On this page, you will find information about diamonds, UAlberta's diamond research training school, and the work our scientists are doing in this area.
What Is a Diamond?
Although diamonds were coined as a girl’s best friend by Carol Channing (in 1949) and Marilyn Monroe (in 1953) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, these precious minerals are one of Earth’s oldest natural marvels that have been forming beneath the Earth’s crust for billions of years.
Some people often refer to diamonds as rocks, but it’s a misnomer because diamonds are not rocks — they are minerals. Rocks usually comprise many fragments of minerals. For example, kimberlite is an igneous rock made up of olivine and pyroxene minerals, and it is most often mined in pursuit of diamonds buried within the rock's mineral makeup.
Four diamonds excavated by DERTS researchers. (Left to right) Colour: colourless to yellow. Shape: pristine octahedron to reabsorbed dodecahedron. Photo credit: Anetta Banas.
A diamond is the solid form of pure carbon where the element’s atoms arrange themselves in a crystalline structure known as diamond cubic.
The diamond cubic structure occurs because the four valence electrons of each carbon atom bond with the four electrons of a neighbouring carbon atom, creating a tetrahedral lattice. Due to this structure, diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring mineral with the highest thermal conductivity on the planet, with the ability to conduct heat five times faster than copper and withstand heat between 700°C and 3000°C depending on atmospheric conditions and pressure.
Diamonds are coveted for their beauty, but contrary to popular belief, they aren’t any more rare than other gems like rubies. However, their molecular properties (such as their strength and heat resistance) make them more durable and valuable. They are no longer just a "girl’s best friend," but the best friend of scientists and engineers who use diamond materials to improve technologies from solar power to water purification.