Raw Diamond: What Makes it Special and is it Ethical?

Have you seen a raw diamond?

People have worn polished diamonds for years; their brilliant sparkles and quality cuts have traditionally been symbols of love, beauty and power. But diamonds are more than just a fashion statement or an accessory for men and women. Fields like physics, optics, communication and electronics use diamond as a material for various applications.

But what is a raw diamond and is it the ethical choice to polished gems?

What’s a Raw Diamond?

A raw diamond or a rough diamond is an uncut diamond that has not been shaped or polished in any way. They are natural diamonds that take between 1 billion to 4 billion years to form. But unlike the natural diamonds that people commonly see brilliantly glittering in shops, raw diamonds retain their unpolished forms.

As these stones are in their most natural form, they usually appear cloudy and a bit duller than the traditional cut and polished white diamonds you’ll see in jewelry stores.

What Makes Raw Diamonds Special?

Rough or raw diamonds are exceptional because of their natural and unique characteristics. Raw diamonds are not polished and they are not entirely shaped. These diamonds possess a lot of imperfections. These imperfections are what make raw diamonds so special.

A flaw, when it comes to raw diamonds, means the shape of the rough and how it would be easier to manipulate and cut to fit particular jewelry or purpose. In the jewelry industry, the fewer natural flaws are, the more a diamond is worth.

However, when it comes to industrial purposes, rough diamonds can be used in a variety of ways other than adornment.

Not only are diamonds the hardest material on earth, but they’re also resistant to chemicals and they’re excellent heat conductors, this explains why a number of manufacturing industries use 80 percent of the world’s diamonds.

Raw diamonds used for industrial purposes are known as industrial diamonds.

Industrial Uses of Rough or Raw Diamonds

different diamond pieces
Photo by Edgar Soto on Unsplash

1. Drilling

Rough diamonds are the hardest substance known to man. It’s this factor that makes it an excellent drilling tool or cutting saw that can be used in the mining and petroleum industries.

2. Cutting

Manufacturers use diamonds as cutting tools, inserting diamonds into cutting blades to improve the cutting capability of their machines.

The highway repair and construction industry are one of the biggest consumers of raw diamonds. Diamonds are used to coat equipment to cut highway pavement. Other equipment that tends to use diamonds are a saw, blades and abrasive wheels.

3. Research and Technology

Diamonds handle heat very well which makes them useful as coatings for semiconductors. Some laboratories use them to absorb or conduct excess heat away from sensitive parts.

4. Grinding and Polishing

Industrial diamonds are also used for polishing a number of materials. For example, in the aerospace industry where aircraft components use high-grade steels and specialty alloys, diamonds are used to grind and polish these materials as they’re highly efficient when used with these high-density materials.

In general, raw diamonds are considered more valuable than lab-made diamonds. Raw diamonds are also considered more valuable because they are rarer than polished diamonds. A polished diamond is more common and can be manufactured by man in the form of lab-grown diamonds.

Raw diamonds are special in part is because they instantly give the impression that they’re formed naturally on earth. Whereas laboratory diamonds are less rare and more readily available for consumers.

What Does a Raw Diamond Look Like?

Raw diamonds are stones that have not been processed into any specific shape or size by a professional diamond cutter. Though it’s been cut in some ways, it hasn’t been polished; don’t expect them to shine. Instead, some raw diamonds could look like a lump of pale-colored glass.

Once raw diamonds are mined, most of them have a yellowish or brown tint and that depends on how pure the stone is. There are many types of tints, from light to strong.

Sometimes these uncut diamonds are put in different grades. This way, they are separated based on the quality of tints and values go up or down according to where the stones fall in the grading chart. But how does one know one color from another? The best way is to compare diamonds with other ones that come from different parts of the world.

What’s the Difference Between Natural Diamond and Lab-Grown Diamonds?

To the naked eye, they present no difference at all; you won’t be able to tell them apart just by looking at them.

In most cases, laboratory diamond testing equipment can automatically determine whether or not a stone is truly a natural diamond or not. However, for some stones, further testing must be performed by a diamond grading lab in order to determine their chemical makeup.

A tip if you’re out shopping for any form of natural diamonds is to only buy those that have a grading report from an established organization or laboratory such as the GIA or the Gemological Institute of America. This way, you can confirm their authenticity and origin.

What are Ethical Diamonds?

Ethical diamonds are diamonds that come from sustainable and ethical mining practices. These practices extend to the safe treatment of miners, humanitarian efforts, and eco-friendly practices.

Ethical diamonds became the more preferred diamonds when conflict diamonds caught the attention of the world. Conflict diamonds are diamonds mined from war zones, which often involve forced labor, with the profits used to fund rebel movements.

Then there’s the environmental impact of diamond mining. Diamond mining has wrecked the environment because of inadequate regulation and planning.

Irresponsible diamond mining has led to deforestation, soil erosion and the relocation of local populations. In more severe cases, mining diamonds have caused entire ecosystems to collapse and wildlife to vanish because of the careless exploitation of rivers, streams and other natural resources.

From the building process of the mines to mining operations, up until the point where the diamond mine is exhausted, the poor regulations have put in place a destructive system that leaves pollution, a land unsuitable to sustain life, and an ecosystem that’s unable to restore itself.

Some negative impacts of mining natural diamonds:

  • Carbon footprint

Diamond mining relies heavily on fossil fuels to operate machinery which causes carcinogenic radiation and emits substances that harm the ozone layer.

  • Poor air quality

Open-pit mines create dust particles that contribute to ground-level ozone, which is a gas pollutant that can cause lung problems, throat pain and asthma. Emissions from industrial facilities, gas vapor, motor vehicle exhaust can also damage crops, vegetation growth and trees.

  • Land waste

The chemicals emitted by machines or used during mining tend to contaminate the mining area. Other forms of land are also affected because of mine excavations.

  • Water contamination

Aside from the pollution in the air and the emission of destructive chemicals, diamond mining companies insert large amounts of ammonia under water beds to extract minerals. These toxic chemicals contaminate the surrounding bodies of water and also pollute the air.

  • Industrial waste  and heavy metals in the soil

When an open-pit mine shits down, it becomes a landfill. Unethical mining practices will result in soil degradation and components like heavy metal in the soil would make it unsafe for living creatures, like burrowing animals, to survive.

  • Loss of water and land-based habitat for wildlife and endemic species

Aside from increased production of greenhouse gasses, emission of deadly chemicals that weaken the upper ozone, and the wasteland that results from an exhausted diamond mine, there are the negative effects of processing kimberlite rocks.

Kimberlite rocks are igneous rocks that sometimes serve as a natural carrier of diamonds.

When kimberlite gets processed, chemicals that are dangerous to the environment are used to extract the diamond. These chemicals are dangerous to all creatures, from humans to something as small as water fleas. When these small crustaceans die out, this will have a negative impact on the whole Arctic ecosystem, endangering endemic species like the polar bear.

Are Raw Diamonds Ethical Diamonds?

Photo by Tahlia Doyle on Unsplash

Not all raw diamonds are ethical diamonds because like all-natural diamonds, they can be mined from anywhere in the world. This means that you have to make sure that the diamond is ethically sourced and check to see if the raw diamond supplier strictly adheres to the Kimberly Process.

The Kimberly process ensures that the diamonds sold are from mines that implement ethical diamond mining and trading around the world.

Compared to natural diamonds that have undergone the polishing process, raw diamonds are more eco-friendly as they require less polishing. Also, fewer chemicals are applied to rid the gem of its impurities.

Laboratory Diamonds are More Eco-Friendly

The most ethical diamonds are lab-grown diamonds, especially if the diamond maker uses renewable energy.

Lab-grown diamonds are similar to mined diamonds in both invincibility and chemical properties. The only difference is that they are grown in a lab and not mined from the earth. This is possible through technology that mimics the conditions needed to grow diamonds on earth.

One way to grow a diamond is through Chemical Vapor Deposition or CVD. The process involved putting a seed or a flat portion of another diamond in a sealed chamber with carbon-rich gas and heating it to around  1472F. Leaving the seed under these conditions, the gasses begin to attach to the seed, eventually forming a diamond carbon.

You’ll find that lab-grown diamonds are not just sustainable, but they’re also conflict-free because they are guaranteed to be only produced in laboratories.

Are Raw Diamonds Worth More?

Some raw diamonds are less expensive than polished ones. This is because they have not gone through the intensive process of cutting and polishing. They could be turned into the traditional polished, clear and brilliant diamond rings people are familiar with, but the beauty of a raw diamond lies in its natural and unpolished state.

How to Identify Raw Diamonds

You can’t test it by scratching the glass. Glass is below 6 on the Moh’s Hardness scale and there is a list of minerals that look like diamond and can scratch glass, too.

Here are some tests that you could do to tell if what you have is a raw diamond.

Gravity Test

The majority of diamonds range in density from 3.5 to 3.53 g/ml. The stone’s density is the ratio of the mass an object has to a given volume that has been removed or displaced. When testing for a real diamond, however, make sure not to confuse it with quartz that generally tends to have densities lower than 2.6 g/ml


  • Get a clear drinking glass and fill it with water
  • Drop the stone into the glass
  • The stone is a genuine raw diamond if it sinks. It’s fake if it floats.

Thermal Absorption

You can tell if a diamond is real by thermal testing. Among all gems, diamonds are noted for having the best thermal conductivity.

A gemologist may use a thermal latency tester to determine an approximate value of the stone. You can even buy your own diamond thermal tester from Amazon and check the diamond yourself.

You can determine how authentic the gem is by observing its behavior when put under extreme temperatures. Diamonds are known to remain unchanged at incredibly high temperatures.

Laboratory Testing

If you need to be sure whether a diamond is lab-grown or natural, then you can send it to a specialized gem laboratory to be tested.

There are sophisticated machines developed by DeBeers and GIA that will help analyze specific characteristics of the stone that can only be observed when exposed to these machines. For example, particular types of UV radiation (non-harmful to humans) can incite outputs such as wavelengths unique to lab-grown diamonds.

An expert gemologist can also identify growth lines that will help determine if the diamond is natural or lab-grown.

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