Most mined diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers (87 to 118 mi) in the Earth's mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years (25% to 75% of the age of the Earth). Diamonds are brought close to the Earth's surface through deep volcanic eruptions by magma, which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites.
Diamonds have been treasured as gemstones since their use as religious icons in ancient India. Their usage in engraving tools also dates to early human history. The popularity of diamonds has risen since the 19th century because of increased supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, growth in the world economy, and innovative and successful advertising campaigns.
The most familiar uses of diamonds today are as gemstones used for adornment, a use which dates back into antiquity, and as industrial abrasives for cutting hard materials. The dispersion of white light into spectral colors is the primary gemological characteristic of gem diamonds. In the 20th century, experts in gemology developed methods of grading diamonds and other gemstones based on the characteristics most important to their value as a gem.
Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are now commonly used as the basic descriptors of diamonds: these are carat (its weight), cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and clarity (how free is it from inclusions). A large, flawless diamond is known as a paragon.
Not all diamonds found on Earth originated on Earth. Primitive interstellar meteorites were found to contain carbon possibly in the form of diamond. A type of diamond called carbonado that is found in South America and Africa may have been deposited there via an asteroid impact (not formed from the impact) about 3 billion years ago. These diamonds may have formed in the intrastellar environment, but as of 2008, there was no scientific consensus on how carbonado diamonds originated.
Misconception about diamonds forming from compressed coal
Few diamonds are formed from highly compressed coal. More than 99% of diamonds ever mined have formed in the conditions of extreme heat and pressure about 90 miles (140 km) below the Earth's surface. Coal is formed from prehistoric plants buried much closer to the surface and is unlikely to migrate below 2 miles (3.2 km) through common geological processes. Most diamonds that have been dated are older than the first land plants and are therefore older than coal. It is possible that diamonds can form from coal in subduction zones and in meteoroid impacts, but diamonds formed in this way are rare, and the carbon source is more likely carbonate rocks and organic carbon in sediments, rather than coal. To learn even more about diamonds, come see the incredible selection of loose diamonds and diamond jewelry at Pineforest Jewelry or www.pineforestjewelry.com
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