Why are Diamonds so Rare?

DiamondsWhen we see diamonds, we immediately associate them with a high monetary and intrinsic value. The conclusion most people will come to is that diamonds are expensive because they are very rare. This is a half truth – diamonds as a blanket term are more common in nature than we think. It is those diamonds that qualify as gem-quality rough that are rare to find.

So what qualifies a rough stone as gem-quality? To be considered as such, the diamond must exhibit high levels of clarity. It is even more valuable it has the potential to achieve an acceptable grading within the parameters set out by the Gemological Institute of America – commonly known as the 4 C’s. Rough is only judged on three of the factors: clarity, color, and carat weight. Clarity is the most discerning factor for a rough to be qualified as gem-quality, which is why it is also the “C” that makes the most difference on polished diamond price. This is why colorless, flawless, high carat weight diamonds can fetch prices well into the millions and are often collectors’ items.

Only 20% of the diamonds mined in the world every year are gem-quality. The rest fall into two categories: near-gem quality, and industrial. Near-gem quality diamonds represent those stones of a quality between gem and industrial, and can be used as either depending on the individual stone. These stones have visible inclusions that fall near and below I3 (the lowest clarity grade of the GIA grading system).

Lastly, industrial diamonds are low quality or badly included stones. They still carry the superior hardness and heat tolerance properties of higher quality diamonds, but because they are visually impacted they are suitable only for industrial use. For example, they are used in dentist’s drills and earthmoving equipment.