Diamonds are the hardest known naturally occurring material Its hardness has been known since ancient times, and is the source of its name. However, there have been synthetic diamonds created which are even harder.
The hardest natural diamonds in the world are diamonds from the New England area in New South Wales, Australia. These diamonds are generally small, and are used to polish other diamonds.
Industrial use of diamonds has historically been associated with their hardness; this property makes diamond the ideal material for cutting and grinding tools. It is one of the most known and most useful of more than 3,000 known minerals. As the hardest known naturally occurring material, diamond can be used to polish, cut, or wear away any material, including other diamonds. Common industrial adaptations of this ability include diamond-tipped drill bits and saws, or use of diamond powder as an abrasive. Other specialized applications also exist or are being developed, including use as semiconductors: some blue diamonds are natural semiconductors, in contrast to most other diamonds, which are excellent electrical insulators. Industrial-grade diamonds are either unsuitable for use as gems or synthetically produced, which lowers their price and makes their use economically feasible. Industrial applications, especially as drill bits and engraving tools, also date to ancient times.
The hardness of diamonds also contributes to its suitability as a gemstone. Because it can only be scratched by other diamonds, it maintains its polish extremely well, keeping its luster over long periods of time. Unlike many other gems, it is well-suited to daily wear because of its resistance to scratching—perhaps contributing to its popularity as the preferred gem in an engagement ring or wedding ring, which are often worn every day.