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 Post subject: Magnetism
PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:30 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2005 12:42 pm
Posts: 2591
While we're at it, why not introduce some words that we gemmologists are not usually interested in.

"Spin" and "unpaired electrons" are two keywords when it comes to explaining magnetism. I posted a new article about research of magnetism in cobalt (one of the 3 ferromagnetic elements).

Electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom can travel in pairs or alone. When they travel in pairs, one electron has "upward spin" while the other has "downward spin". You can visualize this as the Earth rotating around it's axis .. one electron spins clockwise, while the other spins counterclockwise (as shown on this website). Although the exact mechanism is not known (as I understand it) it explains magnetism. When electrons travel in pairs, the two spins cancel out the net magnetism. When they travel alone (unpaired) the have a net spin of +1/2 or -1/2, so acting as a tiny magnet.
Note that there can only be 2 electrons in the same orbital, one is possible aswell, but never 3 or more.
In Iron, Cobalt and Nickel many of these unpaired electrons team up and the result is that many of these form a not so tiny magnet and this magnetism is perminant(after being magnetized ofcourse). That is called "ferromagnetism".

Other elements can also have magnetism to a lesser extend, like Nitrogen. Yet they don't form a perminant magnet.

If you understand this (as I hope I do .. please correct me if I don't), it makes it easier to remember that it are the synthetic diamonds that are usually more responsive to the magnet test. Although natural diamonds also carry magnetism.

Near colourless synthetic diamonds which are largely free from inclusions can give false results as it is Iron impurity that gives them their magnetism.

Want to know more? Google for "Pauli exclusion principle".

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