How hard is it to smash a diamond?

One of the most common misnomers regarding diamonds is that people think they’re impossible to break. They reference it being one of the hardest materials on earth and assume you can’t smash it into bits. That’s where most of the confusion lies; in the hardness of a diamond.

But hardness means it’s hard, right?

Hardness refers to how close together the molecules on the outside of the diamond are, as well as how stable they are. And yes, diamonds are extremely hard. However, that just means that they’re difficult (but possible) to scratch and chip on the surface. Compared to other gemstones, they’re more difficult to chip than something like Opal, which is an extremely fragile gemstone.

However, if you took a hammer and hit a diamond at the right angle, it would easily shatter. Why is that? Well, diamonds have something called cleavage patterns. Without getting too technical, it’s the angle at which it crystallizes.

Every diamond has 4 cleavage directions, which you can sometimes see if you examine the diamond closely enough. It’s much easier to see in normal gemstones such as quartz where there will be lines inside the gemstone. Those are referred to as cleavage patterns.

So how do these patterns lead to diamonds breaking?

If you were to take a hammer or another blunt object and hit the diamond directly along the cleavage pattern, it would actually shatter without too much effort (but still some). That’s why you hear these weird stories about diamond jewelry breaking and people trying to claim the jewelry to be fake. In reality, they probably dropped it or smashed it against something at the wrong angle. Granted, these angles are very precise and the farther off the angle, the more difficult it is to shatter.

So if someone ever dares you to hit your diamond ring with a hammer, give them a stern “no”, wag a finger at them in discontentment and hit them with your newfound knowledge of diamonds.