Diamonds aren’t just used in jewelry. In fact, the vast majority of the stones (about 80%) make their way into industry. That’s because they have a lot of useful characteristics besides their sparkle. The biggest one? They’re tough as nails. Tougher in fact.

And that’s not a figure of speech. I mean that literally. Nails only score a 4.5 on the ten-point Mohs Hardness Scale. Diamonds, in the meantime, are all the way up at the top at number ten. In fact, diamonds are the very definition of 10. What do I mean with that? Well, on the scale they use different elements to mark the different points of hardness. Talc sits at number one, Flourite at four, Topaz at eight, and then the right at the top sits the diamond. You could say they’re the scale’s crowning glory – though if you did, people could accuse you of some terrible punning. And rightly so.

Not sure how hard Talc, Flourite and Topaz are? Well, here are some more common minerals that you can use as the basis for comparison. Gold has a value of 2.5, iron 4 and incredibly hard tungsten sits at 7.5. So yeah, diamonds are tough. And, as you can only cut materials with an edge made of something tougher, that makes them useful to industry.

So what can you do with these really tough diamonds?

Abrasion

You want to sandpaper something really hard? Then sandpaper won’t really do the trick. You’d need something like diamond paper. No. That doesn’t actually exist. Instead, diamonds are set into the edge of a sanding platform made of something tough, like hardened steel. In this way, you can strip paint and more.

There are many different kinds, from machines with big spinning wheels set with diamonds, to special diamond cloths for that extra polished finish.

Cutting

Cutting

Okay, you’re right. ‘Cutting’ is just another form of ‘abrasion’ but then applied to a very small surface. You’re so clever! As your reward, you get to sandpaper your way through a tree.

Diamond-edged cutters are the sharpest in the business. They’re what you use when you need to cut your way through steel, for example. They can be used much like blowtorches, with an extra advantage. They don’t generate all that heat. That’s important, as some material distort when heated and become weaker or oddly shaped. That’s a lot less likely to happen when you cut with diamonds.

Lasers

Sure, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But physicists aren’t far behind. That’s because diamonds help concentrate lasers. And in physics, lasers are used everywhere – from communication in space to reading data, all the way to cutting through materials (again). The biggest physics experiment of them all the CERN in Switzerland, for example, uses lots of lasers to analyze the material released when particles are flung into each other.

For lasers, the most important attribute of diamonds is the clarity of the stone. For this reason, most lasers make use of ‘artificial’ diamonds. Note that the artificial here does not denote that they’re somehow fake. Instead, it’s that they’re made in the lab.

Growing them in a controlled environment means that they’re actually purer and have fewer inclusions than diamonds made underground.

Laser

Heat sinks

Another way that diamonds are used is to draw away heat. Yeah, that does sound like a very expensive way to cool down. Why not use water? Well, mainly because electronics don’t react too well to water. That’s why they use solid state heat syncs. Diamonds, which are very good at conducting heat, are great for this. By placing an ultra-thin sheet of diamonds over electronics parts that produce heat, the heat can easily get transported away.

This will lengthen the lifespan of the device, as well as make sure its functioning doesn’t get corrupted.

Note that we’re talking about temperatures in the hundreds of degrees. It won’t be quite as effective to cool yourself, say, on a sunny day. Though you’re free to try selling it that way your lover. Maybe they’ll buy it.

They’re taking my bling!

Afraid that with industry using so many diamonds, none will be left for your rings, bling and finer things? Don’t be. The diamonds they use for industry are selected along entirely different attributes than those used for gems.

For diamonds used in jewelry, the most important qualities are clarity and color. For most industry, those attributes don’t matter at all. It’s about hardness. So if you offered them pink, yellow or polka-dotted diamonds that would be fine, as long as they were pure and strong. Similarly, they could be entirely cloudy without that impacting their usefulness (unless they were used for lasers, obviously).

In fact, often the diamonds used for industry are the very ones rejected for jewelry. So don’t worry. You still have the pick of the litter when deciding which stones to set in your grill.