What are Diamonds
Diamonds are crystalline forms of carbon formed naturally when carbon is exposed to extremely high pressure and heat. The pressure and heat cause the carbon molecules to dramatically rearrange, and when the temperature reduces, if other conditions are right, the carbon atoms in the melting rock bond and build diamond crystals.
Diamonds structures are most often euhedral or octahedra in shape. Because a diamond’s crystal structure has a cubic arrangement of the atoms, they have many facets that belong to a cube. These crystals can have rounded off edges and can sometimes be elongated. Sometimes they are found grown together or form twinned crystals at the surfaces. These different shapes and habits of some diamonds result from differing external circumstances.
The conditions for diamond formation are rarely met, and as such diamonds themselves are very rare. The most common place can be found in the lithospheric mantle or upper mantle of the Earth’s crust. They typically form at considerable depth due to the requirements of temperature and pressure, and only form in the thicker more stable parts of continental plates where regions of lithosphere known as cratons exist. Recent studies of carbon isotope ratios have shown that diamonds can be created from two different sources of carbon. Inorganic diamonds, known as harzburgitic, are formed from inorganic carbon originally found deep in the Earth’s mantle, where eclogitic diamonds contain organic carbon from detritus that has been pushed down from the surface of the Earth’s crust through plate tectonics.
Diamonds formed in the mantle are pushed to the surface in large volcanic columns known as kimberlites, named after the location of their discovery in Kimberly, South Africa. The magma for a kimberlite must originate at a depth where diamonds can be formed, and where diamonds are found. Not all pipes contain diamonds, and even fewer contain enough diamonds to make mining economically viable. Once diamonds have been transported to the surface by kimberlites, they are susceptible to erosion, and can be distributed over larger areas.
While kimberlite rock is the most common host of diamonds and the primary source of diamonds on Earth there are other instances where diamonds can be formed. For instance a meteorite’s impact can create diamonds. Recently Scientists have combed the sites of possible meteor strikes for microscopically small diamonds to determine whether a meteorite may have hit. The pressure and temperature required to form a diamonds is not exclusive to our planet, in fact space is filled with conditions that create diamonds. Meteors hit other meteors, planets, and moons, even stars create diamonds.
Stars are ultimately responsible for some of the oldest diamonds in existence. When a star dies, it can even become a diamond. White dwarf BPM 37093 is comprised of mostly carbon with a thin coating of hydrogen and helium gases. Lucy, as she has been named is 10 billion trillion trillion carats. That’s about the size of Earth’s moon. Seven billion years from now our own sun may die, and become a massive diamond.
Read the next article: History Of Diamonds