Diamond Myths: Yes, You Can Break Them!

Diamond Myths: Yes, You Can Break Them!

Diamonds have symbolized eternal love for hundreds of generations. Love so pure and unbreakable that only a diamond can mimic it... or can it? 

A very unfortunate story about a gentleman who thought diamonds were invincible:
Many years ago, a gentleman called Babs' shop in Houston and asked if he could bring his crystal "pieces" in to see if they were diamonds. Babs explained that the pieces needed to be of a size and shape that would allow her to hold them in tweezers, for the purposes of viewing them under magnification and testing them with a thermal inertia testing device. He then asked if diamonds could be broken, and he was told that yes, they can!

Broken Diamond Repair Glued Together
So the gentleman comes in, and talks about a recent shopping experience he had at a nearby thrift store, at which he had bought a suit jacket. Once he got it home, and was ready to wear it out, he attempted to put his wallet in the inside pocket. No luck--the pocket was stitched shut. Being curious as anyone would be, he snipped the stitches and found a weird piece of paper folded up in the pocket. When he unfolded the paper, he found six clear, round gemstones.
The gentleman used what he thought was logic: since diamonds are "the hardest substance on Earth", he figured he would take a hammer to them on the cement floor of his garage, and see if they'd break. Tragically, he did not stop with one. Indeed, he conducted his self-styled "hammer test" to all six. 
At this point, Babs encouraged him to come in...all the while, she's hoping against all hope that these things are something that had hardly any value before they were shattered. Those hopes were dashed, however, the moment the man takes the folded piece of paper out of his pocket.  That strangely-folded paper was immediately recognized as a diamond paper, which is what diamond dealers and jewelers use to store diamonds. 
Loose Diamonds
Sure enough, the man brought in all the shards of crystal, and when they were tested, they were proven to be diamonds. One of the shards was large enough to make an estimate of the size of the complete stone, and it appeared to be about a carat size stone. The man said that all six of the stones were about the same size. Weighing all the shards resulted in a total weight of over 6 carats...so sadly enough, this man had destroyed about $18,000 worth of diamonds (over $38,000 in today's dollars!) that he had gotten practically for free.
Yikes! This is an extreme example of what not to do with your diamonds, loose or otherwise.
Natural diamonds form under extreme pressure and heat, and are made of nothing more than carbon. When carbon atoms are placed under these conditions, they form covalent bonds with four other surrounding carbon atoms. When all of these bonds are formed and the carbon atoms are condensed together, it grows the incredibly hard crystal that we know as diamonds. 
However, there is a big difference between calling something "hard" and "strong." A diamond ranks 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, with 10 being the strongest, 1 being the weakest (talc ranks as a 1 on the scale, window glass is 5.5, sapphires are 9, for perspective). All that "hardness" means is that nothing else besides a diamond can scratch a diamond. 
Diamonds have a very tight lattice-like structure to its bonds, so there isn't much wiggle-room for the atoms when something impacts it, but it does make it very resistant to scratches. When force is applied to a material like steel, the atoms can shift around due to its flexible structure, and the impact is absorbed, as opposed to shattering the steel. Due to the lack of flexibility in a diamonds structure, a strong impact can break the stone. The strength of an object refers to how well it can take an impact.

Yes, diamonds can break!

Most people assume they can't because they are called "the hardest substance known to man." To give you additional perspective on how scratchability and breakability are not necessarily related:  jadeite is the more valuable variety of jade...and while it is soft enough (Mohs' scale of 6.5 to 7) that rubbing it with some common dirt between it and your finger will scratch it, it can be carved to the thinness of a human hair, and not break in the process. That is something that diamond cannot withstand. So, ancient, intricately-carved jadeite sculptures can be found in underground stashes, looking completely dull because they are covered with micro-scratches all over...but even the tiniest details will be unbroken.
Hopefully this story helps you to understand and make informed choices about the when and where of wearing your diamonds. Yes, diamonds are durable! But no, they are not indestructible.
If you are planning an activity where your diamonds might get smacked up against something very heavy and hard (ahem--gym equipment!), you would be wise to find a "safe place" to keep your diamonds when you are not wearing them, and put them there. Whether a jar of liquid jewelry cleaner, a jewelry stash box, or a soft pouch...all are a far better choice than a Smith machine or a set of dumbbells. But, the gym isn't the only place diamonds can get damaged. Your common sense will be your best guide. 

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