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What does it mean to be called a "Diamond in the Rough"?

Updated on April 22, 2011
Rough diamond
Rough diamond

The Connotation

In our daily lives we come across so many metaphors without thinking twice about their meanings:

  • Have your cake and eat it too
  • A wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • The black sheep of the family
  • The icing on the cake

However, when someone refers to you as a “diamond in the rough”, you find yourself in a dilemma as to whether you should take this phrase as a compliment or an insult. Perhaps an understanding of rough diamonds and the processes they undergo before they transform into stunning gems, will shed some light on what is implied when someone refers to another person as “a diamond in the rough”.

The transformation: from dull to polished
The transformation: from dull to polished

From dull stone to brilliant gem

Buried almost one hundred miles beneath the earth’s crust, are tomorrow’s diamonds. In their most natural state, they dwell in countries like Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and India, as they await their first breath of fresh air. Approximately 130,000,000 carats (26,000 kg) of diamonds are mined annually, but only 20% of these are considered to be of gem quality.

When recovered from secondary deposits or solidified volcanic pipes, rough diamonds have dull, battered external surfaces. They are usually covered by a gummy opaque skin, and have been compared to “lumps of washing soda”. Generally speaking, diamonds are quite unattractive in their rough state. As a matter of fact, upon seeing a rough diamond, it is difficult to believe that it has the potential for transformation into a pricey radiant gem.

Diamond miners who recover and identify diamonds, do require some level of skill. However, the determination of what kind of yield a diamond will give, and an educated estimation of the color and clarity of a rough diamond, can come only from an expert gemologist with trained, keen eyes.

The irregularly shaped rough diamond that is mined from the earth bears no resemblance to the finished product that the consumer eventually sees. To create a beautiful stone, the rough diamond must be cut and polished. The result is a beautiful, fiery, brilliant gem.

After polishing, the diamonds are reclassified according to their cut, color, clarity and carat weight. The polished ones are then sold to diamond wholesalers or jewelry manufacturers in one of the 24 registered diamond exchanges around the globe.

Let your inner diamond shine

Now that you understand the diamond refining process, I think you will agree that when someone has metaphorically referred to you as a “diamond in the rough”, that person is actually taking the disguise of the keen- eyed gemologist. He sees an unpolished diamond with the potential for brilliance, and believes that with the right amount of refining and polishing, your true capacities will be unveiled.

Remember that every brilliant diamond was once a diamond in the rough, but not all stones are classified as diamonds. If someone calls you a “diamond in the rough”, take it as a compliment, and begin to take your first steps to unlace the brilliant sparkle that dwells within you.


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    • gis_r07 profile image

      gis_r07 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Hi Billrrr- thanks for the welcome! I am sure if you search a little deeper inside you will realize that you belong to the 20% gem quality :)

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 6 years ago from Cape Cod

      Welcome to the Hub. It is a center for all kinds of things and it is easy to stray into areas you might not normally talk or write about.

      I have always believed myself to be a diamond in the rough - and have discovered it's true: but I am part of the 80 per cent - not gem quality!

    • gis_r07 profile image

      gis_r07 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Thanks for stopping by thegoodnewzz. Your comment is very much appreciated.

    • thegoodnewzz profile image

      thegoodnewzz 6 years ago

      That's was really an informative Hub. Thanks for posting!I especially liked how you finished it off making it more personal than informal. Nice job. Voted up!