Floating diamonds, specific gravity, volumes of water? Huh?
Yes, I’m going there…
People are always interested in diamond’s ability to float.
They are curious and ask “Can diamonds float on water?”
The answer is “No”.
Diamonds are heavier than water and will sink pretty quickly (so if you lose a diamond out of your mounting while swimming in the ocean… Forget it! It’s a goner!)
The heaviness of a diamond is all due to one thing: density. So how much does a diamond weigh? The easiest way to tell that is to look at specific gravity (ready for science class 101?)
Diamond has a specific gravity of 3.52 (compared to water at 1.00 – which actually means that 1 fluid ounce of water does exactly weight 1 fluid ounce). Specific gravity is the weight of an item against an equal volume of water. That’s why when you drop a diamond into a glass of water it goes straight to the bottom.
You would need to drop a diamond into a much heavier liquid in order for it to float (like pine oil). The denser (heavier) a gem is, the faster it will sink. You might be interested to know that a 1.00 carat diamond and a 1.00 carat ruby do not weight the same. Ruby (4.0-4.1) is denser and will sink quicker than a diamond does. :)
Specific gravity has a way of showing its true colors more than you know. Have you ever noticed how water and oil in a jar always seem to separate? That’s because oils usually have less specific gravity (around .92) than water does at 1.00. Hence the reason oil and water don’t mix.
How about a little science experiment? You’ll need to grab a few items first: a genuine amber gemstone (see image – synthetics won’t work), a glass of water, and a box of table salt.
Start off by dropping the amber (specific gravity of 1.08) into the glass of water. Notice how it sinks to the bottom in a jiffy? Now add in some salt and watch what happens to the amber. Slowly but surely as the salt mixes with the water and makes it denser, the amber begins to rise (magic?) As you pour in more salt the amber will eventually float all the way up to the top of the glass. Now the amber is lighter in weight than the water is. Cool eh?
So gemstones with a higher specific gravity than the liquid they’re in will sink. Gemstones with the same specific gravity as the liquid they’re in will be suspended wherever you place them. And gemstones with less specific gravity than the liquid will float on top.
See, that wasn’t so bad now was it?
Specific gravity may seem like nerdy science, but it’s a great tool for figuring out what a gemstone is really made of. Let’s say you have a blue gemstone and you want to know what it is. By placing that gemstone into different heavy liquids, you’ll be able to narrow down its origin by seeing if it floats, sinks or stabilizes. Putting it in a heavy liquid of 4.00 will show you that the gemstone in question was in fact a sapphire.
It can help identify a stone. So cool.
Want to see where other gemstones and minerals fall? Here’s a huge list of gemstones, minerals (like gold, silver and platinum) and their specific gravities for you to enjoy.
Specific gravity of gemstones:
So now that you know how much diamonds and gold weighs, don’t you feel better? Maybe, maybe not, but you may think twice the next time you step on a bathroom scale… You may want to remove your rings first. :)
Now if only we could learn to float…
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Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist\Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
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