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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Learning continues in unique ways for SD 69 students

Youngsters find ways to excel while learning at home

PQBeat Podcast: Pro hockey goalie Connor LaCouvee of Qualicum Beach

Listen: Netminder talks BCHL, college, pros and training during a pandemic

Petition underway to get RDN to improve Sandpiper water quality

Campaign urges regional district to make issue a priority

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

COVID-19: Some gyms re-open in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Fitness facilities create space to allow appropriate social distancing

Island Health signs working agreement to turn former Comox hospital into a ‘dementia village’

Island Health has signed a project development agreement with Providence Living to… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Most Read