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Diamonds: The Most Famous Gemstone on Earth

Beautiful diamond engagement ring and wedding band

Diamonds are one of the four precious gemstones, alongside ruby, emerald and sapphire, and are one of the most treasured and sought-after gemstones in the world. Diamonds are prized for their exceptional brilliance, durability and rarity, making them a coveted symbol of luxury, wealth and status.

Where are diamonds found?

Diamonds have been discovered in various parts of the world, but the largest diamond deposits are located in Africa, Russia, Canada and Australia. Additionally, there are smaller deposits of diamonds found in other countries including Brazil, India and China.

Since the 1870s, the majority of diamond mining has taken place in Africa, with countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Angola known for their rich diamond mines. 

In Russia, the Yakutia region is famous for its diamond deposits, and in Canada diamonds are mostly mined in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut regions.


The top five diamond-producing countries*
Rank Country
1 Russia
2 Botswana
3 Democratic Republic of the Congo
4 Angola
5 South Africa

*source: Statista

Diamond knowledge: the four Cs

The Four Cs is a term that is used to describe the four primary characteristics used to evaluate and grade diamonds: carat, color, cut and clarity.


Master stones used for diamond gradingWhen evaluating diamonds against the Four Cs, graders will use a set of master stones for comparison. 


Carat is the measurement used by the international gem community to quantify the weight of a diamond. One carat is equivalent to one fifth of a gram. Carat weight is extremely important as it pertains to pricing. The reason for this is simple: larger diamonds are more rare than smaller diamonds, translating to increased value per carat.


Diamonds can be found in a variety of colors, ranging from colorless to fancy colors such as pink, blue, green and red. The color of a diamond is determined by the presence of certain chemical impurities or structural defects in the crystal. 
The color grading of colorless diamonds is done on a scale from D to Z, with D being completely colorless (the most desirable and valuable) and Z having a strong yellow or brown tint. 

Diamonds with a stronger color than a Z master stone used for grading, or diamonds that display colors other than brown and yellow, will enter the fancy color grading system. These range from faint to fancy vivid, and can command high prices due to rarity.


A diamond’s cut is evaluated by how well proportioned the dimensions of a diamond are, and the symmetry and quality of the facets that have been polished. There are more than a dozen different shapes of diamonds that are widely recognized, but the majority of diamonds conform to one of the most-popular cuts listed below:

  • Round
  • Princess
  • Oval
  • Pear
  • Marquise
  • Cushion
  • Emerald
  • Radiant
  • Heart

Some shapes can have multiple cut qualifiers. For example, a round diamond can be a brilliant cut or a single cut, with these secondary descriptors referring to the number of facets used to create the round shape. Each shape and cut have a unique style and character, and the choice of which cut to use will most often come down to what will maximize the commercial value of the rough diamond. 


Clarity refers to the absence or presence of blemishes and inclusions within a diamond. Blemishes are surface imperfections, such as scratches or nicks, while inclusions are internal flaws, such as cracks or minerals trapped within the diamond.

The clarity grades, in order of increasing inclusion visibility, are: Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2), Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2), Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2), and Included (I1, I2, and I3). The lower the clarity grade, the more visible the inclusions and blemishes are to the naked eye, and the lower the value of the diamond.


Loose diamondsOnce cut and polished, diamonds will be sorted by carat, color, clarity and cut.

How durable are diamonds?

Diamonds are a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, making them perfect for engagement rings or other everyday-wear jewelry due to their durability. Nothing can scratch a diamond except another diamond. The Mohs scale helps to identify how durable a gem is - the more durable a gem is, the more suitable it is for use in frequently worn jewelry.


From India to Africa: the storied history of diamonds

The mining of diamonds first started in India. Some historians estimate that India was trading in diamonds as early as the 4th century BC. Although diamonds were present in India, there was not an abundance, so the brilliant gems were reserved for the wealthier classes. The popularity of diamonds grew, and Indian diamonds found their way to Europe, carried by merchants along the Silk Road to the medieval markets of Venice. By the 1400s, diamonds had become fashionable accessories for Europe’s elite.

In the early 1700s, as India’s diamond supplies began to decline, Brazil emerged as an important source. Once it reached its full potential, Brazil dominated the diamond market for more than 150 years.

The 1800s brought increasing affluence to western Europe and the United States. Explorers unearthed the first great South African diamond deposits in the late 1800s, just as diamond demand broadened greatly. Africa soon became  the primary source for diamonds, and remains so today.


Shards of falling stars: the myths and folklore surrounding diamonds

In Ancient India, the Hindus, who were known to use diamonds in the eyes of their statues, believed that diamonds were created when bolts of lightning struck rocks. Ancient Greeks and the Romans had their own mythology about diamonds, including that diamonds were the tears of the gods, or splinters that had broken off of falling stars. 

Other legends turned into tradition. One relates to the wearing of a diamond on the ring finger as an engagement ring. This stems from the idea that the vein in that finger is linked directly to the heart, and therefore is the ‘vein of love’.


How bridal trends can shape demand for diamond cuts

Today, diamonds can be found in many jewelry styles, from red-carpet looks to everyday dainty diamonds, as well as acting as an accent for other colored gemstones. A major market for diamonds is the bridal sector, with the stones being the foremost choice for engagement rings. 

Round brilliant diamonds are the traditional choice for engagement rings, but other stone shapes tend to become popular in line with fashion trends. In 2022 and 2023, for example, the most popular diamond cuts for an engagement ring, other than round brilliants, are pear shapes and ovals.


Pear shaped diamond engagement ringEngagement rings set with pear-shaped diamonds are a popular choice in today’s bridal market.