Anyone can experience an accident at the moment when they’re not paying attention. We drop a lot of stuff on the floor by accident all the time. But what happens if the thing you dropped was your precious diamond ring? You might be asking yourself: Can a diamond chip if dropped?
Even though diamonds aren’t the toughest material there is, it’s highly unlikely for them to chip or break if you accidentally drop them. However, diamonds aren’t indestructible, and there are things that can damage your diamond.
In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about the causes of damage your diamond can suffer – as well as some tips on how to prevent that from happening.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
The Difference Between Hardness And Toughness
Defining gemstones as “durable” involves two distinct traits – toughness and hardness. And even though people confuse these two terms, they’re not the same.
Diamond is the hardest known material on both the Mohs scale and the Vickers scale. And if we were to get technical about it, diamonds are the hardest thing on Earth, period.
A diamond’s hardness relative to other materials has been known since ancient times and is the source of its name.
That doesn’t mean that diamonds are invincible; they can be scratched by other diamonds and worn down over time by softer materials.
Diamond hardness relies on its purity, crystalline perfection, and orientation.
Since hardness depends on the strength of the atomic bonds in the crystal, there can be some variations in hardness based on the direction in which one measures this property.
The octahedral faces, for example, are harder than the cube faces.
The Mohs scale was introduced in 1822 by Frederich Mohs. The scale characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder mineral to scratch a softer one.
And diamonds score a 10 on it.
Learn More: Why Is Diamond So Hard?
Toughness refers to a material’s ability to resist breakage from a forceful impact. The toughness of a natural diamond is good compared to other ceramic materials, but it’s still poor compared to most engineering materials.
Toughness means resistance to breaking, chipping, and cracking in general. How well a gem holds up under mechanical stress, such as impact from a fall, is measured on a toughness scale: Exceptional, excellent, good, fair, and poor.
As with any other material, the macroscopic geometry contributes to a diamond’s resistance to breakage. Diamonds have a cleavage plane, meaning they’re more fragile in some orientations.
Diamond cutters use this to their advantage to cleave some stones before faceting. Despite diamonds being the hardest mineral, they can still fracture and chip in normal, everyday wear and tear.
Diamonds are formed in the so-called cubic crystal system and have four cleavage directions. The toughness rating of a diamond is only “good.”
What Happens If You Drop A Diamond?
Let’s say you’re taking off your diamond ring – but you’re not particularly careful, and you end up dropping it on the floor. Or perhaps you knock it against a hard surface unknowingly. Accidents happen.
You may find yourself worrying way too much when this happens because you’d think that your diamond is gone forever.
However, you shouldn’t stress about it too much; it’s highly unlikely that a diamond would suffer critical damage from a single drop or knock.
Under the most severe circumstances, the diamond might chip after a hard fall or blow.
By “hard blow,” we mean hitting your diamond at a perfect angle with a lot of force. If you drop your diamond on a regular floor, it should be fine.
However, when you pick your diamond up after the fall, you might see a horizontal line on it. But this isn’t a crack.
This line occurs because of the phenomenon called girdle reflection, which is caused by pavilion facets. It usually looks like a feather inclusion or a crack.
Funnily enough, that line is always there – but the first time you will see it is when you drop your diamond.
What Can Damage A Diamond?
Diamonds can be broken by using a hammer, for example.
The toughness of a diamond is about 2.0 MPa. Although this level of toughness is pretty decent compared to other gemstones, it isn’t that good when you compare it to engineering materials.
So, if you hit a diamond really hard with a hammer, the diamond will most certainly break. Also, the surface on which the diamond is placed needs to be hard in order to break the diamond.
If you tried breaking a diamond with your teeth, you wouldn’t succeed; your tooth enamel would chip off pretty much instantly.
If you try to break the stone with pliers and succeed, chances are it was a fake one. If it doesn’t break, you either have a real diamond – or a weak grip. Yes, pliers are sometimes used to test the toughness of a diamond.
Generally speaking, any gemstone will break, not just chip, if you hit it hard enough with a tough object. Despite diamonds being the hardest on the Mohs scale, they’re susceptible to any impact from another diamond.
That also means that if several diamonds are stored in the same box, they’ll scratch each other – and if hit against each other, they will suffer breakage.
Lead is softer than diamond, but it’s more dense than diamond. When a lead bullet hits a target, it’s soft enough to flatten on impact. So, if you try to shoot a diamond with a bullet, the diamond might deflect it.
It depends on the angle that the diamond gets hit, though. The result could be either a crack or a completely shattered diamond.
So, remember: A diamond will shatter if hit with any object that is tough enough.
Read More: What Can Destroy A Diamond?
What To Do If Your Diamond Gets Chipped
The most important thing to do when an accident like this happens is to collect information about your diamond’s value and the nature of the damage.
Once you have that information, it will be easier for you to make a proper decision.
If you’re responsible for taking care of your diamond, make sure you have insured it. You should always have your diamond jewelry appraised by qualified experts – and buy insurance coverage that covers the entire replacement in the event of theft, loss, or damage.
Most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimal amount of jewelry coverage, which is rarely adequate for replacement purposes. Therefore, it’s crucial that you carefully read the fine print before you buy the policy to make sure that you’re covered for accidental loss or damage.
If you chipped your diamond and you’re considering how to deal with it, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. If your jewelry-shopping budget allows it, consider buying a larger or better diamond.
Most people don’t know this, but chipped diamonds can be re-cut. The cost of this will depend on how badly your diamond is damaged. The size of the chipped area will determine how much of the diamond’s surface needs to be removed.
If you opt for re-cutting, you have to keep in mind that it will cost considerably – on top of making your diamond smaller. A smaller diamond might affect how it fits in mounting; you might need a new mounting and head, too.
If the chip is small, you can have the jeweler turn the diamond in the mounting so that a prong covers the chip. If the chip is a bit bigger – and gets closer to the table of the gemstone – you have a few options:
- Use bigger prongs
- Use a more secure setting that hides the chip better than prongs
- Have the jeweler make you a different kind of jewelry
Be sure to bring your diamond to the jewelry store to get the damage assessed and get the best advice.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Diamond Chipping
Chips usually occur when the girdle of a diamond hits something hard. Kitchen and bathroom countertops, anyone? Also, jewelry items with diamonds worn next to each other are common causes of chips.
Avoid Shapes With Sharp Corners
Any shape of a diamond with sharp corners is more exposed to chipping at those locations. Oval, round, and rounded-corner cushions don’t have that exposure.
A cutting technique called chamfering is used in the diamond trade, and it’s believed to improve durability in princes’ cuts. This technique places a small flat facet on the corners of the diamond.
Protect The Culet
Today, most diamond cuts come to a sharp point at the culet. Therefore, all culets with points are vulnerable.
However, once diamonds are set in jewelry, there is little risk of damaging the culet.
Avoid Girdles With Thin Sections
Even though a strong hit can break a diamond at the girdle, a thicker girdle is more difficult to damage. Girdles with thin places along the sides – or at the corners – are at a higher risk of breaking.
Choose A Setting That Protects The Diamond
Vulnerable corners or points are better protected with V-shaped prongs, bezels, or partial bezels.
Use Caution With Tension Settings
The so-called tension setting holds the diamond in place using a groove cut into the metal that the girdle fits into; two ends of the ring press against the diamond’s sides. An experienced jeweler will be very careful about the condition of the girdle before putting a diamond in this kind of setting.
The mounting is already exerting pressure in the diamond at two opposing sides on the girdle. Striking the side of the ring puts even more stress on the girdle. This style leaves the exposed sides of the diamond vulnerable to breakage during regular wear.
Regularly Inspect Prongs For Damage
A typical cause of chipping is that the prongs holding the gemstone in place in a piece of jewelry become broken or bent. If the stone is loose in the mounting, there’s a higher risk of it getting damaged.
Prongs protect their sides, corners, and points. If the prongs become bent due to wear and tear, they aren’t doing their job properly. Even if only one prong is bent, it’s not holding your diamond securely in the mounting.
Don’t Wear A Diamond That’s Already Chipped
Some people think they can take care of the mounting later if the diamond is already chipped. A portion of a diamond that is chipped has a high risk of getting chipped even worse.
You shouldn’t wear it until you can have it repaired.
Be Cautious With Inclusions Near The Girdle
It’s obvious that a diamond with many inclusions near the girdle and points will be more prone to chipping or breaking. However, there can be a small feather near the girdle or point that makes the diamond vulnerable.
If the gemstone is struck precisely on a feather near the direction of the cleavage plane, it’s likely to get chipped.
Open cavities at the girdle are like chips – but are more easily damaged.
See Also: Why Does My Diamond Keep Coming Loose?
If you’re still unsure what’s the correct answer to the question, “Can a diamond chip if dropped?“ let us answer it once and forever:
Even though diamonds are the hardest material known, they aren’t indestructible.
The toughness of a diamond is good compared to other gemstones, but it’s rather poor when you compare it to engineering materials.
However, it’s highly unlikely for a diamond to get chipped if dropped on a regular floor. Under extreme circumstances, a diamond will probably chip if struck by a hard blow.
There are things you could do if your diamond gets chipped or damaged in any way. Be sure to insure your diamond. You can also get a new diamond – or get your damaged one re-cut.
There’s no such thing as perfect toughness; any gem can break if hit hard enough. You’re more likely to damage a diamond at the girdle.
Diamonds with thin places on their girdles are extremely vulnerable.
To avoid damage, make sure you’re not wearing diamond jewelry during activities where you’re more likely to strike them hard against solid objects.
Read Also: Can Diamonds Crack Inside?