Sunday, April 8, 2012

Diamonds, Part 1: Carat

Those interested in diamonds are commonly introduces to "the four C's" carat weight, cut, clarity and color. Because of the abundance of information and research available on this stone, I'll be covering each of the four c's in in a separate rock review article for the month of April-- the birthstone for which is diamond.
The most revered of gemstones is so beloved not merely because of its extraordinary beauty, but because its fascinating crystal formation makes it the hardest substance known to man. From the very first diamond crystal discovered, it was clear humans that this rock was different from all others. This special stone was set into jewelry as early as the Egyptian and Roman empires, before the technology existed to cut diamonds into any shape other than it's natural octahedral shape.
It was around the same time that trade between societies increased, creating a need for certain universal measurements. The word "carat" is derived from "carob." The carob seed was plentiful in the Mediterranean region, the center of trade at the time. These seeds were relatively uniform in size and weight, and became a standard counterweight for weighing small objects on a balance. This measurement evolved into what we know now as a carat which is equivalent to one fifth of one gram.
This tiny measurement, one fifth of one gram, is the basis for weighing nearly all gemstones, and in the case of diamonds, one tenth of a carat can mean the difference between hundreds or thousands of dollars for each stone in the modern market. While a diamond mine may produce many tons of diamond rough in one year, a very very small percentage of that rough is of gemstone quality.
Most diamonds look more like dirty brown rocks than the lustrous gemstone that we picture when we think of them. Of those diamonds that are considered cuttable gems, most are little tiny, itty bitty gems. It is for this reason, that the price of a gem diamond increases exponentially by weight. Additionally, the cost of dimaonds takes a jump at certain markers. For example, many folks shopping for an engagement ring want to purchase a stone of a certain size. A gemstone just over one carat is worth more per carat than a gemstone just under one carat, the same is true of two carats or even half carat markers.

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