What Makes Diamonds So Valuable and Expensive?

It seems obvious why diamonds are used for engagement rings and other accessories. After all, their brilliance, reflectiveness, and cut resemble prestige and luxury.

Diamonds are costly. And while their pristine appearance does play a role in their price tags, you might be surprised to learn exactly why these precious gemstones are so valuable.

What exactly are those reasons, and are there other ways to enjoy diamonds without breaking the bank?

Commercialization and Market Manipulation

Perhaps one of the largest influencers on the cost of diamonds is simultaneously the least understood by many consumers. This is largely due to the influence on the market by De Beers Mining Company.

Diamonds were considered very rare until the late 1800s, but after a huge crater was discovered in South Africa, they became more accessible. This frightened De Beers, as this new supply of diamonds would make them less expensive as a result. To prevent decreasing value, De Beers released only small batches of them at a time to give the illusion of rarity.

Additionally, the company used statistics based on marriage rates to decide how many diamonds to disperse. This is one of the main reasons that the diamondwedding ring tradition is still commonplace today.

Believe it or not, diamonds are actually less rare than most precious gemstones. If it weren’t for De Beers’ influence, the chances are that you would see them at a much more affordable price tag. But since the company owns such a large stock within the market, we might not see their prices fall for quite some time.

Retrieval

The process by which diamonds are formed, and therefore retrieved by miners, is another less understood portion.

These gems form in the Earth’s mantle about 200km beneath the surface. When extremely high heat and extremely high pressure meet, this can cause carbon atoms to crystallize into a diamond. 

Once these crystals form, they need to beexcavated by miners through a number of different processes. One tactic is throughpipe mining which excavates primary diamond deposits. This can be done throughopen-pit mining, which involves removing layers of sand and rock to make a huge, exposed pit in the ground. Diamonds are then removed with large trucks and taken to an ore crusher to retrieve the diamond deposits.

The other type of pipe mining isunderground mining, which involves digging tunnels in the Earth’s crust. Miners use explosive blasts to break apart ore and bring it back to the surface.

One of the other most common forms of mining ismarine mining, which involves extracting diamond deposits from the seabed via specialized ships. These ships are equipped with large scale drills that dig into the gravel and mine for gem deposits out in the open sea.

All mining comes with its own set of risks for the workers involved. Since many diamond methods involve using deadly explosions to break apart rock, this job can result in death and injury if certain precautions are not taken. Naturally, this will drive up the price of diamonds, as the process of excavation is both dangerous and laborious.

The Four Cs

Diamonds that you see on a ring or bracelet didn’t look like that immediately after being excavated. The art of jewelry making is where diamonds come to life, and this can significantly affect the gem’s worth. A diamond’s worth can be assessed based on the four Cs: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat.

Cut

Cut is one of the more prominent indicators of a diamond’s value. This refers to the way in which the stone reflects light. A diamond that catches the light and gives off a brilliant glisten has an excellent cut. 

The more proportionate a diamond’s angles are, the higher its value will be. This is because it is difficult to cut a gem with the perfect angles to capture light correctly, making for a stunning stone.

What Makes Diamonds So Valuable and Expensive?

3 Row Eternity Ring 18k Gold

The most common diamond cut is the round cut, which typically has the best reflective capabilities. This makes it a popular choice for engagement rings oreternity rings.

Color

Small differences in a diamond’s hue can have drastic effects on its cost. A gem with the purest color will be entirely white and translucent, but some lower quality colors can take on a yellowish or brown tone that will decrease their value.

Note that while many diamond colors exist, these are usually manufactured to garner a specific appearance. Chemically pure diamonds are crystal clear, however, they are extremely rare. This means that if you get your hands on a diamond with perfect color, you might be shelling out quite a bit of cash.

Clarity

This refers to the diamond’s flawlessness. If a gem has internal inclusions or external blemishes, its price may drop significantly. These blemishes occur naturally in the mining and jewelry making process, so finding a diamond without flaws is rare. 

Blemishes might affect the diamond’s ability to reflect light properly, which can cause its iconic glisten to feel diminished.

Most inclusions cannot be seen with the naked eye: they require professional tools. So while clarity has a huge effect on a diamond’s worth, you can get cheaper diamonds with a few knicks and marks that won’t even be noticeable.

Carat

Last but not least, carat refers to the weight of the diamond. As you may expect, a diamond with a higher caratage will garner a higher price. Larger stones are hard to find, so a two-carat diamond will run you much more than a one-carat.

Remember that a diamond’s weight is different from its size. It is possible to find a diamond that appears slightly larger yet has a lower caratage because of its lesser density. 

Diamond Alternatives

As you’ve now seen, a number of factors can affect the price of these gems. Most of which only serve to increase an already outrageous price. We all want to sport some stones around our fingers, but we really can’t drop thousands just to fill up our collection.

Simulant diamonds such as cubic zirconia provide the same look of real diamonds at only a fraction of the cost. Cubic zirconia gems are assessed with the four Cs, yet aren’t affected by the dangers of excavation or the inflation of market monopolies, making them affordable options.

Plus, cubic zirconia has a better chance of beingflawless in its clarity because its production is not reliant on natural factors in the same ways as true diamonds. This means that they can reflect light even more pristinely, making for an even better-looking piece than the real thing.

What Makes Diamonds So Valuable and Expensive?

Umbrella Pendant

Diamond simulants look so much like the real thing that you’d probablynever even be able to tell the difference

Better yet, cubic zirconia crystals are more environmentally friendly than diamonds. Diamond excavation and manufacturing can have a negativeenvironmental impact, so you can feel even more confident about purchasing a synthetic alternative.

What Makes Diamonds So Valuable and Expensive?

Diamond Prong Cuban Ring 18k Gold

Diamonds have a sentimental quality that makes them a must for engagement rings or other important moments. But there truly is no reason not to go for a cheaper alternative if you are just looking to up your fashion game with some new jewelry. 

In Summary

There are multiple factors which influence a diamond’s worth. Although they aren’t as rare as you may think, mining companies have influenced the market in such a way that makes them appear rare, and therefore more expensive. Combine that with the dangers and complexities of mining the ore itself, and you have a remarkably expensive gem.

The four Cs also affect a diamond’s price, with its cut and color being some of the most influential factors. However, diamond simulants can look just like the real thing. And since they are unaffected by some of the factors which drive up diamond value, they can be purchased very inexpensively.

So unless you’re the next Jay-Z and you’ve got millions to spare, consider all of these factors before your next big jewelry purchase so that you can keep your style and bank account perfectly intact.


Sources:

https://www.americangemsociety.org/page/diamondasengagement

https://www.capetowndiamondmuseum.org/about-diamonds/diamond-mining/

https://u.osu.edu/diamondscarlsoncaggiano/impacts/

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