Black diamonds have only been found in Central Africa and Brazil. Before ancient natural events made the continents shift to the position they’re in today, Brazil and Central Africa were placed side by side.
So, although it might seem surprising that they both contain rare black diamonds in their soil, the shifting of the continents actually easily explains it!
While colorless diamonds are normally found in kimberlite (igneous rock) deposits, we only find black diamonds in alluvial deposits (sediments that have been formed by a river, or by some other source of flowing water).
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It’s Not for Everyone
Sure, black diamonds aren’t to everyone’s taste. They’re a very unusual gemstone.
Rather than sparkling, black diamonds actually absorb a lot of the light that hits them. This gives these gemstones a distinctive presence on a piece of jewelry.
So, it’s not sparkle that gives them their character, it’s the distinctive polished sheen of the gem’s surface. This polished effect makes black diamonds look quite similar to marble. Recently, black diamonds have become increasingly fashionable because of their unusual look.
Yes, that’s right: black diamonds have found their market now.
Black diamonds are an increasingly popular option for creating truly striking jewelry settings, even in that timeless stronghold of the colorless diamond – the engagement ring!
Black diamonds fall into the category of fancy diamonds. ‘Fancy’ is the technical term for diamonds that aren’t colorless.
Unlike other fancy diamonds (think blue, green, yellow, pink…), specialists don’t grade black diamonds based on the intensity of their color. Why? Because they only come in one natural shade: fancy black.
In general, black diamonds carry a much lower price tag than their colorless or fancy color relatives, as demand for them is nowhere near as high.
Also Read: Diamond Accents: Are They Worth It?
Are They Really as Mysterious as They Look?
While black diamonds aren’t as rare as, say, pink or yellow colored diamonds, they’re still pretty hard to come by.
Plus, we know much less about black diamonds than we do about their colorless relations.
There are diverse theories about the origin of black diamonds. They may have been formed just like diamonds, under immense pressure inside the earth’s crust.
But some experts believe they came from outer space. Yes, really.
Black diamonds could have been formed rapidly in the earth’s crust, when an ancient meteor hit the surface of the planet.
Or, they might have formed through shock metamorphosis, via spontaneous fission of uranium and thorium.
But they may have come down to earth from extraterrestrial events. Some specialists believe black diamonds could have fallen to earth, raining down from an exploding star.
Experts’ research shows that some black diamonds actually used to be the size of full-on asteroids. That means they measured over a kilometer in diameter!
Black diamonds are said to bring you power, mental stability, charisma, popularity, endurance, passion and achievement. Interesting…
But if the mystical isn’t your thing, we’ve got some good old practicalities to cover, too.
There are various questions that hover around the topic of black diamonds:
- What exactly are they?
- Are they authentic or just imitation diamonds?
- Are they worth buying?
- Are there synthetic black diamonds?
So, why wait? Let’s get the answers rolling.
Black Diamonds: Revealed
Black diamonds are the hardest of all the diamonds, surpassing their colorless counterparts. They reach a 10 on the Mohs scale, which is used to measure the hardness of mineral materials.
Traditional, colorless diamonds are one single, solid gemstone. They have uniform internal structures with clearly defined lines.
By contrast, black diamonds are formed of lots of tiny crystals, jumbled together in a random pattern. The technical term for this random formation is a polycrystalline structure.
Black diamonds get their color from clouds of mineral material that find their way into the gemstones’ formations.
The technical term for these mineral clouds is inclusions. Inclusions are essentially internal blemishes inside a gemstone (blemishes is, in fact, the technical term for imperfections on the surface of a gemstone).
All gemstones have some blemishes and inclusions; the fewer they have, the more valuable they are. Black diamonds are a rarity in the sense that their inclusions actually alter their color.
Black diamonds have a large number of inclusions, which give them their distinctive shade. These inclusions are usually made up of graphite, pyrite or hematite that turns the stone black.
Not all black diamonds are actually pitch black. Natural black diamonds can range in color from close to colorless, to brown and dark green. They can also include spots of grey, because of the different shades of their inclusions. They’re still all technically classed as black!
Real or fake?
Crunch time. Are black diamonds authentic or not?
The easy answer is: yes, they’re real! But there are a few sub-categories that you’ll need to get to grips with.
First off, it’s important to get our terminology straight: we’ll be talking about Natural Fancy Black diamonds and black diamonds. Sure, they sound similar, but there are key differences between them.
Natural Fancy Black diamonds
These gems naturally have the intense, dark black shade that gives them their name.
They’re black to the core and they won’t lose their color while they’re being cut and set into jewelry.
Natural black diamonds are also known as carbonados or carbonado diamonds, so keep an eye out for those terms if you’re looking to buy the real thing.
The Portuguese came up with that name for them, as they figured black diamonds looked burnt, like charcoal.
These black diamonds are produced by synthetically darkening colorless diamonds.
Natural black diamonds are very rare, so experts have mastered the technique of burning uncut, low grade, colorless diamonds to give them a black tint.
These low grade colorless diamonds can also be treated using irradiation to turn them black. By exposing the colorless gemstones to radiation, experts can turn them into treated black diamonds.
So, they look very similar to a natural black diamond, but their coloring is actually artificial.
These treated natural diamonds are also called colorless treated black diamonds, black colored diamonds or irradiated diamonds. Whatever the treatment process it’s gone through, it should be fully disclosed when you ask about any black diamond.
If you’re looking to purchase black diamonds, these treated black diamonds are the most economic choice.
But for obvious reasons, most people prefer to buy a real black diamond, rather than a lab made one. Given their reasonable price, authentic black diamonds won’t set you back nearly as much as their colorless counterparts.
It’s very common to find synthetically colored black diamonds on the market, so make sure you ask in detail about what you’re actually being offered.
If it’s totally natural black diamonds you’re looking for, you may have to look a little longer and harder!
Lab made black diamonds
With modern technology, it’s possible to create entirely synthetic, and highly realistic, diamonds in a lab. Most experts can’t tell the difference on sight!
At present, it’s not common to see totally artificial black diamonds. There’s a fairly simple explanation for this: the laws of supply and demand.
As black diamonds are less in demand than colorless diamonds or other fancy colored diamonds, the specialist labs won’t prioritize producing them for sale.
Are they a worthwhile purchase?
If you’re looking to add black gemstones to your loose stone or jewelry collection, then black diamonds are an incredibly durable choice.
While black diamonds have become increasingly popular since the 20th century, experts don’t pin a high price on them at the moment.
Still, you may want to consider buying a black diamond as an investment gemstone.
An investment gemstone is one that doesn’t necessarily carry a large value at present, but that might increase in value as the years go by.
As the natural supply of diamonds dwindles, demand for them will increase. Black diamonds could follow the same trend.
However, despite the fact that they’re already a very rare find, black diamonds still aren’t highly priced at the moment.
So, colorless diamonds or fancy diamonds in other hues might be a wiser option for long-term gemstone investment.
Whenever you’re buying diamonds, it’s vital to keep the 4 Cs of diamond quality in mind:
For black diamonds, you should also be aware that they’re often harder to cut and polish. It’s their polycrystalline structure that makes them more difficult to handle, and it can affect the overall cut of the gem.
It’ll take much longer to cut a black diamond than it would to cut a colorless one. It’s useful to bear that in mind, even if you’re just looking at black diamonds that have already been cut.
How to wear them
If you’re especially interested in black diamonds, it’s worth knowing which settings they work best in.
Lighter colored settings will really make these darker stones stand out.
Some of the best setting options are:
- White gold
While black diamonds don’t sparkle the way colorless diamonds do, they still look chic and unusual.
Some experts suggest creating a jewelry piece that combines colorless diamonds and black diamonds. The colorless gems will sparkle away, while the black stones will offer a stark, somber contrast that will make for a very striking piece.
It’s all a matter of taste, really.
If you’re setting a black diamond, you’ll need to take extra care. The inclusions in black diamonds make them more fragile than colorless diamonds, so they’re more susceptible to damage.
Also, the internal structures of black diamonds contain multiple fissures and fractures, so they need to be handled carefully.
Which are the Most Famous Black Diamonds?
The Black Orloff
The most famous black diamond on the planet is called the Black Orloff. The story goes that it got its name from a Russian princess called Black Vygin-Orloff, who owned the stone for a while.
The Black Orloff weighs in at a huge 67.50 carats and is a cushion-cut diamond. Its setting is surrounded by over a hundred much smaller, colorless diamonds.
The Black Orloff is the stuff of legend: it’s also known as the Eye of Brahma, and there’s a tale to be told there.
People say that, before the diamond was cut and set in jewelry, it was a huge 195 carat stone. It was set in the eye socket of a sacred statue of the Hindu god Brahma in a temple, somewhere in India.
Legend tells that the Black Orloff was cursed, driving several of its former owners to despair. It was eventually re-cut to break the black magic it carried.
The Spirit of Grisogono
The largest black diamond known to exist is the 312.24 carat Spirit of Grisogono.
No one has seen this gorgeous gem for years, though. Most people believe the stone was sold on to a private buyer, who is clearly being very careful to keep their identity and whereabouts a mystery.
Black Diamonds: History
Historically, black diamonds haven’t had an easy ride. They’ve been looked down on and priced way down low.
Some cultures even believe they carry a curse with them. Ancient Indian legend tells that black diamonds are evil, as they look just like the eyes of snakes or spiders. Black diamonds have even been tied to Yama, the Hindu god of death.
But, there are some redeeming tales. The Ancient Romans totally fell for these black beauties when they came across them in Africa. They thought that black diamonds brought good luck, so they became a popular choice for Ancient Roman wedding rings.
Interestingly, the Romans believed in having two separate weddings rings for women. One simple, cheap iron band to be worn around the house and one gold ring set with a black stone for going out in society.
Many Ancient Roman men chose onyx as the black gemstone for these fancier wedding rings. Onyx has the same dark coloring, but was a far cheaper option than black diamond (and still is today).
However, if those Ancient Romans really wanted to flaunt their money and importance, they chose black diamonds for their wives’ wedding rings.