“Diamonds are forever,” or so goes the iconic De Beers advertisement. It’s probably one of the main reasons why diamonds are still popular nowadays. Since their official beginnings as personal adornments back in Ancient India (322-185 B.C.), diamonds still manage to captivate people’s imaginations.
De Beers’ statement might have something interesting, though. Try taking the statement, “Diamonds are forever” literally. It’s easy to believe such, since the diamond is the hardest natural material on Earth. Going for diamond jewelry doesn’t always merit frequent visits to the jewelry repair professional. But the truth might be a bit tricky.
On A Diamond’s Longevity
Diamonds can practically last forever. The stone’s molecule structure keeps its form unless it gets really, really hot. It’s basically a carbon allotrope (an alternate physical manifestation) of the core element. What this means is that a diamond is structurally similar to the graphite found on pencils. Carbon allotropes possess an incredibly robust structure, allowing them to keep their form unless subjected to extreme heat.
Temperatures far greater than what helps turn carbon into a diamond reverses the process. Under intense ion bombardment and even higher temperatures, a diamond can degrade into graphite. This is one proof that diamond can’t really last forever under certain circumstances. Degradation can also speed up if there’s iron involved. But this degradation doesn’t occur naturally. Diamonds must be in a controlled, industrial environment for graphite degradation to happen.
A Diamond “Evaporating?”
Scientists from Australia’s Macquarie University came upon a groundbreaking discovery a few years ago. When subjected to intense UV light, a diamond literally evaporates. While the researchers note that this type of light-induced evaporation occurs in other materials, it’s never been seen to occur on a diamond.
They claim that the implications of this discovery impact research on quantum computing and high performance lasers. The building of structures in the diamonds which control the position of the light within a narrow filament in the stone, it allows for the manufacture of smaller, more efficient optical devices.
“Diamonds are forever?” Not really, if the situation is right.