Block of the Week: Diamond Ore
Insert oreful pun here
There is one block in Minecraft that reliably quickens the breath whenever you see it (no offence, gravel, but it's definitely not you). One block that elicits a little "whoop!" of joy when you lay eyes on it, and the longest of "noooooooooooo"s when it falls into lava. Yes, you guessed it (probably by reading the title) - it's diamond ore!
The ultimate endgame resource, diamond ore is one of the most valuable and hard-to-locate blocks in Minecraft. It's found right at the bottom of the world, below Y-level 16, in veins of one to ten blocks that give experience when you mine them. Each drops a single diamond, unless you have a pick enchanted with Fortune in which case there's a chance you'll get more. How fortunate!
Diamonds were added to the game by Notch on 29 January 2010 in version 0.31, making them the same age as bows, bowls, and crafting tables. When first added, diamond was actually emerald - but it was changed to diamond the following day (emeralds were re-added later on as a trading currency).
Here's a fun fact. Real-world diamonds and coal are chemically speaking the same thing - they're both made of carbon. But before you run around throwing coal at your bills and shouting "look at all my diamonds!" you should probably understand that they're physically very different. The carbon atoms in diamond are arranged into a very rigid structure, called a lattice, which gives it exceptional strength and hardness. The atoms in coal, on the other hand are a bit all over the place, making it not as strong.
So, I hear you ask - rubbing your hands with glee at your new get-rich-quick scheme, how do you turn one into the other? Well, I'm afraid to say that the answer is "with great difficulty". You need to bring carbon up to incredibly high temperatures and pressures, the kind that are only found 150km below the Earth's crust. They're then brought up to the surface by volcanoes. It is possible to do it in a lab, but until fairly recently it was cheaper and easier to just dig them out of the ground instead. You're probably just better off painting your coal and selling it to naive idiots as diamonds (side note: don't do this).
Unfortunately natural, real-world diamonds are even rarer than the ones in Minecraft. Only sixty commercial diamond mines have been found on Earth, with one of the most visually impressive being the Udachnaya mine in Siberia (pictured above). It's an open-pit mine, meaning that the miners didn't tunnel below ground - they just dug a big hole. One of the biggest holes in the world, in fact - at more than 600 metres deep. Hopefully there's no lava at the bottom.
What's the easiest way to find diamond ore in Minecraft? I've got three tips for you. The first is to mine at Y-level 11. That's deep enough to find diamonds but not so deep that you're in danger of mining into a lava pool. The second is to use iron tools. Yes stone tools are cheaper to make, but they're also slower and you're going to be mining a lot of blocks. You should collect enough iron ore while mining to replace your picks.
The third and final tip is to use a strategy that Minecraft pros call "branch mining". Once you're at the right Y-level, dig a long straight tunnel two blocks high, with torches 12 blocks apart (to prevent mob spawning). Once you're bored of going in one direction, dig out a side tunnel to a depth of about 20 blocks, then go back to your main shaft and dig another one at least three blocks further back, and repeat. Before long, and with a bit of luck, you'll have more diamonds than you can possibly imagine. Good luck!