Diamonds are found throughout the world from Southern Africa to Russia, from Brazil to Australia. Approximately 100 miles below the surface of the Earth the requisite heat and pressure 1300ºC and 50,000 times normal atmospheric pressure — for the formation of diamonds can be found. Carbon molecules, present in abundance at this level of the Earth’s mantle, forge together as diamond crystals.
Magma, bearing the crystals, is then forced to the surface, and solidifies in formations known as ‘pipes’, some of which are miles wide. Only 100 in every 500 pipes will yield a profit: Just 25 carats of diamonds can be expected from 100 tonnes of mined earth and of this, 5 carats will be of gem quality.
Extracting the diamonds from the earth creates another problem and separation takes advantage of the physical properties of the stones — being significantly heavier than most other gem minerals and fluorescing under X-rays.
Once mined and processed, the next step is to sort, classify and value the diamonds according to size, shape, quality and color. Using more than 16,000 categories, the diamonds are sorted and then sold to a small group of the world’s leading diamond cutters.
Before any cutting takes place, the marker carefully examines the diamonds to decide how they should be shaped to yield the greatest value and beauty.
The process of cutting a diamond is full of complex decisions and the shape of the rough determines the form of the polished stone.
In order to maximize the optical properties of diamonds, there must be a good understanding of the geometry of each stone and a decision is made whether to sacrifice weight for beauty. Retaining 50 percent of the carat weight of the original rough crystal is considered a good yield.
Once the shape and size of the diamond are determined, the diamond is marked for cutting. Although diamonds are the hardest material known to man, this hardness is variable and a diamond crystal has planes of relative strength and weakness, allowing it to be cleaved or sawn effectively.
The next step is bruting, which involves grinding away the edges of the stone to provide a basic outline. The stone is then given its facets — for a round brilliant-cut diamond there are 58 facets — in two phases: An initial 16 facets (the main crown and pavilion facets and the culet) are the responsibility of a cross-cutter, while the brillianteer grinds the remaining facets and gives the overall polish to the stone.
When grinding the stone, the facet angles must be adjusted to ensure the maximum amount of light entering the stone is transmitted back out by its internal facets — known as total internal reflection. This quality is termed as ‘brilliance’.