The Bad Side of Diamonds


Chris Dobbs

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This webpage project was created for a mineralogy course in November 2003 at Emporia State University. The assignment was to learn webpage creation, as well as present a summary of our knowledge regarding the mineral diamond. Some of the information that is presented on this website includes valuable properties and negative aspects of diamonds. For information regarding the good side of diamonds, modes of formation, and occurrences please go to Dustin Edwards's website, The Good Side of Diamonds.

Valuable Properties

Diamonds are valuable because of their many wonderful uses. The versatility is the result of diamond's physical, chemical, and optical properties. Diamonds are known for their hardness which can make diamond a very handy object to possess in various applications around the world. What makes the diamond such a special mineral?
When people think of diamond, most associate it with jewelry, but diamond is valued for its industrial applications as well. This is due to diamond's physical and chemical properties. Diamonds have virtually the same crystal structure as silicon (Kraft, 2002, p. 1). Diamonds are often mistaken for quartz pebbles that have an abundance of silicon in them. What sets them apart is the luster and hardness. Diamonds possess the adamantine luster, which is really bright. Diamonds have a hardness of 10 on the Mohís hardness scale, which is as hard as it gets (Klein, 2002, p. 347).
Diamond is completely composed of carbon in its purest form. For every carbon atom present in diamond, there are 4 more neighboring carbon atoms that are in a tetrahedral coordination (see the image below). This arrangement forms a continuous network. The carbon atoms are held together by covalent bonds. These atoms are tightly packed, which is evident by diamondís high specific gravity (Klein, 2002, p. 348).
Diamonds cleave in perfect four directions. Diamonds are isometric and usually occur as octahedrons or less commonly found as dodecahedrons (Chesterman, 1978, p. 354). Diamond crystallizes in the holohedral class of the isometric system, which is 4/mBar32/m. Diamond may have curved faces when it occurs in an octahedral form. Diamonds have a very high refractive index and show a strong dispersion of light (Klein, 2002, p. 347).

An image of diamond's structure from

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Negative Aspects of Diamonds

Diamond may be one of the most precious possessions many people own. They are thought to be an expression of love or a measure of wealth. Diamond can be such a beautiful object, colorless, brilliant, and pure. This is one side of diamonds. I will explain the other side of diamond, the dark side of diamonds.
Greed is the cause of the dark side of diamonds. Diamonds are valuable minerals and because of this, many people want a piece of the profit made from diamonds. One problem is the smuggling or misreporting the origin of diamonds. The Economist had an article reporting on such behavior. The Economist wrote a story about such activities happening in the Central African Republic. In 2000, the Central African Republic allegedly exported 500,000 carats of diamond. The Economist wrote in the article that Antwerpís Diamond Exchange reported the Central African Republic exported 900,000 carats. Where did the extra 400,000 carats originate? Was this a mistake? Can they both be correct? Many nations are plagued with the movement of illegal substances and the smuggling of valuable commerce. Would an experienced diamond dealer be able to identify smuggled diamonds? Once a diamond is cut, polished, and passed through many hands, it is very hard to identify its origin. The Economist wrote that scientists are working on ways to identify the origin of diamond but have yet to find a perfect answer. Smuggling will continue until laws and regulations are enforced internationally (The Economist, 2002)!
Another problem is illegal mining. Illegal mines are set up by individuals who are greedy and dream of becoming rich. This form of mining is very primitive in nature, because the mechanized equipment would draw attention to the mine. Like earlier miners, this form of mining involves the use of the shovel and sieve. A miner will take their findings, go down to a river, sieve out the dirt, then wash off what they find to see if they found diamond or not. Illegal mining is very dangerous, but the hope of riches fuels these miners. Illegal mining results in illegal sales of diamonds, which reduce profits of major companies such as De Beers Botswana Mining Company (MacLeod, p. 73). Illegally acquired diamonds will sell for less than De Beers marketing. To counterbalance this, MacLeod reported in Time that De Beers buys diamonds from countries and companies outside of De Beers holdings.

An image of a DeBeers mine taken from

Another dark side of diamond is with environmental problems caused in the extraction process. Most diamond mining involves mass movements of earth. In the United States, there are mining laws that call for restoration of the land, but this is not true in other countries. If the landscape is not restored, the result can be an ugly and useless stretch of land, that has potential for accelerated erosion and weathering. Also, an additional environmental problem is the disposal of finely grounded waste ore called tailings. If tailings are dumped into valleys and waterways, this can effect populations dependent upon the water source or agricultural use of the land (Kerlin, p. 54).

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As the music group Poison once said, "Every rose has its thorn." This is the same case for diamonds. Beautiful is one of many words to explain diamonds, but diamonds also bring their fair share of misery along for the ride. So next time you see one of those "beautiful" diamonds, you may also see the dark side of the diamonds.


Chesterman, C. 1979. National audubon society field guide to rocks and minerals. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 850 pp.

Kerlin, Katherine. 2001. Diamonds arenít forever. E, 54.

Klein, C. 2002. The 22nd edition of the manual of mineral science. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, NY, 641 pp.

Kraft, A. 2002. Diamonds for next-generation electronics. Society of Chemical Industry, p. 24.

Mac Leod, Scott. 1992. Diamonds arenít forever. Time, 73.

Smuggling is easy; conflict diamonds. 2002. The Economist, March 16, 2002.

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Related Links

De Beers Company Working Conditions in the Coastal Diamond Mines
Famous Diamonds from How Diamonds
Work by Kevin Bonsor
Diamond Physics

For more information email Last page update was December 4, 2003.

Copyright 2003 © Chris Dobbs. All rights reserved.