At Bario-Neal, we have a high standard for ethically sourced materials. One of the more traceable ethically sourced materials that we work with is our rough diamonds. Many of the human rights abuse issues associated with the diamond industry happen in the cutting and polishing process. With rough diamonds, there is no cutting and polishing, virtually eliminating these possibilities. You can read more about our ethically sourced rough diamonds in Alyssa’s interview with Kerin, here.
Working with rough diamonds in fine jewelry is relatively new. Most of the information and research on diamonds is specific to cut and graded diamonds. Aside from that, there is very little information on the internet about rough diamonds and how they are used in jewelry. Because of this, it is easy to misunderstand or under-appreciate rough diamonds.
Rough diamonds come in a vast variety of sizes, shapes and colors and each of these characteristics contributes to a stone’s rarity and thus its cost. Unlike cut diamonds, there is no certification system available for rough diamonds and so the dealer inspects and determines the color and clarity of each diamond. Once diamonds are cut, inclusions are a lot easier to hide because of the facets of the stone. In their rough state, inclusions are easy to detect to the naked eye. This is not necessarily a bad quality (as it would be for a cut diamond), but rather contributes to the natural beauty and brilliance of the stone.
How are they formed?
Diamonds are formed from carbon atoms at least 100 miles below the Earth’s surface in the mantle. Because of the immense heat and pressure in the mantle, the carbon atoms form very strong covalent bonds. This tight structure is why diamonds are such a hard and durable material.
All diamonds are thousands of years old and overtime the crystallized carbon structure rises to the earth’s surface through volcanic activity. Diamonds are then mined in open pit mines or in riverbeds (also known as alluvial mining). Open pit mining is the safest type of mining for workers in developed countries but has the potential for greater environmental impact due to the scale and severity of land excavation. Alluvial mining is done near riverbeds in rural areas and can be outside of the legal regulations of diamond mining. Because of this, alluvial mining is often associated with child labor, prostitution and other serious ethical issues. Though we work with rough diamonds from both open pit and alluvial mining, all of our stones are ethically sourced from reputable locations and organizations.
If other gases or minerals are present when the diamond is forming, the color of the diamond will be affected. Diamonds can be found in a wide range of colors- they may be slightly blue, colorless, yellow, brown, red, champagne, black etc. The more vivid and unique a color, the more rare because of the chance occurrence of the different gases present. A clear diamond is a diamond that has not come in contact with any other mineral.Generally, colorless diamonds are more valuable since they are more desired as cut and polished diamonds.
The beauty of rough diamonds is that each is unique in color, shape and clarity. Though diamonds with inclusions may not be desirable in a cut diamond, inclusions in a rough diamond contribute to the uniqueness and beauty. The same can be said for shape and color.
Rough Diamond Shapes
Rough diamonds are formed completely organically and therefore each stone is distinct in shape. Because diamonds are formed so deep into the earth, scientists are not able to study how and why the atoms form in different shapes. However, there are four basic shapes that we use to identify the rough diamonds:
Octohedron– An octoherdon is shaped like an 8-sided cube and will either have smooth or very sharp edges. This shape diamond is what most cut diamonds start out as.
Half Octohedron- Half octohedrons are sliced octohedrons. They are usually the tops cut off of octohedrons when cut diamonds are shaped.
Macle- A macle is triangular in shape. Macle diamonds tend to be more affordable because the shape is less desirable for cutting.
Irregular– Irregular diamonds are basically any uncut diamonds that do not fall into any other category. The may be smooth (because they have been tumbled in water) or very jagged. Alluvial diamonds are typically smooth because they have been naturally tumbled in water.
Rough Diamonds at Bario-Neal
A noticeable difference in jewelry with rough diamonds versus cut diamonds is in the way they are set. Because rough diamonds do not have a defined girdle and table for the prongs to rest on, larger and more durable prongs are needed to secure the stone. Please keep this in mind when considering an engagement ring with a rough diamond.
Depending on the shape of the rough diamond it can also be bezel set. Though you lose a lot of the diamond’s natural shape, bezel set rough diamonds are more secure. Not all shapes of rough diamonds can be bezel set, but we will determine the possibility for each stone.
Because rough diamonds are used in their original form it is difficult to predict the availability of a certain type of diamond. Diamond prices fluctuate as the demand and availability changes. A clear diamond, regardless of color, will always be more expensive because of its clarity. Depending on the demand of a certain color, the price may change accordingly. Keep in mind that each diamond is unique in color, clarity and shape and it can be difficult to source exactly what you are looking for. The more open you are to considering different diamonds, the more options you’ll have in designing or making a piece.