People often get confused around the topic of is a diamond a metal or non-metal. The question of whether it is rock or stone is also quite common when we talk to people.
For clarification’s sake and to educate people more on what diamonds actually are, we’ve decided to write an article to help you understand what a diamond is and what it’s made of a bit better.
It’s also quite essential to know how to distinguish a diamond from some other materials that may look like a real diamond but are not. This is also a topic we’ll let you get your hands on later on in this article.
So let’s dive right into the information needed for you to finally learn what diamonds are made of and to know how to distinguish them from other materials!
Metal Or Non Metal?
Regardless of its looks, people commonly ask this question about diamonds. It’s not unexpected for this topic to pop up every once in a while.
Because of the popularity of this question, we’ve decided to clear up the air around it. It’s not that complicated, but it’s not easy to wrap your head around it, so pay close attention as we explain what diamonds are exactly.
First of all, diamonds are not metal. That’s also clarified in the periodic table of the elements. Oxygen, carbon, chlorine, and sulfur are non-metals. These are just some of the non-metal examples we’ve given you just to better understand what we’re talking about here.
Let’s start with carbon. Carbon is also a non-metal element that can exist in various forms. Two of the most common forms are graphite and diamond. That lets you know why diamonds aren’t metal objects. What a diamond is is one of the most common forms of pure carbon.
One of the ways to distinguish diamonds from graphite is to look at their visual characteristics. Diamonds are always clear and transparent without any noticeable color of their own. If a diamond has color, it’s because of the reflection of the light that passes through that’s making it appear that way.
On the other side, graphite is black and opaque. This makes for a clear distinction between those two. Another clear difference is that a diamond is quite hard (the hardest material according to the Mohs scale), and graphite is very soft.
Read Also: Why Does Diamond Not Turn Into Graphite?
Metals, on the other hand, are a totally different story. They’re made differently, extracted from the ground in a different way, have a drastically different composition, and are used for different things.
Diamonds can be confused with metals in the jewelry world, where precious metals and precious stones are sold side-by-side, but that’s mostly just a matter of aesthetics.
Precious metals are also hard to come by and are quite expensive, but that doesn’t make diamonds fall under the same category as gold or silver.
You see, the price of a specific piece of jewelry depends on the materials used to craft it. When gold and silver aren’t enough to satisfy the consumer’s needs, diamonds come in handy.
Diamonds can be considerably more expensive than silver or even gold. That entirely depends on the quality of the diamond as well as the quality of the gold.
We think it’s pretty apparent that diamonds don’t have anything in common with metals besides being used in jewelry and being found deep in the ground.
Even though these similarities exist, these two shouldn’t be confused in any situation.
Rock Or Stone? Is There A Difference?
You often hear people referring to diamonds as “precious stones.” Well, that’s not technically wrong, but it doesn’t make a diamond a stone, either.
Precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. All other gemstones are semi-precious, meaning they don’t have the same values as the ones I’ve listed above.
It all comes to personal preference which ones they like the best, but this is the classification used to distinguish precious stones from the semi-precious and not precious stones.
But let’s make it a little bit clearer if diamonds are rocks or stones. They are actually minerals, meaning they don’t fall under any of these two categories.
Even though a diamond is called a precious stone, the contents of this material make it a mineral. As I’ve mentioned – diamonds are pure carbon.
Related Read: What Kind of Rocks Are Diamonds Found In?
How Do They Form And Why Are They From Carbon?
The process that needs to take place for carbon to become a diamond takes a lot of time. When we say “a lot,” we mean around 3 billion years. And yes, that’s a billion with a “B.”
It takes place deep in the earth’s crust under immense pressure, which is required for carbon atoms to crystalize and become diamonds.
All of this takes place between 150 and 200 kilometers under the surface. That allows diamonds to form under extreme pressure, which makes them as hard as they are.
Some people think less of diamonds when they find out that they are made from pure carbon, but that isn’t the case. It actually means the complete opposite: Being from carbon is what makes diamonds so valuable in the first place.
So, don’t think that just because diamonds are made from carbon, which is relatively common, they are less valuable.
Related Read: How Far Below the Earth’s Surface Are Most Diamonds Crystallized?
What Makes A Diamond A Precious Stone?
Besides the process that Mother Nature took care of for us, other things make diamonds precious stones and make them so expensive and rare.
First, let’s examine how they are extracted from the depths that they form in and what special procedures take place in the process.
See, in order to get the diamonds to the surface where they can be processed, cut, and made into the shapes we all know and love, they have to be taken out of the ground.
That’s most commonly done with the technique called horizontal marine diamond mining. You might think that the method’s name sounds complicated, but wait until you hear about how it actually works!
How horizontal marine diamond mining works is that long flexible tubes are put in the ocean, or more precisely, to the bottom of the ocean.
These tubes then suck out the diamond-containing gravel that is then processed to separate the diamonds from the rest of the contents of that grave.
Another method that is explicitly used for excavating diamonds from the ground is called vertical diamond mining. This method of mining diamonds is done by a huge ship-mounted drill that is used for pulling the diamond-containing gravel to the surface of the ocean.
Then, the gravel is retrieved, and you know the rest of the story (look at the previous method).
None of the other precious stones or valuable materials such as gold or silver require these methods to get to them.
That is what makes diamonds so sought for and valuable. You see, the process of getting to some gold is considerably easier than searching the ocean floor for diamonds.
That consequently makes getting diamonds much more expensive, which also brings their price up. I’m talking about the price that you see when you walk into a jewelry store: All of the expenses from mining it to cutting it and polishing it cost money, and that’s what you pay for when buying a diamond.
But all of this aside, the biggest reason why diamonds are considered precious stones is the amount of time and the environment needed to form a diamond. We’ve already told you about the process that needs to take place for a diamond to get formed, but let’s take a closer look at that.
First of all, the amount of time needed to pass in order for a diamond to form is extremely long. That means that if hypothetically speaking, we mine all the diamonds in the earth’s crust, it would take around 3 billion years to replenish those supplies.
That makes diamonds quite rare and hard to come by and that’s also a big part of the reason they are considered precious stones.
Let’s not bring other precious stones into this, though. They have distinct reasons for being called “precious stones,” but they still have some things in common with diamonds. For example, all precious stones are hard to come by, so that’s one of the characteristics that all precious stones have in common.
The complex excavation process is also quite common for these stones, but the precise methods for doing this are individual for every stone.
You should know that none of the precious stones are considered rocks, so don’t think that diamonds are an exception for this. It’s also quite important to distinguish these precious stones from the “real” stones and recognize the worth that stands behind all of them – and diamonds in particular.
To Sum Up
As you can see, there’s a lot to unpack here since the topic of this article is so vast. Just because of that, we’ve been feeling obligated to explain to you some things that come into the equation when giving a complete answer to the question of is a diamond is a metal or non metal or a rock or a stone.
It’s also crucial that you don’t lose sight of this information when discussing this topic. It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to give a complete answer without mentioning all of these things.
The fact that diamonds are not metal needs an explanation on why they’re confused with metals so often. And the fact that many people call diamonds “precious stones” can’t be explained without elaborating on why they are so valuable and why they’re called that.
So, keep all of these things in mind when talking to somebody about this topic, or just point them in the right direction (towards this article) and let them find out the answer to any question they have the same way you did.