Is Diamond a Compound, Element, or Mixture?


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The carbon atoms in diamond form a repetitive 3-D tetrahedral structure that connects each atom to four atoms. This structure makes diamond stronger than mixtures because a mixture does not have a strong chemical bond. Therefore, you can distill or filter a mixture.

Diamond is an element. It is not a compound as compounds contain several elements. Additionally, diamond is not a mixture since a mixture is either a solution or a mix of various elements in unequal ratios. For example, bronze is a mixture of copper and tin.

In the rest of this article, we will compare elements with compounds, and explain the main differences between diamond and other elements made of carbon. We will also discuss the properties of diamond, why diamonds are popular in jewelry making, and the grading system of diamonds.

What Are the Properties of Diamond?

Each carbon atom has 6 protons and 6, 7 or 8 neutrons. Protons are the number of subatomic particles in atoms and they differ from neutrons because protons have an electric charge and a lesser mass.

When classified by the sum of protons and neutrons, also called isotopes, a carbon atom can be carbon-12, carbon-13 or carbon-14. This total number of isotopes is also the mass number of a carbon atom.

The atoms of elements made of carbon have different structural units. This unique characteristic is called allotropes. For instance, the atoms in graphite, which is also an element made of carbon, have a hexagon structure while the atoms in diamond have a four-attachments 3-D structure. Hence, graphite breaks easily because the three bonds in its atoms make it weak and soft. 

Due to the difference in allotropes, diamond has a density of 0.020 lb/in (3.515 g/cm3) while graphite’s density is 0.012 lb/in (2.267 g/cm3).The tetrahedral units of diamond make it:

  • Hard
  • Resistant to chemical processes
  • A poor conductor because it has no free electrons or ions
  • A good conductor of heat and sound

In the following video, Dr. Stan Fowler breaks down the differences between graphite and diamond:

The carbon cycle influences the formation of diamonds in the Earth’s surface. The molecules of species must dissolve to form carbon. In this process, diamond gathers small traces of other atoms, such as nitrogen. Hence, there are 4 types of diamonds, all classified by the impurities in them. Type 1a has a nitrogen composition of about 0.03% while Type IIa and Type IIb have almost no traces of nitrogen.

What Are the Differences Between Elements and Compounds?

An element is a substance composed of one atom, but several elements constitute a compound. The elements in compounds have definite ratios, which enables each of these proportions to be expressed in a chemical formula. For example, there are specified ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in water that give water the chemical formula H2O. Other differences between elements and compounds are

The Total Number of Elements and Compounds

The American Institute of Physics says there are 118 elements. The Earth produces 94 of these elements while the rest are created from radioactivity. On the contrary, compounds are limitless.

The Representation

A chemical symbol represents an element while a chemical formula represents a compound. For example, the chemical formula of nitrogen is N2 whereas diamond’s chemical symbol is C.

The Behavior of the Elements in a Compound

The elements in a compound vary in different settings and temperatures. For example, at room temperature, hydrogen and oxygen are in gaseous form. On the other hand, under the same circumstances, water is in liquid form.

I found this simple assessment quiz that differentiates elements, compounds and mixtures.  

FuseSchool also has a 5-minute video about the differences between compounds, elements and mixtures:

What Are the Main Uses of Diamond?

This element is preferred when making jewelry because of its beauty and its hardness. It is such an important element that the industry created a diamond grading system known as the 4Cs:

  • Cut – There are different diamond cuts. The most popular cuts are round, emerald, princess, heart, and oval. A diamond derives its sparkle from the quality of its cut. Diamonds with a larger diameter have a larger crown, which makes them appear larger. These larger diamonds may not have a heavier carat weight.
  • Color – D to F diamonds are colorless, G to J have some color, and K to Z diamonds have noticeable color. The most expensive diamonds have pure color, such as pink, green, and red. Orange diamonds are rarer than all the other colored diamonds, and no producer is offering a regular supply of this color so far. The most common colors are brown and yellow.
  • Clarity – A quality diamond is flawless. Flawless (FL) and Internally Flawless (IF) are on top of the clarity scale and they are rare.
  • Carat – Heavier diamonds are more valuable in the market. 1 carat is equal to 0.007 oz. or 200 milligrams. Some theories imply that traders used carob seeds to measure the weight of diamonds because a carat and a carob have a similar constant weight of 0.007 oz. Consequently, the world derived the word carat from carob.

However, this study found that carob seeds do not have a constant weight of 0.007 oz of a carat. Thus, traders may have preferred carob seeds because they were readily available and not because they had a constant weight. 

With such information, you’ll understand the product specifications while looking through diamond jewelry, such as this pair of  Round Diamond Stud earrings. They have a carat weight of over 0.5 carats, clarity of 12-13 and H to J color. The customer reviews say the variety of carat weights available make these earrings ideal gift items because you can buy the carat weight you can afford.

Additionally, they are conflict-free diamonds. They were not mined or traded for reasons like funding rebel militia to destabilize governments. This mark of quality is a certification process initiated by countries that produce diamonds in Southern Africa, in 2000. 

In 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) came into effect to certify each gem as proof of the authenticity of its mining process and trade. 82 countries are part of the Kimberley Process, and all member countries must trade with countries that follow the guidelines of the KPCS.

The source of the diamonds also affects its value in the market. For example, more buyers prefer diamonds mined from Canada. They consider these to be conflict-free gems extracted by miners working under considerate conditions, working for diamond producers who adhere to the laws of the trade. Canada is the third largest producer of diamonds in the world. Other producers are Russia, Botswana, South Africa and Angola.

A diamond is also valued because of the institution that graded it. For example, the Gemological Institute of America has graded diamonds since 1931.

Conclusion

Diamond is an element made of carbon and negligible amounts of impurities and elements like nitrogen. As an element, it is resistant to chemical activity. The strong tetrahedral bonds between its atoms make this gem a good conductor of heat and a poor conductor of electricity. The rarer of these gems are pure as they have no traces of nitrogen.

There are a variety of diamond cuts, colors, and weights. The diameter determines the size of the crown. Most diamonds are mined in African countries, but Canada and Russia are among the top five countries mining diamonds.

Jake Alexander

Jake is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania who enjoys writing about science and sports. When he's not writing for Temperature Master, he can be found watching the NFL or playing basketball with his friends.

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