Do you believe the story that tells you that diamonds last forever? Or do you think that they could disappear after some time? We’d say it’s time to dig a little deeper and get to the bottom of this issue.
The good news is your diamond will not disappear completely, but there is a slight possibility that part of it might “vanish,” so to speak. Why? Well, because of oxidation. With that said, do diamonds oxidize?
Yes, they do, but there’s a lot more to say here if you want to understand the structure of a diamond fully. Don’t worry; you won’t have to reopen your chemistry books for this. We’ve covered it all in detail.
Curious for more?
Keep reading because today, we’re going to take on and challenge the well-known theory that diamonds last forever, talk about how do they oxidize and if they degrade over time or not.
What Is Oxidation?
Time to brush up on your chemistry.
According to the definition from your old chemistry book, oxidation is a chemical reaction that involves the disappearance of one or more electrons in a compound.
It doesn’t sound complicated when you put it like this.
Not all compounds are built the same, though. Some compounds lose electrons more easily than others, and this means that they’re easily oxidized. What is even more important to mention here is that this could be a spontaneous or intentional reaction.
Is there anything else one should know about oxidation? Yes, one more thing, and that’s it.
Oxidation is like a sword with two blades. What we’re trying to say is that it can be beneficial – but it can also cause tremendous damage to the compound that is losing electrons.
Is oxidation always connected to oxygen? No, but most people assume it is. Let’s clear that up quickly.
Oxidation does not necessarily have to be associated with oxygen. The only reason it bears this name is that this element was originally known as an oxidative element.
Okay, if we’re done with a short chemistry recap, we can move on to the real issue at hand.
Diamond Oxidation – Explained
To answer the question of how diamonds oxidize, we should know at least the basics about this precious stone’s structure. Let’s go over it once again:
The structure of a diamond consists of tetrahedrally arranged atoms. In simple words, that means that each carbon atom is in a direct connection with the other four atoms, consisting of four valence electrons. Remember, there are no free electrons here.
And that’s all thanks to the element we know as carbon.
Your diamond will act as usual at normal room temperature – no change in the state or the structure. However, as the temperature rises, your diamond will start to change.
Finally, the answer to the question: At room temperatures above 760° Celsius, your diamond is not in its normal state anymore.
Since diamonds are made up of carbon atoms, this element is going to react with oxygen – and the result of this reaction is vapor. Now, the vapor could take on the form of:
- Carbon monoxide
- Carbon dioxide
And once that occurs, it means that your diamond is oxidizing.
Carbon monoxide is a reaction involving one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. It’s colorful, and it doesn’t have a smell. However, it’s entirely artificial. Carbon monoxide gas doesn’t last long, and it’s common in heaters, cooking, and carbon-based fuel.
Carbon dioxide is pretty similar – except here, there’s not one but two oxygen atoms. Unlike carbon monoxide, this composition is present in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Both of these are gases, that is, the result of oxidation.
Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Oxidize As Well?
In short, yes. There is very little difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds, but one thing is sure – these diamonds oxidize as well.
You can do your best, but you will hardly be able to see the difference between these two diamonds with the naked eye. If you really want to, you should visit a professional jeweler.
Chemically, visually, and thermally – they are the same, and they behave the same. The only thing that differs is that natural diamonds were taken out of the ground.
This piece of information is enough for you to be sure that lab-created diamonds oxidize.
While we’re at it, do lab-grown diamonds have an advantage over natural ones?
One of the most common advantages here is the price. Lab-grown diamonds can be up to 40% lower in price, which is helpful to many potential buyers. Also, since they are made in the laboratory, they are more resistant to damage than mined ones in many situations.
Do Real Diamonds Fog Up?
That’s a red flag right there.
If you’ve been skeptical about the authenticity of your diamond ring, for example, there’s an easy way to check whether it’s real or fake:
You can just take your diamond close to your mouth, breathe on it a few times, and that’s it. If the fog doesn’t start to disappear, and it’s been a couple of minutes, you have a reason to be worried.
With fake diamonds, the condensation will start to build up, and every time you breathe on it, it will fog up more. That’s more than enough to know that you have a fake diamond; it’s likely just a lousy glass copy.
Can Diamonds Burn? Carbon + Oxygen
The mix of carbon and oxygen doesn’t just mean that your diamond won’t last forever; it also suggests that diamonds are flammable. Is that really true? Can your diamonds burn?
Yes. However, if you want to burn a diamond – not that you should, though – you need to get the room temperature as high as 840º Celsius.
Here’s what’s going to happen:
First, as the temperature rises, your gem will heat up and begin to show a bright blue flame. Next, the crystals will shrink more and more until they disappear entirely. The result of that will not be the usual flame, but as we said – carbon monoxide or dioxide.
It doesn’t happen every day, and burning diamonds should not be on anyone’s to-do list. In most cases, house fires are the most common reason that diamonds “disappear.”
Because of this, you need to be very careful with your valuables. The best way to save your diamonds is to store them in a safe place – or to buy insurance against house fires.
Although house fires are the most common scenario in which diamonds burn, this will not stop your diamond from degrading over time. Degrading will surely not happen in the first few years – but bear in mind that the theory you once believed about gems being forever is not true.
Learn More: What Will Happen If You Burn A Diamond?
The Fire Test: Is It Reliable?
There is one additional test, and it involves using a lighter. But just so you know – you won’t be setting anything on fire today. What you need for this test is a cigarette lighter and a glass filled with cold water.
Here’s how to check if your diamond is real:
- Take your lighter and light up the diamond for about 15-20 seconds, not more. Don’t use the biggest flame, though.
- After you’re done warming it up, drop it into the cold water right away.
- A real diamond will remain untouched, while the fake one will start to fall apart, and there will be evident scratches on the surface.
Caution: This test is not 100% reliable, and it can be dangerous for children. If you want to be entirely sure, we recommend heading down to the jewelry store instead.
Diamonds Don’t Last Forever, After All
You’ve heard about how diamonds are the perfect jewelry and how they can last forever. Nice phrase – but let’s focus on the truth here.
We hate to burst your bubble, but:
The well-known “A Diamond Is Forever” theory is just a cleverly designed advertisement to sell as many diamond jewelry pieces as possible.
Conclusion: Diamonds are not forever. They degrade over time, which doesn’t have to do with any external material or reaction; it can occur entirely naturally.
The reason behind the degradation is the rearrangement of carbon atoms. There’s no exact limit to how long your diamond will last, but this degradation will happen much faster if it is under high temperatures.
Check Out Also: Do Diamonds Decay? Do Diamonds Decompose?
How To Care For My Diamonds?
You might have been worried when you read that diamonds don’t last forever – and now you want to see what you can do to make them last longer and look better.
There are a couple of ways in which you can do this. Here’s a quick guide on how to take care of your diamonds and preserve their sparkle:
The first thing you should include in your to-do list is regular checkups. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you should take your diamond to the jeweler every other week.
Getting your diamond checked out twice a year is perfectly fine. That’s a decent period to check the quality of your gemstone. But of course, if you notice that something’s wrong, you should take it earlier.
Don’t leave anything to chance, especially when it comes to your valuables.
Next, we have the cleaning. We hope you haven’t forgotten about this – and that you clean your jewelry regularly.
When it comes to diamonds, it is recommended that you clean all your diamond jewelry (rings, necklaces, earrings) about four times a year.
Here’s how you should do that:
- Fill a bowl with lukewarm water. Pour a few drops of detergent and stir the water with your fingers. Let it sit for a few seconds, and then throw your jewelry into the bowl.
- It is recommended that the jewelry should not be in the water for more than 10 minutes.
- After you take out your jewelry, take some smaller brushes and gently brush your diamonds for a couple of minutes.
- Rinse the diamonds with clean lukewarm water, and then dry them. You can use a cloth or hairdryer. If you use a hairdryer, be careful not to burn yourself.
Never leave your diamonds to dry on their own, as water stains may appear on them. Also, never use bleach or other harsh chemicals.
If you are washing your jewelry over the sink – which is not recommended – don’t forget to plug the drain. You can’t imagine the number of earrings and rings lost this way.
Something that will help your diamond jewelry last longer is storing it properly. That means keeping them in a safe – away from moisture and rust.
Ideally, you should have a separate small closet where you can store your diamond jewelry. Of course, you should also clean the place where you keep your valuables – because dust accumulates quickly.
A fireproof lockbox is the best option if you ask us.
Read Also: Can Diamonds Withstand A Nuke?
That would be it. We’ve covered everything there is on diamonds and oxidation. Let’s take a minute to go over some of the most important information we’ve mentioned so far.
Initially, you were reminded of what oxidation is and how it works.
Once again, this is the process in which electrons are lost – and natural diamonds are made up of carbon atoms consisting of four valence electrons. Diamond oxidation occurs through vapor, that is, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Natural diamonds are not the only ones that oxidize, though. Lab-grown gems can oxidize, too. These two diamonds are chemically, thermally, and visually the same. Some people even argue that lab-grown diamonds carry advantages in matters of resistance and price.
If a diamond can oxidize, it can also burn, which happens when your diamond is exposed to very high temperatures. It will not go up in flames as you may have imagined but will slowly begin to disappear.
That automatically disproves the theory that diamonds last forever. They don’t, but there are ways in which you can preserve them. Some obvious measures include regular cleaning and changing or polishing the setting.