What Are Diamonds Used For?

Kate Miller-Wilson
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While diamonds are famous for their incredible beauty, they are also incredibly useful. From mining for oil and gas to crafting precision surgical instruments, these precious gems are essential for a variety of practical applications.

Diamonds in Jewelry

Most people are familiar with diamonds in jewelry. The spectacular sparkle of these gems makes them a popular centerpiece for many designs, and they represent a major economic force. According to Bain & Company, diamond sales in the jewelry market accounted for more than $72 billion in revenue in 2012.

A diamond is a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding rings that use gemstones, and this spectacular gem enhances other types of jewelry as well. The stone's crystalline structure allows it to be cut into a number of diamond shapes to match different style preferences, and the high optical dispersion makes it beautiful when used with any type of metal, including silver, gold, platinum, tungsten, titanium, and more.

According to the World Diamond Council, about 30% of the diamonds mined from the earth are gem-grade. The remaining 70% are used for other purposes.

Diamonds in Industry

Aside from jewelry, diamonds also have a wide variety of industrial uses. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), diamonds are the hardest material on the planet. They also conduct heat extremely well.

Although both natural diamonds and their synthetic counterparts have important roles in industry, the USGS reports that the majority of industrial diamonds are synthetic. This is because lab-created diamonds have the same properties as natural gems but are much less costly to obtain. In fact, natural gems that do not meet jewelry grads account for only 10% of the diamonds used in industry. Some of these natural gems are in the form of "bort," small pieces of diamonds and diamond dust.

According to the USGS, diamonds and diamond bort are essential to a number of industries.

Automotive Industry

Diamonds are an important material in the production of vehicles. In fact, the USGS reports that every car that rolls of United States assembly lines represents the consumption of 1.5 carats of industrial-grade diamond. From the diamond saws and drill bits that cut and finish the body and engine components to the diamond-coated grinding wheels that bevel and polish the glass in car windows, this gem is an integral part of the automotive industry.

Stone Cutting and Polishing

stone polishing

Since diamonds are harder than any other gem, they are the ideal choice for cutting and polishing other stones. According to the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, diamonds are a 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This means they are four times harder than the next hardest material, corundum, the mineral that makes up sapphires and rubies. Lapidary artists use diamond-coated tools to cut other gems and rocks; they also use diamond-coated polishing wheels to bring out the shine in these materials. Stone specialists use diamond tools to create everything from granite countertops to headstones.

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Highway Repair and Construction

The USGS says that the highway construction industry is the biggest consumer of industrial diamond products. Workers use diamond-coated equipment to cut and groove highway pavement. Companies like Diamond Products offer a variety of equipment for construction, including diamond saws, diamond blades, and diamond-coated abrasive wheels.

Oil and Gas Exploration

oil rig drill bit

The oil and gas industry is another major consumer of industrial diamonds, according to the USGS. Diamond drill bits allow oil and gas companies to drill through hard materials. In fact, according to Planet Seed, diamond bits have been a major component of the mining industry since 1910. Synthetic diamonds will work for many applications, but for the most difficult situations, only natural diamond drill bits will get the job done.

High Tech Equipment

Diamonds also play an important role in many high tech products. From providing coatings for semiconductors to polishing optical equipment, diamonds and diamond dust make many delicate parts for technical products. Precision diamond saws also cut ultra-thin layers of metal and crystal for use in electronic products, and diamond slurries help polish lenses for lasers.

More Uses for Industrial Diamonds

There are hundreds of applications for industrial diamonds, including:

  • Diamond-polished and diamond-tipped surgical tools
  • Precision engraving tools coated with diamond dust
  • Diamond-polished ceramic components for the aerospace industry
  • Diamond-coated tools to cut and shape the linings for furnaces
  • Dies coated in diamond for making wire

Emerging Uses for Diamonds

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, there are a number of new and emerging uses for diamonds. In the future, these uses may have practical applications in the medical and high tech industries, as well as many other areas of the economy.

  • Researchers are experimenting with diamond solar panels that may be more efficient than current options.
  • Scientists are working with diamonds to create lasers that will be more powerful and produce a greater range of color than current lasers.
  • Some researchers theorize that diamonds may present a blueprint for secure communications systems.
  • Medical researchers are testing diamonds as a drug-delivery system to fight cancers of the liver and breast.
  • Scientists are experimenting with diamond electrodes that can be implanted in the retina to help blind people to see.

Practical and Beautiful

From adding sparkle to a gorgeous engagement ring to helping the blind see again, diamonds offer myriad uses to humanity. Next time you look at your diamond jewelry, you'll know that this amazing material is as practical as it is beautiful.

What Are Diamonds Used For?