Friday, June 20, 2008

An engineer's best friend?

The end is near for the diamond jewelry industry.

The largest single-crystal diamond ever grown in a lab is about .7 inches by .2 inches by .2 inches, or 15 carats. The stone isn't under military guard or at a hidden location. It's in a room crowded with gauges and microscopes, along with the odd bicycle and congo drum, on a leafy campus surrounded by Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park. Russell Hemley, director of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Lab, started working on growing diamonds with CVD in 1995. He pulls a diamond out of his khakis. It would be hard to mistake this diamond for anything sold at Tiffany. The rectangular stone looks like a thick piece of tinted glass.

Emphasis mine. The whole diamond jewelry thing is rather absurd. I'll be happy to see it go, though it won't go down quietly:

The diamond-mining companies have been fighting back, arguing that all that glitters is not diamond. De Beers' ads and its Web sites insist that diamonds should be natural, unprocessed and millions of years old. "Diamonds are rare and special things with an inherent value that does not exist in factory-made synthetics," says spokeswoman Lynette Gould. "When people want to celebrate a unique relationship they want a unique diamond, not a three-day-old factory-made stone."

People might be dumb enough to buy that initially. I give that a few years. The thing is, you can't tell, especially from casual inspection, what's natural and what's lab-grown. All it takes is a couple of women in a social circle to be willing to accept a lab-grown diamond triple the size of their friends' natural rocks at the same price, and the levee will burst.

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Blogger John Paul said...

The "inherent value" in natural diamonds is in effect only while due to the artificial supply constraints in place by the DeBeers monopoly. It remains to be seen whether they can buy out the human-created diamond business.

June 20, 2008 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Ketan said...

The nice thing about this is that the basic technology is widely known and available. That's not to say it's easy to do, but it does mean that De Beers can't just buy the labs and retain its stranglehold.

June 20, 2008 at 3:00 PM  

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