By Eileen Eichhorn
Diamonds are the hardest substance known to man. They are also uniquely resistant to heat and scratching. Yet a surprising fact to some is that diamonds are not indestructible.
Diamonds can chip or crack, if subjected to a sharp blow or knock. Diamonds are even more prone to chip/cracks at the girdle. Every major jeweler speaks about diamonds chipping or cracking, as it unfortunately does occur. It is distressing to chip or crack your diamond, so always do your due diligence by not wearing your diamond(s) when performing active work or play. Making sure your ring is properly fit to your finger is paramount to avoiding damage exposure. If your ring turns on your finger, especially upside down, the diamond is much more prone to chipping.
It is always recommended to have your precious gems insured. After all, this is exactly what insurance is for! Most homeowners and renters have insurance riders that cover jewelry. They will replace the diamond and/or have the original diamond recut. Again, we highly recommend that you contact your insurance company to protect your diamond(s).
The Gemological Institute of America explains, “Toughness: Any stone, including a diamond, will break if it’s hit hard enough in the right place. Toughness is a measure of how well a gem can survive an impact and resist breaking, chipping, or cracking.
Diamonds are tougher in the directions where the atoms are bonded tightly together, less tough where they’re not so tightly bonded. Cutting styles with pointed corners or ends are often set with prongs to protect the corners from chipping. The weakest directions are the ones where the atoms are farthest apart. It’s easier to break a diamond in those directions, which are called cleavage directions. A cutter can cleave a diamond by hitting it sharply in the cleavage direction. But even after cutting, a hard blow can still cleave a diamond. This can happen during the setting process, or even when it’s being worn.”
“Resistance to breaking and resistance to scratching are two different things. Wood, for example, is generally very soft and easy to scratch but pretty strong when it comes to breakage. Pine is easy to scratch with your fingernail but buildings made from it can last a lifetime and beyond. Glass is at the other extreme. Under normal circumstances it doesn’t scratch all that easily but it can be terribly fragile. Diamonds fall in between. Although they are nearly impossible to scratch under normal wear, they can chip with just the right impact.”
Most people are naturally concerned with what they can do to minimize their risks, even when they’re insured or under warranty. To some extent, it helps to be just plain lucky but chips generally happen when the edge of the stone is knocked against something hard. Granite countertops, porcelain sinks and other jewelry items with diamonds in them are the most common culprits. When you’re wearing your jewelry be careful about these surfaces and, when you’re not wearing a piece, put it in a soft bag or compartment in your jewelry box to prevent knocking things against one another. Be careful about putting it in your pocket or purse where it can knock against other things. Have it checked periodically by a professional.
“There is no such thing as perfect toughness. Any gem will break if it’s hit hard enough. Diamonds are very tough, but remember that a diamond cutter can cleave a diamond by giving it a sharp blow in the right direction. The same thing can happen if a diamond accidentally receives a severe knock or drops onto a hard surface. Less severe damage, in the form of chipping, can also occur. Some proportion variations (for example, the combination of a shallow crown and thin girdle) make a diamond vulnerable to chipping. Fancy shapes with points – like princess-cuts, pears, hearts and marquises – are also more susceptible to this kind of damage. If the shape is thin or the mounting exposes the point, the risk is heightened.”