COLUMN: Look up in the sky!

Diamonds have the highest hardness and thermal conductivity, their name comes from the ancient Greek word ‘adamas’ meaning ‘unbreakable.’

What’s the big attraction of diamonds? Well, they’re dazzlingly beautiful for one thing. Then there’s their relative rarity.  And then there’s the hardness. Diamonds have the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Their very name comes from the ancient Greek word ‘adamas’ meaning ‘unbreakable’.

Amazing how the human head can be turned by a miniscule chunk of glorified coal. That’s all a diamond is — a lump of coal that’s been to college. A ‘metastable allotrope of carbon’, if you want to get fancy. A diamond is only a few electrons from the carbon that makes a lump of coal or the graphite in your pencil, but that’s like saying a carafe of cider vinegar and a bottle of Chateau Lafitte 1987 are kissing cousins. It’s true, but it’s misleading.

Besides, it takes a lot longer to make a diamond than wine — about two billion years longer. Diamonds are like geological tarts baked under great heat and pressure for millennia near the Earth’s core. It’s only thanks to subterranean  eruptions and magma upheavals that diamonds ever get close to the Earth’s surface.

Yet Mother Earth has spewed up some beauties — like the Cullinan diamond. In 1905 a South African mine inspector making the rounds spotted a wink of light on the wall of a mineshaft. It was so bright he figured it was a piece of glass put there by a practical joker. Using his pen knife he winkled out the largest gem quality diamond ever found, more than half a kilo and the size of a football.

Nothing like the Cullinan has been dug up in Canada, but we’re doing alright. Canada is the third-largest diamond producer in the world. It doesn’t get a lot of news because all the action is in the far north, where diamond mines have been pumping billions of dollars into the economy for the last 25 years.

Humans are nuts about diamonds.  Indian rajahs were giving them to their sweeties centuries ago. Napoleon wooed Josephine with a diamond necklace. Richard Burton dropped a rock on Liz Taylor, bragging “this diamond has so many carats it’s practically a turnip.” It was pretty big alright, more than 64 carats, but it was no Cullinan.

And the Cullinan, come to that, is no PSR J1719-1948. That is the astonishingly unsexy name of the most humongous diamond ever. Big? It makes the Cullinan look like a sesame seed, or a fleck of dandruff… a gas molecule! PSR J1719-1948 is five times the size of planet Earth.

Unfortunately for would-be exploiters the diamond planet resides far away in the Serpens Claudia constellation. A planet that is One. Pure. Diamond.

Now there’s a diamond in the sky for Lucy, or Marilyn. She purred it best: “A kiss on the cheek might be quite continental, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

— Arthur Black lives on Saltspring Island. His column appears every Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: arblack43@shaw.ca.

Just Posted

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Map of the site of a proposed 60-unit building project in French Creek. (RDN map)
Legal counsel wants board to award development permit for French Creek project

Issue is on agenda for RDN board meeting on June 22

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Society has outgrown its home at the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and will soon move to its new operations hall at the Qualicum Beach Airport. (PQB News file photo)
Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read