1902 Encyclopedia > Diamond > The Origin of Diamonds

(Part 5)

The Origin of Diamonds

There has been much speculation regarding the mode of origin of these gems, but hitherto leading to no certain result. Newton conjectured that the diamond was "an unctuous substance coagulated;" Jameson thought it might be a secretion from some ancient tree, like amber; and Brewster also traced it to a vegetable source. Lavoisier, Guyton-Morveau, and others observed black specks when diamonds were burned, which were considered as uncrystallized carbon. Petzhold, in 1842, also supported this view, affirming that he had found vegetable cells in the ashes of diamonds. Goeppert, in his Haarlem Prize Essay, in 1863, supported the same view, both from supposed plant tissues and from other inclusures in diamonds but admitted that the evidence was not free form doubts. Liebig and others have explained its origin by a slow process of decomposition in a fluid rich in carbon and hydrogen. On the other hand, the occurrence of the diamond in the itacolumite or mica slate, and more recently in or near igneous rocks, as at the Cape, has tended to favour the view that it owes its origin to heat or metamorphic action, as is the case with graphite. But this, as graphite also shows, does not preclude the idea that originally it may have been, like amber, some peculiar vegetable product, subsequently altered and crystallized. It may here also be mentioned that all attempts to produce diamonds artificially have hitherto failed.

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