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January-February 2014

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Diamond: The Super Mineral

Diamond occupies a unique position in the pantheon of minerals, exemplified by being number 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness but also by its other distinctive physical and chemical properties and its special significance in human culture. How many minerals, for example, are the word for their own shape (at least in Western languages)-the diamond shape of the outline of an octahedron. So, diamond is a mineral, a shape, a symbol, a metaphor, and a super substance. These attributes give the mineral its richness that engages diverse human interests. The focus of this article is the mineralogical and geological story of diamond, a profound and interesting topic by itself, about which I can only skim the surface.

Dr. George E. Harlow is curator of minerals and gems at the American Museum of Natural History and was the organizing curator of the exhibition The Nature of Diamonds. His research has included crystal structure analysis, meteoric mineralogy, high-pressure experimentation, the study of jadeitite (jadeite jade) and associated rocks in the context of subduction zone processes, sourcing archaeological jade, and mineralogy of the Mogok Stone Tract, Myanmar.

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