What’s the Difference? It’s all carbon…Posted by Steffan's Jewelers on May 15, 2014 in Gem Talk, Uncategorized | 0 comments
Why is there such a drastic difference between a diamond and graphite if they are both made up of pure Carbon?
It is true, diamonds and graphite, which is commonly used as pencil lead, are both made up of pure Carbon atoms. Graphite is soft, opaque, and metallic looking whereas diamond is hard, transparent and brilliant. The difference between the two relies heavily on the formation process and their crystal structures. Diamonds are formed deep within the Earth’s surface under extremely high temperatures and high pressure. Because of this formation process, diamonds atoms are arranged in tight three-dimensional patterns bonded more strongly – in all directions – than graphite atoms. Graphite’s atoms are arranged in strongly bonded layers, but the layers only have very weak bonds between them.
To get an idea of these structure differences, hold your hands out with your palms parallel to each other. Even with your palms and fingers touching each other, it is still very easy to break the bond and move your hands in opposite directions all the while keeping your hands parallel. This is a simple display of the atom bonds of graphite. Now, clasp your hands together tightly, with your fingers interlaced. Try breaking that bond, you’ll find that it’s quite difficult without undoing your fingers. This is an example of how the atoms are bonded in a diamond.
Sometimes, very rarely in nature, graphite can morph and form into a diamond. However, the high pressure and high temperatures needed to produce diamonds are among the reasons why this transformation doesn’t occur more often. So while the two minerals are composed of the exact same element, called polymorphs, their chemistry is very different.
While we don’t have any beautiful displays of graphite in our store, unless you’d like to take a peek at my pencil jar, we do have many, many beautiful diamonds on display for you to enjoy!