We kick-off a new column today called: The Basics. The aim is to build a comprehensive online resource for the diamond tooling industry. For the first time, we begin documenting and cataloging our 60 years of knowledge and experience to share, educate and inform.

In 1954, Diamond Productions Canada’s reputation as an industry leader was founded on the highest quality diamond, and that still holds true today. We are, first and foremost, in the diamond business. Quality diamonds are the foundation of our tools and of our company, so what better place to begin, but with a look at industrial and synthetic diamonds.

Diamond characteristics

Diamonds are the hardest substance on earth making them extremely resistant to scratching and fracturing. The Mohs scale places diamond at the top of the scale at a 10. Diamond is four times harder than corundum, which is a 9 on the Mohs scale. This quality makes diamond an ideal primary material to cut, grind, shape and polish other hard materials. Diamond tools use both natural industrial diamonds, but more commonly synthetic diamonds.

What are industrial diamonds?

Industrial diamonds are mined natural stones that are not suitable for use as gemstones. Industrial diamonds lack clarity, are often colored and imperfect in shape compared to their gemstone counterparts. According to Wikipedia, over 90% of mined diamonds are industrial grade.

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Aikhal diamond mine Russia

Natural industrial diamonds carry a very high price tag. They also carry a high environmental and social impact. To produce one carat of diamond, 250 tones of earth need to be mined. The negative social impacts of the diamond trade resulted in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme established in 2003 to regulate the diamond trade and to minimize these social impacts. A Kimberly Certificate attesting to their origin accompanies all of our natural diamonds. We exclusively use these diamonds for high-precision applications where synthetic diamonds are not suitable or available.

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1-carat natural diamond custom dresser

What are synthetic diamonds?

Synthetic diamonds are manufactured diamonds. In the early 1950’s, a chemist named H. Tracey Hall was the first to successfully synthesize diamond in laboratory conditions. Though General Electric is often given credit for the achievement, this article from the LA Times highlights Hall’s personal pursuit and determination that ultimately “kicked off a multi-billion dollar industry”. Nearly 90% of synthetic diamonds are used for cutting, grinding, shaping and polishing.

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H. Tracey Hall 

A common misconception of synthetic diamonds is that they are of lesser quality and not as strong as natural industrial diamonds, but this is in fact not the case. Synthetic diamonds embody the same characteristics as natural stones, but with a few notable advantages for the tooling industry.

Unlike natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds are more easily sorted and graded. The result is more control on the shape and hardness of the diamond for each specific application. Diamond grit used for cutting blades is not the same as the diamond used for grinding and polishing. We will use harder diamonds for cutting blades and more friable diamonds for grinding.

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40/50 synthetic diamond grit

Diamond quality is the primary component to a high-quality tool. The bond that holds the diamond in place is the second most important factor in producing long-lasting, reliable tools. We discuss bond types in the next segment of this series.