How Are Diamonds Formed Within the Earth? There is perhaps no stone on the planet which is as beautiful to behold as a diamond. Some cultures viewed these objects as evidence of a divine creator. After all, such perfection could have never been the result of purely natural processes. This is why it is a bit ironic that diamonds have existed since the dawn of the planet and some have even been found embedded within meteorites that have fallen to the ground.
The truth of the matter is that it takes millions of years for natural diamonds to form and the process itself can only be called hellish. Let’s take a quick look at how a veritable “soup” of atoms can be transformed into the stones that we have come to love.
Time, Heat, and Pressure
The primary component of any diamond is carbon (often in the form of a mineral known as graphite). What will eventually emerge to the surface as a diamond begins hundreds of miles below the crust within a somewhat plastic portion known as the mantle. At these depths, unimaginable pressures of up to 850,000 thousand pounds per square inch cause the bonds between graphite atoms to transform into a different structure that will eventually result in the formation of a diamond.
While pressure is an important ingredient, it is important to note that the formation of even the smallest of diamonds will require millions of years cooking within such a geologic “stew” as well as temperatures well into the thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
Other Possible Processes Involved
There can be times when diamonds are formed by other natural methods. An example can be seen within the subduction zones found between two continental plates. As one portion of the earth’s crust is forced beneath another, the very same pressures and temperatures mentioned above can be achieved.
A final (albeit much rarer) method is via the impact of an asteroid. The immense heat and pressure resulting from such a kinetic event can cause microscopic diamonds to form. However, these are not nearly large enough to be used within the jewelry industry.
Rising to the Surface
After a diamond is formed deep beneath the earth, how will it rise to the surface? The most common method is through volcanic activity. The liquid rock known as magma can ascend through cracks within the crust on occasion. The magma will then cool and harden into mineral “pipes”. Some pipes are found through mining while others have been exposed over time due to the natural forces of erosion.
The final step involves finding where the loose diamonds themselves are located. This is usually performed by a trained geologist who understands the history of a specific region and knows where to look. However, it is still estimated that countless thousands of carats are waiting to be discovered deep beneath the earth.
Keep the processes outlined above in mind the next time you view one of these scintillating stones. In terms of natural beauty, it does indeed appear that the best things come to those who wait!
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