Diamonds are probably the most popular and most sought-after gemstones in the jewelry world. They are often used in the making of brilliant engagement rings, as we’re sure you know. But to complement that beauty and make it even more impressive, diamonds are also the hardest material on Earth.
But the question arises: Can you scratch a real diamond?
While they are very durable and resistant to damage, there are particular scenarios when a real diamond could be scratched. What can do such damage to the hardest substance there is, you ask?
We’ve covered the answer to this – as well as many other questions – in this article. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Let’s Talk About Diamonds
Diamonds are a solid form of pure carbon with their atoms arranged in a crystal. Carbon comes in different forms depending on the type of chemical bond. The two most common forms are, of course, diamond and graphite.
Diamonds are adopted in many uses due to their exceptional characteristics. They’re the hardest and least compressible substance. Diamonds also have the highest thermal conductivity and high sound velocity too.
For the purpose of this article, we will talk about a diamond’s hardness and how it is connected to scratching.
The Hardness Of Diamonds: What You Need To Know
The word “diamond” derives from an ancient Greek word “invincible“ – and this quite justifies its hardness.
Diamonds are famous for being one of the hardest substances on Earth, and here is why:
The minerals that created a diamond make them the strongest gemstone. You see, diamonds are made from carbon that has been under extreme heat and pressure in the depths of 87 to 120 miles of the Earth’s mantle. And the period of their creation is up to 1.3 billion years.
The pressure and heat cause the molecules to change so that they’re close together. As a result, molecules can’t move; this is known as covalent bonding. This rigid bond between molecules is what makes diamonds so hard.
You’ve probably heard before that diamonds are rated 10 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.
If not, you should know that the Mohs scale was created by German mineralogist and geologist Friedrich Mohs in 1812. It characterizes the scratch resistance of minerals by measuring the ability of a harder mineral to scratch a softer one.
With that said, let’s put diamonds in perspective:
|Mohs Scale (Hardness)||Mineral|
Keep in mind that the numbers on this scale aren’t evenly spaced, which could make the scale a bit misleading.
Here’s what we mean: A stone that is rated a 5 isn’t necessarily half as hard as a diamond. As a matter of fact, the total difference for the stones ranging from 1 to 9 is less than the difference between 9 and 10 alone.
Also, don’t forget that hardness isn’t the only thing you have to take into consideration.
Hardness is, after all, equating to scratch resistance – but what about material’s ability to absorb the impact and resist breaking or chipping?
That ability is called toughness.
Gems that have low toughness might chip, crack – or break – if they’re struck by a hammer with enough force, for example, or if they’re dropped on a hard surface.
Due to their “perfect 10” score on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, you might assume that diamonds can’t get scratched – let alone break. The statement is only accurate to some extent.
Let’s see what exactly can – and what can’t – scratch one of the hardest materials on Earth.
Can Sandpaper Scratch A Diamond?
The answer is pretty simple; sandpaper can’t scratch a diamond.
That is because of the hardness of sandpaper that ranges between 7 and 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness. So, sandpaper is softer than diamond.
Usually, people use sandpaper to test if a diamond is real or fake. Even though this makes sense, as it is the most straightforward test you can make, you can ruin your gem if it turns out not to be a diamond.
Be sure to perform this type of test with extra caution when testing the authenticity of the gems on your rings. Sandpaper can easily damage gold and silver jewelry.
Additionally, be aware that some sandpaper grits are made of synthetic sapphire.
It can scratch other gemstones – including rubies and emeralds – which are hard stones. If you have jewelry that you suspect might be fake, we recommend taking it to the professional for a test and evaluation in order to preserve their integrity.
Read Also: Can Sand Scratch A Diamond?
Can You Scratch A Diamond With Metal?
As most metals fall at or below a five on the Mohs scale of hardness, it’s not possible to scratch a diamond with them.
However, you can scratch metal – including silver and gold – with a diamond. Metals tend to have an ionic structure. You see, ions are easily movable. With that being said, they absorb any level of force, too.
So, we can establish that diamonds can scratch metal – and not the other way around. Some metals are harder but still not hard enough to scratch a diamond.
For example, steel falls between 4 and 4.5, titanium is a 6, hardened steel is between 7 and 8 – and tungsten is 7.5. Even tungsten carbide is 8.5 to 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which isn’t nearly enough to scratch a diamond.
Can Diamonds Be Scratched By Concrete?
In some situations, diamonds are used as a tool for cutting concrete. But you see, the operator must precisely match the diamond bond to the hardness of the concrete.
If the diamond bond is softer than the concrete, the diamonds will wear off quickly. However, if the diamond bond is harder than the concrete, the diamonds will resist cutting into the concrete.
As a result, you will have uneven scratch patterns on the diamonds.
Can Lab-grown Diamonds Be Scratched?
Lab-grown diamonds are the result of simulating conditions that natural diamonds are formed in – and they’re physically, chemically, and optically the same as mined diamonds.
They’re cut with the same precision, meaning they are just as resistant to scratching as mined diamonds.
Can Black Diamonds Get Scratched?
Natural black diamonds are extremely rare and are very hard to cut due to inclusions inside them. Because of these inclusions, they’re even harder than colorless diamonds, meaning they’re almost entirely scratch-proof.
However, they can be scratched by another diamond – which leads us to the next question.
Can A Diamond Scratch Another Diamond?
The answer to this question is pretty simple: Yes, a diamond can scratch another diamond.
That applies to mined diamonds as well as diamonds that were grown in labs since both types are equally hard.
Learn More: Can A Diamond Destroy A Diamond?
Can Natural Diamonds Scratch Other Materials?
As they’re the hardest material on this planet, they can scratch pretty much anything. However, this usually isn’t a problem in everyday situations since diamonds aren’t something you’ll just carry around with you to scratch stuff.
However, there are creative designs that may allow your diamond ring to scratch other things by accident.
A Word On Setting Of The Diamond In The Ring
We recommend thinking about the setting so you can avoid the risk of your diamond ring being damaged.
A raised setting can leave the diamond more exposed to damage. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a ring like that, though, as this kind of setting gives the stone a more prominent appearance.
As you already know, it’s highly unlikely for you to scratch your diamond ring, so don’t worry too much. But still, take care not to expose it to damage.
Even the hardest material has its breaking point. The bright side is that if you manage to inflict damage to your diamond, there are different ways to “correct” that mistake.
Can You Repair A Scratched Diamond?
It’s possible to repair a scratched diamond, but only if there’s enough carat weight for the stone to lose a bit in the process. The factor that determines how a diamond is going to be repaired is the amount of damage.
If a diamond has a small amount of damage, it’s possible to repair it by getting it repolished by a professional. Be aware that repolishing it isn’t going to replace missing parts of the diamond if it got chipped, though.
The process of repolishing involves reducing the stone’s carat weight in order to create a smooth surface once more.
While this sounds like it could reduce the value of the diamond, generally speaking, only a small loss of carats is expected. Around 0.02 to 0.1 carats is enough to complete the job.
Read Also: Does Insurance Cover A Chipped Diamond?
Most surface scratches don’t require the diamond to be recut to remove them. But if the scratch is deep, large, or has resulted in chipping, recutting might be the only solution.
This option needs to be carefully considered as it will involve removing more of the diamond than repolishing it. Removing parts of the damaged stone can significantly reduce the value of the diamond.
On top of that, a diamond cutter may have to redesign the diamond.
Furthermore, there’s always a risk of diamond shattering during the process: Diamonds have cleavage planes; cleavage is referring to how hard the diamond molecules bind together.
You see, diamonds have perfect cleavage, meaning that they can split easily along the cleavage planes. That is useful for cutting them if it’s done correctly, but it also increases the chance of a diamond getting chipped or shattered.
That can happen either during the cutting process or from general wear.
While all of this sounds frightening, sometimes it can improve the appearance of the diamond – because recutting often results in better clarity. If the trade-off is a small number of carats for the higher clarity rating, then it’s probably worth it.
See Also: How Do You Avoid Diamond Switching At The Jeweler?
Tips On Keeping Your Diamond From Getting Scratched
We recommend you take off any diamond jewelry you may be wearing whenever you perform physically intensive tasks. Whether you are doing household chores, gardening, or playing any sports, remove your diamond ring to avoid the risk of getting it damaged.
Don’t store diamonds with other gemstones – especially other diamonds. You want to make sure that they’re not smashing against each other. Otherwise, scratches are inevitable.
Lastly, be sure to schedule appointments with your jeweler. That should be done at least once a year just to make sure your diamond is in good shape.
Cleaning Your Diamond Jewelry
The most common advice you can find online when it comes to cleaning your jewelry is using a toothbrush. That will give your diamond its pristine shine – but be sure to use the one with soft bristles.
You should never use toothpaste to clean diamond jewelry. It’s another popular tip found online that can cause damage to your valuables.
Is A Scratched Diamond Actually A Real Diamond?
Even though some diamonds are cut and set in ways that make them vulnerable to damage, a scratched diamond shouldn’t be standard.
If you’ve scratched your diamond, chances are it might not be a diamond, after all. Remember, only a diamond can scratch a diamond, meaning you shouldn’t be able to scratch your diamond ring by bumping into a random surface.
If you haven’t exposed your diamond to another diamond and your diamond develops scuffs or other signs of damage, it might be a fake.
Granted, that’s not always the case. But if you suspect that your stone is an imitation, be sure to take it to the jeweler who can tell you the truth.
Related Read: How to Tell if a Diamond Is Real Without a Tester?
If you’re still unsure what’s the answer to the question, “Can you scratch a real diamond?” let us sum it up for you.
Natural diamonds can definitely be scratched – but only by other diamonds. That is due to their nature and the fact that they’re the hardest material on Earth.
Everything else – including metals, other gemstones, and sandpaper – can’t inflict scratching damage on a real diamond, as these materials are not as hard as diamonds.
However, if your diamond does get scratched, there are two ways of repairing it. One is through repolishing, and the other is through recutting, depending on the intensity of the scratch.
Lastly, considering the odds of your diamond getting scratched. If you have a scratched stone, be sure to take it to the professional. They will be able to determine if your stone is a genuine diamond.
Learn More: What Can Destroy A Diamond?