Diamonds are indeed the most popular gemstones of all time and are allegedly one of the most complex substances on earth. I mean, have you ever wondered why there’s a saying ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’?
It’s because a diamond is a symbol of steadfast love. Since diamonds are very tough and long-lasting, a diamond ring, therefore, represents a lifelong friendship and love between a woman and her partner.
But that definitely doesn’t mean a diamond can’t be damaged. To be more precise, perhaps you’re looking at your engagement ring right now, wondering where that chip came from.
So, if it can be damaged, is it possible for it to break? Can a diamond break in half? I know I did my research, and let me tell you, the answers are very interesting. Continue scrolling to find out the juicy details!
Can A Diamond Break In Half?
Unfortunately, yes, diamonds can break in half, believe it or not. You can easily break a diamond with a hammer. It takes just one hard hit, and the diamond will shatter into pieces.
Even so, a diamond will usually break in half if cleaved with the right equipment (these days, diamonds are typically sawn or cut by a laser).
On the other hand, if you drop it or hit it with another solid object, it will probably either fracture or shatter into many pieces rather than break in half.
A lapidarist (a person that cuts the diamonds) can cleave the diamonds in the right direction with a cutter. In order to cut a diamond in half (or in any direction at all), a cutter needs to know the exact location of the cleavage planes to plan cutting.
Sometimes, it could take weeks or even months to determine the right cleavage planes of the diamond. But the longer the planning, the stronger and more durable the diamond will be. So now we concluded that diamonds are prone to breakage even if they’re known for their toughness.
But how could this be, though? The answer lies in the hardness of the diamond.
Three significant elements will help a gemologist determine one gem’s durability. These elements are:
The hardness represents the ability of a gemstone to resist abrasion and scratches.
A diamond is actually the hardest known natural mineral. It means it is almost scratch-resistant and will scratch any softer material. Nonetheless, there’re some harder minerals found, which are very rare and often modified by human hands.
Moreover, the hardness of the diamond is uneven along the surface of the crystal. Diamonds can easily break along their cleavage lines (areas where atomic bonds are weaker). Of course, unless you’re looking at the gem under a microscope, you won’t know where these areas are.
Diamond is a very stable gem, and almost no acid can dissolve it. Some acids can only partially dissolve a diamond (like stomach acid), but only in a pre-set and controlled environment.
Also, the melting point of a diamond is very high (4500 degrees Celsius or 8132 degrees Fahrenheit) – much higher than any of the other gems. However, sudden extreme temperatures can cause damage to a diamond.
Diamonds do not conduct electricity as well.
The toughness is one of the diamond’s weak points. It can chip and fracture if hit from the right angle with a stronger material. The most vulnerable areas on the diamond are a girdle (located between the crown and the pavilion below) and the point. Diamonds with thin places in the girdle are very vulnerable and prone to chipping.
Related Read: Can A Diamond Chip If Dropped?
The Difference Between Hard And Strong
First of all, let’s talk some chemistry. A diamond is a form of the element carbon. This gem has a giant covalent structure, which means that a huge number of atoms are joined together by covalent bonds in a regular tetrahedral network structure.
If you skipped chemistry classes, this means that diamonds are very hard. But this doesn’t suggest they’re strong.
There’s a big difference between a hard and strong material.
You can easily cut other objects with a diamond or scratch a surface of the steel with it. But on the other hand, a diamond will break if you hit it hard enough with a hammer. In conclusion, a diamond is hard, but a hammer is strong.
Why is that?
Because the internal structure of one material determines whether it’s hard or strong. A diamond is made entirely out of carbon atoms with an equal distance between one another. Moving them closer or further away requires tremendous and sudden force.
That’s why diamonds are extraordinarily hard.
Related Read: How Much Force Does It Take To Break A Diamond?
In comparison, steel has an ionic structure. Put simply, if you hit it, it will bend (shift the ions sideways instead of shattering into pieces) and absorb any force. This makes steel incredibly strong and workable, whereas diamonds are not very strong or flexible at all.
Learn More: Is Steel Harder Than A Diamond?
The Mohs Scale
The Mohs scale was developed by German mineralogist Freidrich Mohs in 1812. This scale is one of the methods for measuring the hardness of minerals. The scale includes ten reference minerals, which are ranked from 1 to10 according to their hardness level. The highest-ranked on this list is a diamond, and the lowest one is talc.
It’s a ranking scale by which you can compare minerals to one another. For instance, you can take a mystery mineral and scratch it with any of the minerals from the scale to see how it ranks on the list.
To do that, you need to hold the mystery mineral on the flat surface with its smooth, unscratched side facing up and scratch it with a testing mineral. Once you brush away the dust, you can look for the scratches and rank the mineral.
And let’s say your mystery mineral isn’t scratched by one of the reference minerals from the Mohs scale – it only means it is harder than that mineral. And vice versa.
Since different minerals require different care, the Mohs scale can help you determine how you need to take care of your gem.
A Cleave Line
Diamond cutters will first separate the rough diamond into as many stones as they can. They do this by cutting along the cleave lines. But what are those exactly?
Cleave lines or so-called tetrahedral planes are weak spots in a diamond. Diamond cutters use a unique steel cleaving tool with a sharp blow to cut through these cleave lines.
Which Things Can Break a Diamond?
Since diamond is quite brittle and not very strong, a simple household hammer could easily break it. Surprisingly, even if you accidentally drop it on any solid surface (like the tile floor), it will probably shatter into pieces. Quite similar to what glass does when it breaks.
Lasers, steel, and even hydraulic press can break a diamond into tiny pieces. Even another diamond can be used to break a diamond!
Which Activities Can Damage a Diamond?
If you have a diamond ring, it’s best to take it off when doing the following:
- Taking a bath: Hot water certainly isn’t a problem for a diamond, but hitting your hand accidentally on any of the hard surfaces in the bathroom may damage it.
- Exercise: Again, you have a higher chance of hitting your ring and damaging it while doing your training.
- Cooking or cleaning: You can easily hit your hand on some hard surface, or your ring can get dirty from cooking or fall off your hand and get chipped or broken.
Learn More: What Can Destroy A Diamond?
How To Protect A Diamond From Chipping And Breakage
Chips usually occur when the edges or the point of the diamond hit a hard surface such as kitchen tiles or bathroom sink, or even another jewelry item. Here are some ways by which you can protect the diamond from damage:
- Avoid buying diamonds with sharp corners: Diamonds that have points or sharp corners are more prone to chipping because they’re more exposed. Opt for oval, round and rounded-corner shapes.
- Protect the culet: The sharper the culet (the sharp point of the diamond), the bigger the risk of chipping. If you want your diamond to last, look for the ones set in the jewelry or those that don’t have a sharp culet point.
- Look for diamonds with a tick girdle: A diamond that has a thicker girdle is more difficult to fracture or chip. Avoid the ones that have thin sides, points, or corners.
- Inspect the diamond for damage regularly: Sometimes, the ring prongs (tiny pieces of metal that act like claws and hold your diamond in place) can loosen up or bent. If you don’t notice that in time, your diamond can be at greater risk of damage.
- Don’t continue to wear a chipped diamond: If your diamond is already chipped in one place, it’s better to take the ring off and wait until you can take it to the jeweler for repair.
See Also: Does Insurance Cover A Chipped Diamond?
Can You Fix a Broken Diamond?
Actually, yes, it is possible to fix a broken diamond by re-cutting it.
The first thing your jeweler will do is to remove the broken section and reshape your diamond. It will probably be a bit smaller (depending on the size of the chip) than it was, but it won’t lose on its value.
Now let’s say you have a round diamond ring. If you notice minor damage or a small chip, you can ask your jeweler to reset your stone (turn it the other way around). This is, without a doubt, one of the most cost-efficient methods.
The last option would be to replace your diamond completely if your budget allows you to. If the diamond is damaged irreparable, I’m afraid it’s the only thing you can do.
It’s also important to mention that jewelry insurance is a must-have because it covers the cost of repairing the gem (and saves you from the undeniable stress).
Learn More: Are Broken Diamonds Worth Anything?
The Last Word
The bottom line is that nothing is indestructible, not even diamonds. Any gem will chip and break if you hit it hard enough.
Most people often confuse the hardness and the toughness of the diamond. It’s important to remember that even though diamond is one of the hardest natural substances on earth, it’s not nearly the strongest.
Its incredible hardness means it’s scratch-resistant and able to scratch other softer materials. However, if you hit it with or against any solid object from the right angle, it will most likely break or chip.
Of course, if you notice any fracture, it’s best to take it off until you have the time to visit your jeweler.
Lastly, it’s safe to say that any damage could be prevented if you take off your ring (or a necklace) any time you do some activities like cleaning or training.
Now, don’t get overly paranoid about it – enjoy wearing it every step of the way. Just be aware of it and take the same precautions as you would with any other expensive piece of jewelry.