The hardest object on the Earth is diamond. A diamond is famous not only for its hardness but also its luxuriousness and unique lustre. One might call it the king of all jewels. Would you believe then that such a beautiful, tough gemstone is made of the same thing as charcoal and graphite? Diamond is crystallised carbon where the carbon atoms are neatly arranged in a pyramid lattice. Charcoal and graphite are also made of carbon but the carbon atoms are placed in a different configuration, giving them a different look and characteristics. This unique lattice shape can only be achieved under extreme pressure (such as in the mantle of the Earth or in a meteorite). Thus, a diamond is just carbon that has endured stress well.
If diamond is the hardest material, then how can one cut it? The answer is simple – use a diamond. As it is near impossible to polish or cut without knowing this, diamonds were only used in the form of ores until the modern age. In 1919, a mathematician named Marcel Tolkowsky calculated the optimum proportions of a diamond cut to obtain the best lustre. The first time he struck the diamond with a nail, he fainted from the shock. He succeeded the second time and devised the round brilliant cut used most popularly nowadays.
Diamond is especially used in engagement rings. About 80% of all engagement rings sold in the United States are diamond rings. This may be because the toughness of diamond symbolises undying love, but another key reason is due to diamond syndicates and their marketing campaign. Even until the 1930’s, there was a tradition of women keeping their virginity until their engagement. Thus, if a man proposed to a woman, took her virginity and broke off the engagement, the woman had a legal right to sue the man. Diamond syndicate De Beers thought that this tradition was an excellent money-making scheme. They planted the idea that offering a diamond ring when proposing put a price on the woman’s virginity and encouraged men to buy more expensive rings to show their love and respect for the woman. This manipulative advertising campaign was a great success and the price of diamond skyrocketed very quickly. Now, a diamond ring is almost an essential item when proposing. Thanks to these companies, there are still many African children who are being slaved in diamond mines.