What makes a diamond a diamond?

What Makes a Diamond a Diamond?

There are two specific things that make a diamond different from all other precious and semi-precious rocks: the material it is made up of, and the arrangement of its atoms (which translates hardness). There are many types of gemstones in the world, of varying materials, colors and grades, but for a gem to be a diamond it must meet several very specific criteria. Diamonds, in their purest form, are made up entirely of carbon atoms, fused together into what are known as covalent bonds, in such a manner that they are, in fact, the hardest single-element substance known to man.

3 round brilliant cut white diamonds on a blue background

How Diamonds are Classified

Natural diamonds are classified by the type and level of impurities found within them:

  1. Type Ia diamond - Most natural diamonds are of this type, and contain up to 0.3% nitrogen.
  2. Type Ib diamond - Very rare (~0.1%) in nature, they contain nitrogen at concentrations of up to 500 ppm.
  3. Type IIa diamond - Very rare in nature, these diamonds contain so little nitrogen that it can't be easily detected by the usual IR or UV absorption measurements.
  4. Type IIb diamond - Extremely rare in nature. These have an incredibly low concentration of nitrogen.