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Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: TN
Country: USA
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.

Richard Barrans
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.

Vince Calder


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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