Black Diamonds



I had never heard the term carbonado, but I like it.  It sounds cool.   Say it again………….. “Carbonado.”   A carbonado is a black diamond.  Black sapphires are found in a number of places throughout the world, but carbonados are mostly found only in Central Africa and Brazil.  I am not sure if some have been found in India in centuries past.  There seems to be some debate within the scientific community as to how black diamonds are naturally formed.  Most believe they develop like any other diamonds, a carbon substructure under intense heat and pressure for long periods of time.  That probably is a little too simplistic, but good enough for my brain.  However, some geoscientists think they came from outer space.  Sounds like some science fiction movie, but they are quite serious. Because of only two known locations on earth where they are found, these scientists postulate that a huge meteor impacted the earth billions of years ago when a land mass had Brazil and Africa joined.  I think the hypothesis is not unfounded.

            Most carbonados are not very big, only about the size of a pea.  They are diamonds, but they do not sparkle, that is they do not reflect light, but rather absorb light, therefore they are dark.  They are not truly black but dark because of the numerous inclusions within the stone.  They are also more porous than other diamonds and therefore difficult to cut and polish in order to make them shine.  Some famous black diamonds include The Black Star of Africa at 202 carats and the Black Orloff at 67 carats.  Black diamonds have never been as valuable as clear or colored diamonds but they seem to have been a little more sought after the last decade.  Most black diamonds for jewelry are a very dark green color that has been exposed to radiation.  Black diamonds that are mined are a very hard and are useful in industrial settings.  The Black Star of Africa was last seen in 1971 in Tokyo.  The Black Orloff came from a shrine in India, but I am unsure if it was originally discovered in India.  It was bought by a Russian princess in the 1850’s whose last name was Vyegin-Orlov.  It is currently owned by a jeweler in Pennsylvania.  The Table of Islam is a 160 carat black gemstone, but little is known about it.

            I included black diamond on the game board of Treasure Trove because In the process of researching famous treasures around the world I was surprised to read about black diamonds.  I had never heard of them.  I did my research years ago before the time of internet access.  I had limited information on the subject.  I placed ‘Black Diamond’ in Brazil on the game board of Treasure Trove because I thought it might be of interest to those who had never heard of black diamonds.  I hear jewelry with black diamonds is becoming popular now.    


Black Sapphires

Black star of Queensland sapphire



I admit my knowledge of gemstones is very limited.  I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a garnet, a ruby, or a red diamond.  Gemology will never fascinate me.  When I was searching for treasures to place on the game board of Treasure Trove I was even surprised to learn there are black gemstones including black diamonds as well as black sapphires. 

            In the process of learning historically where the largest diamonds and gemstones have come from I learned that since the late 19th century Australia has been one of the largest producers of sapphires, notably yellow sapphires.  Where there have been discoveries of great diamonds have also been tales to tell, which seem to grow larger and more vivid with time.  One such tale involves a famous black sapphire called the “Black Star of Queensland,” discovered in 1935.  When a 12 year boy brought home a shiny black rock to show his father the discovery, the dad thought it was just black crystal.  It served as a doorstop for the next dozen or so years until one day the family learned that there are such a thing as black sapphires, although very rare.  When they chipped open the rock it was indeed not only a black sapphire, but the largest the world had ever seen.  It weighed over 1100 carats and was promptly sold for $18,000, a lot of money at the time.  It has since been cut down to the present 733 carat Black Star of Queensland and originally sold for 1,000,000 dollars.  It occasionally comes up at auction and is presently valued at many tens of millions of dollars.

            A star diamond is one that exhibits asterism which means it has a six pointed star pattern visible as you look at the gemstone.  The  182 carat Star of Bombay sapphire originally from Sri Lnka has the distict star pattern.  It is housed in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. 

Star of Bombay sapphire

         If you visit Queensland you can still go fossicking, Australian term for prospecting.


sapphire mining fields of Queensland Australia