Birth of a diamond
People have always shown a strong interest in stones and minerals, both for their practical use, as in the case salt, or for their symbolic, spiritual and even healing role, thanks to their brilliance and beauty. Hence the first stones to be discovered – amethyst, hyaline quartz, amber, jade, emerald, jasper, coral, lapis lazuli and pearls – were used to create jewels and necklaces, as well as transformed into charms and talismans.
There’s one stone, however, that’s considered the precious stone par excellence: diamonds. Thanks to their brilliance and extraordinary reflexes they are considered the king of gems (or the gem of kings). The word diamond comes perhaps from the Greek word Adamàs, which means incorruptible and untameable, because of its exceptional hardness. It’s made of pure carbon: the same composition as the graphite in a pencil which, paradoxically, is extremely soft. Yet, even though carbon is the sixth most common element on our planet, diamonds are extremely rare. It is this rarity that makes them even more magical, fascinating and romantic.
To explain the role of men in the birth of diamonds, we asked Giorgio Damiani a few questions for Birth. Among other things, he quoted Michelangelo when he said that a statue is already in the stone, sculptors must only free it.
Is there a connection with the earth in the genesis of a precious stone? Can we speak of terroir for gems, in the way we do with grape varieties? The case of a grape variety is a little different – Giorgio Damiani, Vice President and Chief Executive at Gruppo Damiani says – because men can “look after” the terroir so as to create the ideal conditions and make sure a vine can develop in the best possible way; on the contrary, gems are spontaneously born in the bowels of the earth and then stay there for billions of years: in some cases the mines are hundreds of kilometres deep, or have a fluvial origin. For sure, there are special areas where you can find the best deposits, but this is due to the geological evolution of the Earth, not to man.
Nature and know how: what’s their influence on the preciousness of a gem? Once extracted, gemstones are rough minerals that need to be cut. This is where man’s skills and know-how enter the picture: in knowing how to get a finished, finely cut gem from a rough gemstone, a gem capable of giving the best outcomes in terms of gleam, brilliance, luminosity and colour. This phase turns the rough gemstone into a unique precious gemstone. A rough crystal will only give a hint of the light and fire captured inside, which only a talented cutter will be able to release. I often quote an anecdote from Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Great Painters and Sculptors: in Florence, Michelangelo Buonarroti pronounced these legendary words: “the statue is already inside the stone, the sculptor must only free it!”.
Diamonds are the quintessential gemstone: how come this record? Diamonds are formed deep in the Earth’s subsoil where the strong pressure compacts the atoms of carbon in a dense tetrahedral structure. The fact it then stays nestled there for billions of years in the shape of a crystal, until men extract it and bring it to light, makes this stone even more fascinating. It is calculated that diamonds are born between the crust and the mantle of the earth, between 150 and 225 km deep; they are slowly “pushed” to the surface by natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions or movements in the subsoil, and they stay trapped in the mother rock, kimberlite, also known as blue rock, from which they are extracted.
Where does man’s timeless attraction for diamonds start from? Its transparency and brilliancy are a source of uniqueness that have attracted man since ancient times. Though the modern cut, the so-called “brilliant cut” which gives the highest brilliancy to the stone, is a relatively recent discovery, diamonds– once cut – have always shed an extraordinary and fascinating light. This is why we have included this small gleaming secret which transforms a jewel into a promise inside solitaires and wedding rings. In fact, in Italian history, the use of diamonds to seal an engagement was only introduced in the early 20th century, when they replaced rubies.