Uses of diamonds
People have always been attracted to beautiful, rare objects. Diamonds have been treasured as gemstones since ancient times, admired for their beauty, and people still think of diamonds as the ultimate luxury in jewellery. However, diamonds are valued for far more than their captivating beauty. Their unique physical properties make them prized above all other gems.
We are all familiar with De Beers’ famous slogan: “A diamond is forever”, first used in 1947, and the beauty of a diamond set in an engagement ring, earrings and other fine jewellery. Diamonds have an entrenched association with the bridal sector and are the traditional stone in engagement and wedding rings, representing eternal love and commitment.
The superior strength and unique properties of diamonds make them suitable for a wide range of industrial uses. Most diamonds mined lack the quality necessary to become gemstones and 80% of all rough diamonds go towards industrial uses.
Traditionally, because diamonds are so hard (scoring a 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale)* and durable, their use has centred on cutting, drilling and polishing, and they are especially popular in the mining industry and in the military. Very small diamond particles are embedded into saw blades, drill bits and grinding wheels to increase their ability to cut tough materials. Diamond powder, made into a diamond paste, is used for polishing or for very fine grinding.
Diamonds are also used to cut and polish other diamonds for jewellery.
Diamonds are an integral part of the automotive industry and are used in the production of vehicles. Diamond saws and drill bits cut and finish car body and engine components and diamond-coated grinding wheels bevel and polish the glass in windows.
Diamond membranes are very durable, resistant to heat and abrasion and are transparent. Diamond windows are made from very thin diamond membranes and used to cover openings in lasers, vacuum chambers and x-ray machines.
Diamonds have potential health benefits. Medical research indicates that nanodiamonds – tiny diamond particles – may be an indicator of the effectiveness of cancer medication once administered to patients allowing doctors to monitor the progression of the cells.
Researchers are also looking into using diamonds to help the visually impaired, and testing diamonds as a potential material for bionic eyes and eye implants.
Many dental tools include diamond tips to help dentists drill with maximum efficiency and without worrying about breaking instruments.
Diamonds are used to engrave hard stone like granite and quartz because diamonds will not break or even scratch.
Industrial-grade diamonds are believed to enhance the performance of high-quality speakers, improving sound quality. Diamond is a very stiff material, and thin diamond domes can vibrate rapidly without deforming and lessening the sound quality. Diamonds are also used in record player needles and DJ equipment.
Some beauty companies offer expensive diamond-based beauty products including diamond-flecked spray, exfoliators and blurring agents which, allegedly, reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Diamonds are resistant to heat and can heat up and cool down without having a major impact on performance and conduct heat extremely well. Diamonds are, therefore, used as a material for heat sinks. A heat sink is an electronic device that incorporates either a fan or a peltier device to keep a hot component such as a processor cool.
Through continuous research, scientists are finding other, more sophisticated uses for nanodiamonds in high-tech applications, including super lasers, surgical tools, medical devices and next generation computing (spintronics).