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The Long View of Diamonds

It may be interesting to note the costly nature of our jewelry.  In the past 100+ years, the price of engagement rings has increased on average over three thousand percent!  In the 1890s, Tiffany’s sold its rings at around $40, a striking contrast to the rings nowadays that are sold for somewhere in the multiple thousands of dollars.

Like engagement rings, most things rise in value as they age –­­ wines, coins, and baseball cards, to name a few.  One object that seems to take the opposite approach, however, is diamond.  Given enough time, that particular gem morphs into the ever-­common graphite. Don’t worry, though.  Practically, the conversion is likely to occur only when kept for prolonged periods of time at very high temperatures. Without that stimulation, the process can take innumerable eras, which means your diamond necklace won’t be in danger any time soon.  At least not in your own lifetime. But we should put that timeframe into perspective: while the process may take many lifetimes of a human, it is only a blip on the scale for our jewelry.  In natural circumstances, diamonds take an average of 3 billion years to form, so to them the span of eras until their deterioration into graphite probably feels like the blink of an eye!

Diamond: Still Unrivaled

Most people believe that diamond is the hardest material known to man.

What you may not know is that there are a number of materials that surpass it, such as the aggregated nanorods (ACNR) created in 2003 that had a 0.3% higher density than diamond.  ACNR could easily be dismissed as a rival to diamond given its artificial birth in a laboratory, not to mention, with a common name like ‘nanodiamonds’, one could argue that ACNR qualifies as the same raw material as its namesake.  Most people would still consider diamonds to be the hardest material in nature or in the laboratory.

As it turns out, though, that is not as accurate as you might think.   In 2009, two naturally occurring substances—wurtzite boron nitride and lonsdaleite—were found to have chemical bonds denser than those of diamond. They are even harder than the artificially constructed nanorods.  Wurtzite boron nitride surpasses diamond’s hardness by 18%, while lonsdaleite outstrips them all with a whopping 58% greater density.  Lonsdaleite can be rationalized away, given that it’s made of the same atomic base as diamond (carbon), with only its unusual structure to give it that extra kick.  But, wurtzite boron nitride is made of a different substance altogether!

Despite their hardness, it does not look like we’ll be turning to either of those substances for jewelry any time soon. Their superior strength is rivaled by only one thing: their rarity. While they do technically occur in nature, they are only formed under incredibly specific circumstances. Lonsdaleite forms when the earth is hit by meteorites containing graphite, and wurzite boron nitride forms only during an active volcanic eruption.

We think it’s safe to say that diamond will prevail in the jewelry market for a while yet.

 

Silver, the New Gold

Gold and platinum have been around forever as the go-to metals for jewelry. Everyone likes the idea of getting a diamond engagement ring set in these two metals because it shows a certain sign of wealth and stature.

But, due to the fact that gold and platinum are traded commercially in the financial markets, the prices fluctuate up and down when the markets are up and down. Right now, and it has been noted, that the price of gold has soared more so than the other precious metals since 2008 when the financial markets crashed. The markets are still trying to navigate their way to coming back to where they were. It’s a sign of people’s anxiety about the future that even as the Dow set an all-time record today, gold prices remain 100% higher than in 2008.

In the mean time, a girl still has to have her jewelry, right? So this is where silver comes in. Silver is the new gold. You find it everywhere, from engagement rings to beautiful tennis necklaces. Bracelets with semi -precious stones and colored cubic zirconia are all the rage now. If you think diamonds come in every color, you should see the colors they have in cubic zirconia!! And, some silver jewelry comes rhodium plated so it stays shiny all of the time. No tarnishing. That’s incredible!!

Do you know what’s even better? You can buy gold-plated silver now, too, so if you like the look of yellow gold, but can’t afford it, you can have gold-plated silver and no one knows but you. So, if you are thinking of buying someone a gift, or if you just want to treat yourself, silver is the way to go.