What Is a Natural Diamond? | Amazing Facts About This Precious Stone

Natural diamonds, formed deep within the earth over billions of years, are truly remarkable gems that possess unique properties that other gemstones simply don’t have. 

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about natural diamonds. You’ll learn about how they are made, their historical context, different shapes, and certifications, how to know if your diamond is legit, how to evaluate diamonds, their social and environmental impact, and you’ll learn about natural diamonds vs alternatives.

Key Takeaways

  • Natural diamonds are formed over billions of years
  • Natural diamonds are rare and prized for their uniqueness
  • A personal consultation with a jewelry expert can help in finding the right diamond for you 

What is a Natural Diamond?

Natural diamonds are found deep below the earth’s surface, formed under extreme pressure and temperature. They can be released to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions caused by melting of the mantle into magma or they can be mined by diamond companies.

The most significant source of diamonds is kimberlite pipes, which are vertical structures in the Earth’s crust that are formed through flowing magma. Even still, these diamonds only a small percentage of them are economically viable.

Where are Natural Diamonds Found?

Mined from deep within the earth’s surface, diamonds are found in a bunch of locations worldwide. Some notes about where they are discovered:

  • Natural diamonds can be found in diamond mines across most continents such as Africa, Australia, Asia, and South America.
  • Some of the most famous diamond mining regions are Botswana’s Orapa mine, Russia’s Mirny mine, and South Africa’s Kimberley mine just to name a few.
  • These mines are located in areas rich in kimberlite rock formations, which is where most natural diamonds are found. Diamond exploration involves extensive scientific research and advanced technology to efficiently identify potential diamond-bearing areas.
  • The diamond industry plays a crucial role in supporting local economies and communities where mining operations take place but is mired by other concerns.
Natural diamonds mining

How are Natural Diamonds Formed?

The formation of diamonds involves a complex process that spans billions of years and includes intense heat, high pressure, and geological events.

Natural diamonds are formed deep below the earth’s surface under extreme pressure and temperature. Diamonds are made when carbon atoms bond together in a unique cubic crystal lattice structure.

The majority of natural diamonds we see today are formed through a unique process of kimberlite eruption. This occurs when an event causes a part of the earth’s mantle to melt into magma, which then erupts to the earth’s surface, carrying diamonds along with it.

Kimberlite pipes, by far, are the most significant source of diamonds, although only a small percentage of them are economically viable. Some smaller diamonds can also be brought to the earth’s surface through tectonic plate movement during mountain-building processes which rely on more pressure than heat. Additionally, subduction can recycle organic carbon into the mantle, which may then crystallize into diamonds.

Large meteorite impacts can create extreme temperatures and pressures, providing the conditions for diamond formation. However, diamonds found around meteorite impact sites tend to be tiny and of poor quality and are rarely used commercially.

The formation of natural diamonds is a fascinating process that involves unique forces over billions of years. Understanding how these precious gemstones are created provides insight into their rarity and value.

Transition: Now that we have explored how natural diamonds are formed, let us delve into their intriguing history.

The clear diamonds

History of Natural Diamonds

Diamonds have a rich history dating back thousands of years. They weren’t always as elegant and refined as they are today, nor were they always used in rings as symbols of marriage. Below, you’ll learn more about the history of diamonds and how they developed into the symbols of love and luxury that they are today.

Early Mining of Natural Diamonds

During the early stages of diamond mining, India served as a significant source of diamonds and played a crucial role in the initial trading and distribution of them. The natural diamond industry began to flourish in India, with limited quantities of diamonds being gathered from rivers and streams.

As trade routes expanded, Indian diamonds found their way to Western Europe where they became fashionable accessories for the elite and increased demand. However, this period also saw the emergence of unethical practices such as the trade of conflict diamonds or ‘blood diamonds,’ which were mined under oppressive conditions and used to fund armed conflicts. 

These practices are now looked down on. This dark history highlights the importance of supporting conflict-free diamonds and ensuring ethical practices within the natural diamond industry.

Moving forward into the subsequent section about ‘production and distribution in the 1800s and 1900s’, advancements in technology would revolutionize diamond mining methods.

Production and Distribution in the 1800s and 1900s

Advancements in technology during the 1800s and 1900s revolutionized diamond mining methods, leading to rapidly increased production and more efficient distribution & transportation of natural diamonds.

The discovery of diamond sources in South Africa, Botswana, Australia, and Canada significantly contributed to the expansion of world diamond mining and helped shape the diamond industry today. With the establishment of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in 1888, South Africa became a dominant force in the diamond industry, controlling an estimated 90 percent of global rough diamond production by the early 1900s. Today, they still control much of the diamond market.

Some of the technical development includes the use of underground mining techniques which allow for access to deeper diamond deposits, while improvements in cutting and polishing techniques enhanced the appearance of finished stones. Additionally, new sources such as the Jwaneng mine in Botswana added to world production and spurred the growth of cutting centers, which in turn led to a bigger variety of shapes and cuts.

Diamond Shapes

Among the various options available for diamond shapes, each particular shape possesses its own characteristics and appeals to different preferences compared to other cuts & shapes. The choice of diamond shape type is a personal one, as it can reflect an individual’s style and taste. Additionally, the shape of a diamond can enhance its natural beauty and sparkle or characteristics of the jewelry it’s set in and the wearer themselves.

To help you better understand the variety of diamond shapes, let’s explore some popular options:

Diamond ShapeCharacteristics
Round BrilliantOffers maximum sparkle and brilliance due to its 58 facets. It is a classic and timeless choice.
Princess CutA square shape that sparkles more than other square cuts. It is modern and elegant.
Cushion CutSquare or rectangular with rounded corners, giving it a soft and romantic appeal. It highlights color and clarity well.
Emerald CutRectangular shape with parallel facets that showcase clarity and color. It exudes sophistication and elegance.
Oval CutElongated silhouette similar to round or princess cuts, providing excellent sparkle while appearing unique.
Marquise CutAn elongated oval with pointed ends, maximizing carat weight for a larger appearance on the finger. It creates an illusion of lengthening the hand.
Various diamond cuts

Diamond Certifications

This discussion focuses on diamond certifications, specifically the GIA Certification and the IGI Certification, which are the two most popular certifications.

Both certifications are widely recognized in the diamond industry and provide assurance of a diamond’s quality and authenticity.

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is known as the leading authority in diamond grading, while the IGI (International Gemological Institute) is also respected for its grading standards. Both certifications are widely accepted.

A comparison between GIA and IGI certifications will be explored to determine which certification is better suited for evaluating diamonds.

GIA Certification

GIA certification is highly regarded in the diamond industry as it provides a number of things such as:

  •  accurate information about a diamond’s origin
  •  any treatments performed on the stone
  • grades for the 4 Cs

These steps are taken transparently and give buyers confidence in their purchase. The Gemological Institute of America has established itself as the foremost authority in the diamond industry worldwide in all countries. Their certification process involves thorough examination using advanced diamond verification instruments to determine a diamond’s characteristics and be graded. 

GIA-certified diamonds are known for their accuracy and reliability, providing buyers with assurance that they are purchasing a natural diamond that has been graded according to strict standards. This certification is particularly important when buying smaller diamonds, as it can be challenging to find GIA-certified stones under 0.20 carats. This is because lower-carat diamonds are less valuable, and there are less benefits to grading less valuable diamonds.

With GIA certification, buyers get peace of mind knowing they are making a decision based on reliable information about the quality and authenticity of the diamonds they buy 

Moving forward to the next section about IGI certification’, we will explore another reputable organization in the field of diamond certifications.

IGI Certification

The IGI certification is a highly respected and trusted process that provides accurate information about the authenticity, quality, and characteristics of diamondsThe International Gemological Institute (IGI) was established in 1975 in Belgium and has since become a global authority on diamond grading with offices all around the world. Their certification ensures that natural diamonds are ethically sourced and conflict-free.

Here are five reasons why IGI certification is significant for those seeking to make an educated diamond purchase 

  • IGI certification guarantees the authenticity of natural diamonds, giving buyers peace of mind.
  • The certification accurately grades the quality and characteristics of diamonds, ensuring an unbiased, third-party grading
  • IGI’s reputation as an independent laboratory adds credibility to its certifications.
  • With IGI certification, customers can be  confident that they are purchasing ethical and conflict-free diamonds.

With this understanding of IGI certification, we can now explore the comparison between GIA and IGI diamond certifications – which is better?

GIA vs IGI Diamond Certifications – Which is Better?

While both certifications are reputable and trusted by jewelers, GIA certificates have gained more widespread recognition within the industry. 

This preference for GIA certificates is primarily due to their long-standing reputation for excellence and adherence to stringent grading standards. After all, IGI is not even yet 50 years old. 

However, it’s important to note that both GIA and IGI evaluate diamonds based on the same fundamental principles and characteristics. Therefore, whether you choose a diamond with a GIA or IGI certificate, you can trust that it has been assessed thoroughly and accurately so it’s fine to buy a diamond with either certificate..

Now let’s delve into another aspect of understanding natural diamonds: the 4Cs.

Other Diamond Certifications (AGS)

The American Gem Society (AGS) was founded in 1934 by a small group of leading jewelers. Their goal was to create an organization that could help protect the jewelry-buying public from fraud and false advertising. Today, their vision has become a reality.

The main difference between AGS and GIA is that they have different processes for grading diamonds.

The AGS 0–10 grading scale is easy to understand: the highest possible grade is zero, and the lowest is 10. So, a diamond with a color grade of 3 has less color than a diamond with a color grade of 5. Natural diamonds having less color are rarer; therefore, they may cost more.

When writing the grades of a diamond using the AGS Scale, the diamond Cut grade is first, then diamond Color, Clarity, then Carat Weight—in that order. If a diamond possessing the finest diamond Cut grade is also colorless, free of inclusions and blemishes, and weighs one carat, it would be written as 0/0/0–1.000 carat.

A certificate illustration detail

The 4 Cs of Diamonds

In the world of diamonds, evaluating diamond’s quality involves considering four key factors known as the 4 Cs: Diamond Cut, Diamond Color, Diamond Clarity, and Carat Weight, and are key to a diamond’s quality and value

Diamond Cut

Diamond cut is a crucial aspect of a diamond’s overall beauty and brilliance. The cut of a natural diamond refers to how well it has been shaped and faceted from its rough, natural state. 

The cut directly affects the diamond’s ability to reflect light and sparkle and can highlight different characteristics of a diamond. A well-cut diamond will have precise proportions, symmetrical facets, and excellent polish. To understand the impact of the diamond cut on its appearance, consider the following table:

Diamond CutAppearance
ExcellentMaximum brilliance and fire
Very GoodExceptional brilliance
GoodAbove average brilliance
Fair/PoorLess sparkle

The quality of the cut is graded by jewelry experts who evaluate a number of factors such as symmetry, proportions, polish, and overall craftsmanship. Moving forward into the discussion about ‘diamond color’, it is important to note that while the diamond cut greatly influences its beauty, color also plays a significant role that can not be ignored.

Diamonds on the dark background

Diamond Color

Diamond color refers to the presence or absence of color within a diamond. The most valued diamonds are those that are completely colorless and transparent, as they allow for maximum light reflection. 

However, it is important to note that many diamonds contain trace amounts of nitrogen or other elements, which can result in various shades of yellow, brown, or other colors. These subtle differences in color can significantly impact a diamond’s value and appearance.

Diamond color grading is done on an alphabetical scale ranging from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown). Understanding diamond color is essential when choosing the perfect stone for your jewelry piece as it will have a huge impact on the jewelry piece.

Now let’s explore the next factor that contributes to a diamond’s overall quality: its clarity.

Diamond color grades

Diamond Clarity

The presence or absence of internal flaws, known as inclusions, determines a diamond’s clarity and can significantly impact its value and overall appearance. Inclusions in a diamond are irregularities or flaws within a diamond.

During the formation process, various minerals or other foreign materials can become trapped within the diamond, which can cause inclusions. The fewer inclusions present, the higher the clarity grade of the diamond.

Diamond clarity is graded on a scale ranging from internally flawless (IF) to included (I3), with different grades representing varying levels of visibility of these inclusions.

IF is the highest and best clarity grade. A higher diamond clarity grade indicates a cleaner and more visually appealing diamond. However, it is important to note that some inclusions can be hidden by certain cuts or settings, making them less visible to the naked eye once the diamond is mounted in the ring or other piece of jewelry.

Next comes an examination of another crucial factor when it comes to evaluating diamonds: carat weight.

Diamond clarity scale

Carat Weight

Carat weight, an essential factor in diamond evaluation, holds immense significance as it determines the size and overall visual impact of any givendiamond.

All diamonds come in various carat weights, ranging from very small to extremely large.

The carat weight directly affects the price of a diamond, with larger diamonds being much more rare expensive.

However, it is important to note that a diamond’s carat weight should not be the sole determining factor when choosing a diamond, even though it is a large one.

Other factors such as cut, color, and clarity also play crucial roles in the overall beauty and value of a diamond.

Moving forward to the next section about sustainability, ethics & the environmental impact, which is a particularly touchy subject for some people

Diamond carat weight comparation

Sustainability, Ethics & The Environmental Impact

This discussion will focus on the subtopic of sustainability, ethics, and the environmental impact of diamonds. Specifically, it will address the issues of blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, and how diamonds can be sourced in a conflict-free manner.

Blood Diamonds AKA Conflict Diamonds

Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, have been a  significant issue in the diamond industry, particularly during civil wars in Africa. During this time rebel groups sold rough diamonds to fund military actions against legitimate governments. 

These conflict diamonds were often mixed with legitimately mined diamonds, making them hard to detect. Concerns over the association of blood diamonds with the diamond market led to the establishment of the innovative Kimberley Process certification scheme in 2003. 

This certification process aims to verify whether exporting countries’ diamonds were conflict-free or not. As a result, the share of blood diamonds in the global diamond trade decreased from 15% in the 1990s to less than 1% by 2010 where it remains today. 

However, there are ongoing debates about expanding the definition of blood diamonds to include gems whose trade is based on aggression or violence. 

Blood DiamondsConflict-Free Diamonds
Mined in areas controlled by armed forces opposed to legitimate governmentsMined under ethical conditions and the miners are treated well
Used to fund military actions against governmentsNot used for funding conflicts
Typically associated  with human rights abusesProduced responsibly and sustainably
Diamonds on the dark background

Diamonds Can Be Conflict-Free

Ethical sourcing practices have been established in the diamond industry to  ensure that diamonds are produced responsibly, without contributing to conflicts or human rights abuses.

This is particularly important when it comes to natural diamonds, as their origins can sometimes be linked to unethical activities such as violence and forced labor that we mentioned. Fortunately, there are diamond companies that prioritize ethical practices and offer conflict-free natural diamonds. These companies adhere to strict standards and certifications like the Kimberley Process we mentioned, which guarantees that their diamonds are mined and shipped without any connection to rebel or terror groups. By supporting these companies, consumers can confidently purchase natural diamonds knowing that they are free from the taint of human exploitation and bloody war.

Natural Diamond vs Lab Created Diamond

This discussion will explore the topic of Natural Diamond vs Lab Created Diamond. It will focus on key points such as how to determine if a diamond is natural or man-made, the authenticity of lab-grown diamonds, and the benefits of choosing lab diamonds.

Natural diamonds are formed deep within the Earth over billions of years, while man-made diamonds are created in a very specially controlled laboratory environment typically using either High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) processes. 

But how can you tell the difference?

How Can You Tell if a Diamond Is Natural or Man-Made?

To determine the origin of a diamond, one must rely on the expertise of certified gemologists. These gemologists possess specialized equipment capable of distinguishing between natural and man-made diamonds by looking closely at the physical and chemical properties of a particular diamond in addition to its growth patterns. 

This distinction is crucial for consumers who value the rarity and unique creation process of natural diamonds, which are considered more valuable. It also sets the stage for exploring whether lab-grown diamonds are considered real or not.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Real?

Lab-grown diamonds possess the same physical and chemical properties as natural diamonds. They are not diamond simulants like cubic zirconia or moissanite, both of which lack the carbon-based chemical composition that both lab and natural diamonds have.

4 Benefits of Lab Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds offer a  cost-effective alternative to natural diamonds. Due to their controlled production process, lab-grown diamonds are typically priced lower than their natural counterparts of similar carat weight and quality and have fewer flaws.

This affordability makes lab-grown diamonds an attractive option for those who want to get more value for their money without compromising on the beauty and brilliance of a diamond and offer an excellent choice for your earrings, rings, and other jewelry pieces if you want an ethical and affordable alternative to diamonds.

Cost of Lab Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds

The pricing disparity between lab-grown and natural diamonds is a result of the shorter supply chain and less labor associated with lab grown diamonds. This makes them a more cost-effective option for consumers.

  • Lab-grown diamonds have a lower production cost due to their controlled environment and consistency.
  • Natural diamonds require mining, which involves significant  human and financial resources
  • The price of natural diamonds is influenced by factors such as rarity, quality, and demand.

Lab grown diamonds offer a more affordable alternative without compromising quality. The cost savings of lab grown diamonds can be substantial, allowing consumers to get more value for their money.

Tweezers and various shaped dimond on the dark background

Diamonds vs Moissanite

Despite the allure of diamonds, moissanite provides a striking alternative with its impressive brilliance and MUCH lower cost, even compared to lab diamonds

Moissanite is a synthetic diamond simulant that has gained popularity as an affordable substitute for natural diamonds. It is composed of silicon carbide and exhibits optical properties similar to those of diamonds. 

Moissanite possesses exceptional fire, which refers to the dispersion of light into spectral colors, giving it a dazzling sparkle that rivals that of natural diamonds. In fact, the excess fire is a dead giveaway if a jewel is moissanite or not.

One key advantage of moissanite over natural diamonds is its affordability. Due to its lab-grown nature, moissanite can be produced at a fraction of the cost of natural diamonds. This makes it an attractive option for those seeking a bigger diamond for their ring or wanting to stay within a budget. 

Another notable feature of moissanite is its exceptional hardness. While not as hard as diamonds on the Mohs scale, which measures mineral hardness, moissanite still ranks high at 9.25 out of 10 with diamonds being a 10. This makes it highly resistant to scratches and suitable for everyday wear similar to diamonds, although still not as hard

However, it’s important to note that despite its similarities in appearance and durability, moissanite is not a real diamond. Moissanite may lack the sentimental value associated with natural diamonds and may not hold their long-term investment potential, but can be a good temporary place-holder for a diamond if one wants to buy a real diamond later.

While genuine diamonds have long been cherished for their rarity and beauty, moissanite offers an appealing alternative with its remarkable brilliance and much more accessible price point at a fraction of the cost. The choice between natural diamonds and synthetic diamond simulants like moissanite ultimately comes down to personal preferences and priorities regarding budget, symbolism, and longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do natural diamonds cost compared to lab-grown diamonds?

The cost of natural diamonds compared to lab-grown diamonds is about 2x-3x more, which means lab-grown diamonds can be 50% to 30% the cost of a natural diamond. However, this can vary depending on factors such as the 4cs.lab-grown diamonds are always more affordable than natural diamonds of similar quality.

What are some alternative options to natural diamonds?

Lab grown diamonds are the best alternative to natural diamonds as both are still real diamonds. Other popular alternatives include moissanite, white sapphire, and cubic zirconia. These alternatives offer similar beauty at a lower cost, making them attractive options for those seeking an alternative to real diamonds.

Are there any ethical concerns associated with mining natural diamonds?

Ethical concerns are associated with mining natural  diamonds. Mining can have negative impacts on the environment, including deforestation and water pollution to nearby locales. Additionally, there are concerns about labor practices and human rights violations in some diamond mining regions, where miners work under poor conditions and may deal with violence

Can natural diamonds be re-created or replicated in a lab?

Yes, natural diamonds can be re-created or replicated in a lab and often are. Lab-grown diamonds have the same exact properties as natural diamonds. They are created using either High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) processes, which are the 2 most popular processes

How do natural diamonds compare to other gemstones in terms of durability and value?

In terms of durability and value, natural diamonds are one of the hardest gemstones with a unique cubic crystal lattice structure and the highest value. They hold immense value due to their rarity and enduring nature, making them highly sought by people around the world


In conclusion, the choice between natural and lab-grown diamonds is a personal one, with both options offering unique qualities and considerations.

Natural diamonds are formed over billions of years under extreme conditions, symbolizing rarity and individuality.

Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds and are created in a matter of months, which provide incredible value and lower costs.

The decision ultimately lies in one’s preferences and priorities.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Every diamond has its own story to tell.’

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