April babies are a lucky group, indeed, with the plessure of claiming diamonds as their birthstones. Marilyn Monroe famously declared these dazzling gems to be a girl's best friend, and, more recently, Rihanna sang about a love that shines so brightly it could only be compared to diamonds. They're the stuff of legends and the epitome of luxury. But mostly, they're a promise of forever.
Diamonds are talkative little things, whispering promises of commitment, shouting "Will you marry me?" and coyly suggesting style and sophistication. Their most obvious statement - "her heart is taken" - comes from a diamond on the third finger of the left hand. But its innate characterstics make it a poignant birthstone as well.
Because they can scratch every other mineral, diamonds are considered the gold standard (or perhaps diamond standard) by which other substances are measured. It scores a perfect ten on the Mohs hardness scale, with all other gemstones falling below diamond by varying degrees. Does this tough-as-nails attitude sound like you, April babies?
A diamond's strength can be traced back to its origins: it starts out as pure carbon, which is compressed for millions of years deep inside the earth. This birthstone, prehaps like its plucky owners, withstands unbelievable pressure and evolves into one of the most valuable objects in the world. The clarity and color of the stone is determined by the purity of the carbon. Even minute traces of other minerals can change the color or cloud a diamond.
Of course, it wasn't until the 20th century that scientists fully understood these effects; before then, a variety of charming myths sought to explain diamonds' many colors. One romantic explanation suggested that the stones took on the color of the sky at the moment they became diamonds. Thus, a diamond formed at dawn might have a trace of gold or orange - or even a rare shimmering pale green - and one created at noon would reflect the pure azure of the noon sky. Those formed under cloudy skies would have a hint of gray or even black, and diamonds that formed under the night sky would be colorless and completely transparent.
Those colorless diamonds are highly prized and, as a rule, the most valuable, but colored diamonds known as "fancies" are some of the most celebrated diamonds in the world. Perhaps the best example is the Hope Diamond, known as much for its curse as its massive size. Unless you've seen it, you may assume this famed stone is colorless, but it's actually such a deep, intense blue that the enormous diamond is nearly opaque. Need a visual? The Hope Diamond served as the model for the Heart of the Ocean necklace worn by Rose in the movie Titanic.
Though the Hope is a one-of-a-kind diamond, it does have a sister stone called the Dresden Diamond. Generally considered to be the only diamond that approaches the Hope for rarity and value, the Dresden was owned by the royal house of Saxony in the 1700s. It weighs 40.70 carats, about five carats less than the Hope Diamond, and is a clear, sparkling apple green. A third famous diamond, the Tiffany Diamond, is a canary diamond with a rich topaz color.
Whether colorless or fancies, diamonds are beloved all over the world, and different cultures have assigned them different characteristics. In India, a diamond is called the King Gem (with the pearl as his Queen) and is believed to aid clear thought and determination. It symbolizes constancy, love, devotion and purity. But tradition says that in order for those qualities to inhabit a stone, it must be pure: colorless and transparent. A flawed diamond, it was believed, was so unlucky it could deprive the gods of their highest heavens.
Today, most people would take a flawed diamond over no diamond at all, but there are still yardsticks by which we judge the value of each stone. The four Cs of diamonds - carat, cut, color and clarity - are well known, but did you know the word "carat" comes from the Arabic word for carob seeds? This modern measure of diamond weight evolved from the ancient measure of diamonds, which were carob seeds. These seeds, which were put on the opposite side of the scale as a diamond, were a remarkably precise instrument of measurement. Even today's electronically calibrated scales can't detect more than 1/3000ths of an ounce difference in weight between individual carob seeds. Then, as now, one carob seed weighs 1 carat, or 200 milligrams.
Diamonds are arguably the best known and most prestigious of all gemstones. And while they are among the most expensive stones on the market, there are rarer gems that can command a higher price per carat. Still, these precious beauties are esteemed for good reason. Like snowflakes, no two diamonds are alike; each has distinct, delightful qualities that make it an individual. So whether you're considering a diamond for an extraordinary milestone - like its traditional designation as a 60th and 75th anniversary gift - or to honor your April birthday, a diamond is the perfect stone for celebration.
Diamond Buying Guide
Of the four famous Cs associated with diamonds, size gets the most attention. And though size certainly factors into price, there's far more to evaluating a diamond's worth than simply how big it is.
One of the most common misconceptions about the four Cs has to do with carat - specifically, many people believe carat measures visual size, rather than weight. Depending on how the stone is cut, the same carat weight can look markedly bigger or smaller. To get the most bang for your buck, experts recommend "off-size" diamonds for 1 carat or larger diamonds . Prices per carat tend to jump at round weights, so opt for a .95 carat rather than a 1 carat diamond, for example, to save some cash.
When it comes to color, colorless is usually ranked as the "best." Yellow or blue casts to the stone typically will lower its value, but there are exceptions. Naturally colored fancies can fetch high prices, depending on the purity and saturation of the color. As with most other gems, yellow/brown diamonds are the least valuable of the fancies, though champagne diamonds are particularly striking. If you're a fan of the unique, a high-quality champagne diamond can create a stunning, distinctive piece of jewelry at an affordable price.
Diamonds are examined for clarity upside down, and unlike other gems, a diamond's clarity grading is performed at 10x magnification. Even the tiniest flaw or inclusion will reduce the grading (and the price) of a diamond, which means a little careful shopping can result in an excellent price on a stone that looks perfect to the naked eye.
The cut is what determines the brilliance of a stone, which helps explain why it's such an integral part of creating (or subtracting) value. A great cut maximizes sparkle, while a not-so-great cut decreases the amount of light reflecting from the diamond, thereby also decreasing its value. Diamonds are graded from Ideal to Poor, depending on whether the stone is cut with proper proportions. Experts advise buying the best cut you can afford.
Diamonds may be the hardest substance on Earth, but they still require special care to keep them looking their best, as well as to keep them safe.
One of the functions of a proper setting is to prevent the diamond from being struck from a direction that will cleave (break) it, but diamonds are vulnerable to damage if they are hit along one of their cleavage lines. The best defense is to exercise some common sense. Remove diamond jewelry before engaging in activities where your diamond might be struck or bang against things.
Because chemicals can damage your jewelry, put your rings, earrings and necklaces on AFTER applying hair spray, perfume and makeup. Avoid chlorine bleach, which can pit and damage gems.
Wear gloves when doing dishes or remove your rings entirely. Diamonds have a particular affinity for grease and oil, and they will literally attract any grease in dishwater.
When not being worn, your diamond jewelry should be stored in a soft pouch in a jewelry box. Keep in mind that diamonds can scratch and damage other gems and metals, so wrapping your diamonds in soft cloth is as much for the protection of other jewelry as it is to protect the diamond from damage.
Dirt, dust and body oils that collect behind the diamond can dull its sparkle. Regular cleaning to remove surface oils and dust will help keep your diamond looking its best. You can use most commercial jewelry cleaners with diamond jewelry, but it's not necessary. A soak in warm water with a little mild dishwashing soap will help loosen dirt and grease so debris can be cleaned away with a soft toothbrush.
At least once a year, have your diamond jewelry examined to be sure that settings and prongs aren't loosening. Many jewelers will also clean your diamonds when you bring them in for an examination.