Diamond as an Element or Compound
Date: September 2007
Are diamonds classified as an element or a compound?
Diamond is a specific allotrope (form) of the element carbon.
It is a covalent network solid, but it is made of atoms of all
the same element, carbon.
Many elements in their "uncombined" state consist of covalently-
bonded networks (boron, carbon, silicon) or discrete covalent
molecules (nitrogen, chlorine, sulfur). They are still elements,
regardless of their covalent bonds.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming
Since diamonds are almost pure carbon it would be classified as
an element for all practical purposes. If one wants to get very
"picky", there are a few "stray" atoms of other elements in natural
diamonds and one could argue that diamonds are a "solid" solution
of those atoms. But those kinds of "technical" distinctions are
really not the point of classifying substances.
Diamond is made of pure carbon, with carbon atoms arranged in a cubic
structure and bonded to their neighbors in a very compact way.
So, diamond is made of an element but it is not an element.
It is not a compound either, because, by definition, a compound is
made up of two or more elements.
I would say diamond is crystalline form of carbon, that is, it is
composed merely of carbon atoms in a highly structured arrangement.
It is carbon, like charcoal, but its more expensive due to its good
properties and the fantastic marketing to the gullible public.
Ali Khounsary, PhD
Advanced Photon Source
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012