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Where Do Diamonds Come From?

Updated on January 9, 2012

You might have asked yourself the question, "Where do diamonds come from?" The answer is not jewelry stores, nor is it Somali pirates.

Diamonds are developed under extremely high temperatures and pressure beneath the surface of the earth and are carried to the surface when volcanoes erupt.

So it's fair to say that diamonds come from volcanoes.

Diamonds are brought to the surface in volcano eruptions.
Diamonds are brought to the surface in volcano eruptions.

How are diamonds formed?

Diamonds are formed no less than 100 to 300 miles under the surface of the earth. Most of them are uncovered from inside a special volcanic stone known as Kimberlite and they are only mined in areas with active volcanoes. Some diamonds are found loose, since they have been washed out of their original Kimberlite stone by rivers.

Diamonds are produced in as many as 20 countries around the world, Australia being the largest diamond producer of them all. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces the second largest amount of diamonds, followed by Botswana, Russia, and the most infamous diamond producer South Africa.

Diamond vs. Graphite atomic structures
Diamond vs. Graphite atomic structures

What are diamonds made of?

Although it doesn't appear so, all diamonds are made up of pure carbon, very similar to graphite, the material that the lead in pencils is made from, but with the carbon atoms arranging themselves in different structures.

Although diamond are said to be the hardest substances on the face of the earth, they are only ONE of the hardest naturally occurring substances with the extremely high score of 10 on the Mohs Hardness scale.

It's carbonic counterpart, graphite, on the other hand, is actually one of the softest substances, with a score of 1.5 on the Mohs Hardness scale, only to be a little bit harder than talcum powder.

Huge diamond in Lucy's belly
Huge diamond in Lucy's belly

Where is the largest known diamond?

You probably won't believe me, but the largest known diamond in the world is 2,500 miles across and measures 10 billion trillion trillion carats.

You guessed it, it can't be found on out planet. The largest known diamond sits directly above Australia, about 8 light years away form us, inside the star called Lucy in the constellation of Centaurus. So no one can have it.

Lucy's got such a nice name, hasn't she? The star got its nickname from the classic Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but technically it's still called White Dwarf BPM 37093.

The original song was named after a drawing made by John Lennon’s son Julian of his little 4-year-old friend called Lucy Richardson. So it's fair to say that the star containing the world's largest diamond was named after Lucy Richardson too.

Aggregated carbon nanorod or ACNR is the hardest and densest substance on the planet
Aggregated carbon nanorod or ACNR is the hardest and densest substance on the planet

What is the world's hardest material then?

Once diamonds were the hardest, but then came Aug 2005, when scientists in a German laboratory succeeded in the creation of an even harder substance known as aggregated carbon nanorods or ACNR.

ACNR was created by compressing and heating extra strong carbon molecules to 2,226 °C.

Each of the ACNR molecules is made up of 60 atoms that interconnect in hexagonal or pentagonal formations and so are reported to resemble footballs. In fact, ACNR is so much stringer than diamond that it can scratch diamond surface with little effort.

How are diamonds formed? Video


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