polished to a 45.54-carat cushion cut. This stone was in the presence of kings, stolen in the French Revolution, made a few ownership changes among the wealthy, until Harry Winston ultimately donated it to the museum, where it is a main attraction.
There has been only one other gem mined that is the same size and color.
Another deep blue gem at 31.06 carats, the Wittelsbach-Graff is thought to be the sister stone of the Hope Diamond. This stone was around European royalty and disappeared a few times since its existence, to then being cut and polished to express its ultimate beauty. Afterward, the Gemological Institute of America changed the rating from fancy grayish-blue to fancy deep blue.
Known as the Light of the Eye, this 60 carat light pink oval cut gem is the sister stone to Darya-i-Nur and also resides in Iran.
These two magnificent pink diamonds mentioned are believed to be cut from the Diamanta Grande Table, a massive table of 400 carats.
The Dresden Green
This special green gem has the same color throughout the entire stone, which is very uncommon with green diamonds. It is a 40.7-carat pear cut that was cut prior to 1741. It is believed to have come from Kollur Mine in India.
The Dresden Green accompanied the Hope Diamond from 2000-2001 at the Smithsonian Museum, when the Dresden Palance and Green Vault were receiving structural improvements. When the work was completed in 2004, this precious stone returned home and has been on display for the public ever since.
Lab Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are gaining popularity because they are conflict-free.
There are two ways diamonds grow in the lab. High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) was the first type invented in the 1950s. This is where one diamond is grown at a time and there are three different kinds for this machine: the bars, cubic, and belt press. These machines are able to duplicate the perfect temperature and pressure that is needed to create a diamond.
The Carbon Vapor Deposition machine was developed next to be able to create multiple diamonds at one time. The only quirk with this kind of machine is that some diamonds will be smaller than others and oftentimes, there are a decent amount of inclusions that will need to be cut and polished around.
With the High Pressure High Temperature machines, it is known ahead of time what the color, size, and cut will be and can be created to those exact design elements.
At Eterneva, this is the kind of machine that we use to make cremation diamonds. We purify your loved one’s ashes or hair to extract the needed carbon, place that carbon and a diamond seed into our machines, and allow that machine to replicate the conditions under the earth to create the raw diamond. Our entire process from start to finish takes about eight months—here is what we do in a nutshell.
First, we begin with a welcome call to get to know you, your loved one and learn about what made them so remarkable.
The next step is to send us a ½ cup of ashes or hair by returning your personalized Welcome Kit. The kit includes a video message from us, cubic zirconias to see different carat size examples, a container for your loved one’s ashes or hair, and further detailed instructions.
Your loved one’s ashes are then purified to extract the necessary carbon for your diamond. The carbon purification process takes about two months, and we make sure to send video and text updates to you along the way so you can stay informed and feel confident in the process.
The purified carbon is then placed into the HPHT machine where a raw diamond is grown! Once the raw diamond has finished, it’s time to assess it and check for any inclusions that we may want to cut around. The diamond is then cut by our master cutters, and we have the diamond inspected at the International Gemological Institute for you.
Many customers are choosing to work with Eterneva to create a custom jewelry setting for their diamond, and we’d be happy to help if that is the route you’d like to go as well. After this is completed, we carefully and thoughtfully make sure your diamond is delivered back home to you.
We really do not know how long it takes diamonds to form naturally on the Earth, but we do know that it takes about eight months in a lab.
In the Eterneva lab, we have world-class technicians who are experienced and well-trained in the diamond-creation process.