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Can A Nail File Scratch A Diamond?

Can A Nail File Scratch A Diamond?

There are different questions regarding a diamond’s durability and hardness. Many of those questions are, in one way or the other, related to the topic of how scratch-resistant diamonds are.

It’s not a secret that diamonds are famous for the hardness of their outside – and their overall durability. These minerals are even used for industrial purposes just because of how durable they are.

They ranked the highest on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, and that’s the sole reason for that.

But can something as simple as a nail file do some significant damage to a diamond’s outside layer? Can a nail file scratch a diamond – even a little bit?

We suggest you keep reading since the answer – although seemingly obvious – might surprise you in the end. There’s a lot to consider when discussing this topic and many factors to calculate, regardless of how simple the question seems at first. 

Now, without further ado, let’s jump straight in – and find out if a nail file could, indeed, scratch a diamond.

How Unscratchable Diamonds Really Are? 

Almost everyone knows how hard diamonds are, and it’s also expected that diamonds are scratch-resistant. 

But is that always the case? Well, let’s get one thing straight: There are some things that could scratch a diamond – but a nail file is not one of them. 

Although they might seem sharp, nail files are not nearly as strong to do any significant kind of damage to any real, natural diamonds.

Even the nail files that have a sharp and pointy end can’t scratch the surface of a diamond, not even lightly – regardless of how strong that end might be.

Now’s a great moment to remind you that diamonds are ranked a 10 on the Mohs scale – and that any other minerals that have been rated and ranked on that scale get a 9 or lower.

Keeping that in mind and combining it with the fact that only a 10 on the Mohs scale can scratch a diamond, you can easily conclude that only another diamond can scratch a diamond.

It might sound illogical, but trust us when we say that this is the only way to damage the surface of a diamond.

Some other diamond-based tools are also capable of damaging and scratching the surface of a diamond. Diamonds files, drills, and diamond cutters are some of the diamond-made items that can substantially damage a diamond’s surface.

What they all have in common is, again, diamond. Drills, cutters, and files that aren’t made from diamonds can’t do anything to a natural diamond’s surface.

The conclusion is pretty apparent: Diamonds are the only thing capable of scratching diamonds.

If you happen to get your hand on a diamond file, then you can think about scratching another diamond with it. Then again, why would anyone want to do that to a precious stone? 

Nail files generally aren’t made from diamonds, but some other types of industrial files are – and those are the ones that can cause any kind of substantial damage.

Related Read: Can You Scratch a Diamond With Your Fingernail?

What Are Nail Files Made From?

Nail files can be emery boards, ceramic, glass, crystal, plain metal files – or metal files coated with corundum. You’ll notice that none of the above contain “diamond” in them. 

The closest thing to it was the crystal nail file, but it’s still made from a totally different – and much weaker – crystal than a diamond. Diamonds are not even crystals, by the way; they’re minerals. So, none of the above-stated materials can even come close to a diamond-plated file.

Metal files are the most “appealing” out of the bunch when it comes to scratching diamonds. They seem to be the hardest ones of them all – but even if that’s the case, they won’t come close to scratching a diamond’s surface.

Metals like iron and steel might seem like materials of fantastic endurance – and they are, indeed, materials that can do a lot of damage to other certain materials. 

But diamonds are not on that list.

When somebody sees the extent of damage caused by an iron file or an industrial-grade steel file, they think that that’s enough to damage a diamond – but that’s not true, either.

Wood and metals that these industrial files are used on are much softer and easier to scratch than diamonds, and that’s the sole reason for the amount of damage that these files can inflict.

It’s not so much about how tough the file is but how soft the materials are. 

For example, a steel file can completely destroy a piece of hard metal, which is otherwise hard to damage. But if you were to try and use it on a diamond, regardless of what state it’s in, the results won’t be the same.

That is partially due to diamonds originating from carbon, and we all know how hard carbon – and things made from carbon – can be when the atoms align just right.

For research purposes only, some people have decided to use these industrial-grade tools on raw uncut diamonds and diamonds that have been finely cut and polished to see what amount of damage these tools would do.

When we say that absolutely nothing happened to the diamonds in both cases, we genuinely mean that.

For clarity’s sake – do not attempt this at home. 

These experiments were done by professionals in a controlled environment and are not to be replicated at home. Needless to say, all of these experiments – although done by professionals – have shown results everybody knew in advance.

So, nail files don’t come even close to inflicting any kind of damage to a natural diamond. Still, a diamond file or a diamond-plated file would be a totally different story.

When you have that kind of file against a diamond’s surface, you can expect some scratching and damage. The more pressure you apply, the more damage it will inflict. That is due to the surface of a diamond file – or a diamond-plated file’s rough surface – that is much less smooth than a polished diamond is.

No damage would be done if you took a diamond’s smooth surface and rubbed it against another diamond’s smooth surface. But if you took a sharp and pointy diamond and tried scratching a smooth diamond surface, that would result in substantial damage.

We hope that clears the air around the question of what material a file should be made out of to be able to damage a diamond.

Nail Files: Other Applications 

The name of this item alone gives you a rough idea of what nail files are used for – primarily, that is. But are there some other applications for nail files? We’ll see about that soon enough.

First of all, the primary application for this item is to grind down the user’s nails to the desired length without damaging the ends of the nail bed.

Some nail files – often the metal ones – have a pointy end that’s not as rough as the rest of that nail file and is generally used for picking things out under the nails. 

These are the general applications for nails files, but there must be some other ones, as well. For example, did you know that nail files are also commonly used for sharpening tweezers and sewing needles?

That’s a little-known fact since this is not done as often in the modern days. There are machines that can do that for you so that you don’t have to resort to using nail files.

As you can see, there are some secondary applications for these items. That’s part of the reason why people thought that nail files could be used to smoothen the rough edges of an uncut diamond.

Instead of nail files, specialized industrial-grade grinders that are made from specific materials are used to smoothen the surface of a rough diamond.

Also, the process requires special lubricants, which can help preserve both the grinder and the diamond from microfractures.

Nail files have also been used to smoothen up rough surfaces that aren’t necessarily human nails.

For example, in the old days, if the back of new shoes were too rough and caused blisters on the heel of the person wearing them, a nail file would be used to smoothen the area and prevent the blisters from forming.

As you can see, even though these items can’t damage or scratch diamonds, they have been used for multiple purposes beyond the original one – to file down our nails.

What Can Actually Scratch A Diamond?

Now that we’ve seen what things can’t scratch a diamond, let’s take a look at what items can – and will – scratch a diamond. If that’s what you’d like to do for some strange reason, that is.

As we’ve mentioned before, anything that is made out of diamonds or has a diamond plating on it can, and most probably, will scratch a diamond’s surface. It doesn’t matter if the diamonds are uncut and raw, or they’re cut, polished, and ready to be sold.

Have you ever asked yourself what is used to cut diamonds in the first place? Well, that’s one of the things that can do a substantial amount of damage to both the surface and the inside of a diamond:

A diamond drill – which is extremely hard but brittle – will cause damage when dragged across the diamond’s surface, regardless of how much force is applied.

Other things that might seem like they would scratch a diamond include a hammer or blunt force objects. However, instead of scratching the diamond, these would more likely break it into small pieces.

Learn More: Can You Scratch A Real Diamond?

Can You Fix A Scratched Diamond? 

If you’ve somehow managed to scratch the surface of your diamonds, we presume you’d like to return them to their previous state.

Are there any ways to do so? Well, luckily enough, there are a few.

If you have a diamond with a scratched surface that you’d like to fix, all you have to do is to get it to a certified diamond reseller.

They will likely have – or know someone who does – a special kind of grinder designed to grind down fine layers of diamonds, resulting in the scratch being smoothed out and removed.

Yes, this means that you’ll lose some of your diamonds in the process. However, the amount of diamond’s mass that’s lost in a process like this is negligible.

This process might be a bit more expensive than you’d assume, so be prepared to pay for this kind of intervention.

Final Word

For those who are still wondering can a nail file scratch a diamond, let us clarify:

A nail file can not scratch a diamond or inflict any kind of damage to a diamond’s surface.

These minerals are very durable. And by “very durable,” we mean the hardest mineral on the Earth that has been rated a perfect 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

Diamond-plated items and industrial-graded machinery are just some examples of the things that can inflict damage to the surface of a diamond – besides other diamonds, that is.

Don’t forget about diamond drills, saws, and cutters that are also capable of doing what nail files can’t even begin to do. All-in-all, some items can do severe damage to a diamond’s surface – but nail files aren’t one of those items.

Learn More: Why Is Diamond So Hard?