Diamonds are the crystalline structures that develop in sauce, a cannabis concentrate known for its glossy, runny texture.
What are THCA diamonds?
Let's break it down. THCA is THC acid, the precursor to THC, the most abundant and intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. When exposed to heat, non-intoxicating THCA converts to intoxicating THC and produces that classic cannabis high. Diamonds are another term for the crystalline structures that form in sauce, a cannabis concentrate with high levels of terpenes and a runny texture. Put two and two together and you get a term for the THCA-rich crystals that form in sauce.
Sauce is made using a closed-loop system (explained in further detail below) that allows the resulting solution to settle under various pressures and temperatures. This environment promotes the natural separation of the major cannabinoids, including THCA in the form of diamonds (or THC diamonds as they're sometimes erroneously called), from the terpene-rich, liquid portion.
The resulting sauce can contain a mixture of both terpene-rich liquid and THCA diamonds. Further processing can also separate the THCA diamonds and refine them into crystalline THCA, a powdery concentrate comprised almost purely of the cannabinoid acid.
The difference between terp sauce and crystalline
Concentrate enthusiasts will be familiar with sauce carts, or vape cartridges loaded with terpene-heavy sauce. Cannabis diamonds may also refer to the crystalline structures left over after terp sauce has been removed from the initial sauce mixture. These diamonds are usually coated in residual terp sauce. Diamonds can also refer to pure crystalline THCA that has been isolated from refined oil.
The central difference between these types of diamonds is the way they're extracted and further processed. Whether presented as a saucy, high-terpene extract or packaged as isolated THCA, diamonds are always crystalline structures of pure THCA. Remember, these diamonds may be inaccurately referred to as pure THC, but in reality, they come in the form of pure THCA.
What THCA diamonds look like
The size and shape of diamonds don't necessarily reflect the quality of input materials. Temperature, moisture, chemical impurities, and solvents used in the extraction process can all influence the size and shape of diamonds.
Diamonds range in size from very small to large chunks. THCA can crystallize into multiple forms but only when acted upon by variables such as temperature, moisture, and chemical impurities. Sterols, lipids, and even terpenes can impurify and alter the course of crystallization.
Similar to the way chemical variables interfere with sugar crystallization to create molasses, terpenes and other intruding compounds disrupt THCA crystallization to varying degrees, which has an effect on the diamond's structure. Unique terpene profiles that are dependent on the cannabis variety being used can alter the size and composition of the diamonds created in an unrefined cannabis extract.
The final size and shape are also influenced by the solvents used during the extraction process. However, different shapes and sizes don't necessarily mean different levels of purity. A diamond's physical attributes are more a record of its path to crystallization than an indicator of how pure the diamond is.
Do THCA diamonds get you high?
Yes, so long as you heat them to the point of cannabinoid conversion. THCA is non-intoxicating on its own but converts into the intoxicating THC when exposed to heat. When you vaporize THCA diamonds via a dab rig, e-rig, or tabletop vaporizer, THCA transforms into active THC. The THC in the vapor then binds with receptors in your body's endocannabinoid system, producing an intoxicating effect.
Is THCA legal?
Though not technically scheduled under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, THCA's active counterpart, THC, is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug. This means the government considers it to have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. Consuming THCA diamonds means decarboxylating and consuming THC, which is federally illegal. Always consult your local cannabis laws and regulations and perhaps a licensed professional to know whether THCA is a legal substance where you live.
How to make THCA diamonds
Diamonds can be made in one of two ways: using a closed-loop system with a unique solvent removal procedure or following the same multi-step process used to make pure cannabinoid crystalline. This process is very similar to the one used to make all other solvent-based concentrates, with the major difference being the solvent removal process.
The closed-loop system
All solvent extractions use the same basic workflow. A liquid solvent is used to separate the active compounds from the trichome gland to yield a solution. This solution is a mixture of the solvent used for extraction and the desired compounds from the cannabis plant material. The solvent needs to be removed so the solution can become a consumable cannabis concentrate.
With most solvent-based extractions, the goal is to remove that solvent as quickly as possible. This is not the case when making sauce and diamonds. In fact, the opposite is true.
Using a closed-loop system to create diamonds requires technicians to change the way in which the solvents are purged from the system. Instead of removing the majority of solvents within the system and immediately purging residual solvents with a vacuum oven, 10 to 15% of the solvent is left behind, creating a solution that is supersaturated with THCA.
The process of slowly purging off the solvent allows the THCA crystalline structures to form. This process can take anywhere from two days to several weeks.
The crystalline method
To produce cannabis crystalline, a supersaturated solution is created by mixing a solvent with a highly refined cannabis concentrate that has had all lipids and terpenes removed. Heat and pressure are then applied and the solvent slowly evaporates, creating the right environment for crystals to form.
If THCA crystalline is being produced, any THCA will precipitate, or separate, out of the solution and fall to the bottom of the vessel. Under the right temperature and concentration, the THCA will chemically bond to other THCA molecules to form crystalline structures.
What is diamond mining?
Diamond mining is an industry term for the process of making THCA diamonds and harvesting them from sauce. Depending on the size of the cannabinoid crystals and the overall consistency of the sauce, it may be possible to entirely separate the crystals from the concentrate. Ideally, diamond mining should result in two separate products — pure crystalline THCA diamonds and terp sauce consisting of more than 50% terpenes as well as all other extracted cannabinoids.