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Diamond is a solid form of the element carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal structure called diamond cubic. Diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any natural material, properties that are utilized in major industrial applications such as cutting and polishing tools.


Diamonds can be identified by their high thermal conductivity (900–2320 W·m−1·K−1). Their high refractive index is also indicative, but other materials have similar refractivity. Diamonds cut glass, but this does not positively identify a diamond because other materials, such as quartz, also lie above glass on the Mohs scale and can also cut it. Diamonds can scratch other diamonds, but this can result in damage to one or both stones. Hardness tests are infrequently used in practical gemology because of their potentially destructive nature. The extreme hardness and high value of diamond means that gems are typically polished slowly, using painstaking traditional techniques and greater attention to detail than is the case with most other gemstones; these tend to result in extremely flat, highly polished facets with exceptionally sharp facet edges.