The diamond. The only substance hard enough to cut glass. Scientists tell us that gold only forms in the heart of a supernova. You could say the same of a lot of elements, but every diamond you see was formed deep in the heart (or bowels) of an active (or inactive) volcano, or to be more precise, deep down in the magma flow of the earth’s mantle far under the crust where volcanoes are wont to make their appearances, which is the same thing except less extroverted.
The pressures and temperatures present in that environment are extreme in the extreme. In real life, Superman would never be able to form a diamond by manually compressing a lump of coal ("manually" = “by hand”). This is because in real life, no accumulation of solar radiation in the yellow portion of the spectrum of visible light could possibly imbue the cells and tissues of Superman’s body with anything like the resilience and compression power depicted, yet leave said tissues subject to reversion to mere human-level strength and durability under prolonged exposure to red solar radiation, or an instantaneous reversion upon exposure to the specific radiation emitted by fragments of his home planet! It takes more than that to form a diamond, friends.
Diamonds have been known for millennia, although presumably for much of that time, they were known primarily as particularly hard and not particularly shiny or interesting pebbles. It was only relatively recently that human culture evolved to the point where diamonds were being cut, set, and used as jewelry.
Today, such use is prominent. Diamonds are seen featured in precious metals settings as a gift item, often to commemorate an occasion, an apology, and in some cultures, to signal a willingness to receive oral sex. For less important occasions or recipients, small diamonds may appear as grace notes arranged around a lesser stone. The diamond is April’s birthstone, though some people will try to cheap out on you and say sapphire. Don’t get me wrong: sapphires can be lovely.
Yet the cultural significance of the diamond goes far beyond that. For example, it would be hard to argue against the traditional engagement ring as the most central cultural association diamonds bear today. For many people in that situation, "diamond" is so intrinsic to "engagement ring" as to approach synonymity. Think hard before taking that last leap to manhood, boys: and when you think hard, what do you think of? That's right: the diamond. Either the diamond is the chief bling-bringing agent in that ring-box you palm so sweatily, or else there had better have been a discussion beforehand to the effect that the prospective recipient absolutely abhors diamonds and opposes the gigantic and bloody industry, equally rapacious of the earth and of its workers, that has rested comfortably upon the bended knees and raised hopes of generations of young (or not-so-young!) men, often right there in the restaurant in front of everybody, during what was expected to be just a nice night out for once! If not, get ready to receive a cool, noncommittal response.
Diamonds also occupy a prominent place in fiction, whether film, television, literature, or more than one of these. In Michael Crichton’s novel Congo, the plot centered around a lost African mine where special diamonds, critical for certain hi-tech military and communications satellite applications, were believed to be found in plenty. The resulting action was confusing and ludicrous. In truth, the humble diamond must come in for its share of the blame!
And yes: I said “the humble diamond.” Do you think diamonds aren’t humble? Because if you do, I don’t know man, I don’t know where you’re getting that. They seem pretty humble to me.