Sunday, January 02, 2005

An Very Interesting Article on Diamonds That I happen to come across

This month's Wired Magazine cover story,
"The New Diamond
Age"
is quite a read, merging Wired's standard breathless
technology-is-changing-everything fare with James Bond-style meetings and
secret labs complete with Russian scientists. At the root of the story are two
labs that make synthetic diamonds. These aren't simulated gemstones like
Cubic Zirconia (CZ) but real diamond gemstones that have been created in
the laboratory rather than mined from the Earth. Gemesis, based in Florida, uses high
pressure and temperature chambers that mimic how diamonds are created in
the Earth. Apollo Diamond,
based near Boston, uses chemical vapor deposition to grow diamonds.
These labs, Wired hints, might just bankrupt the diamond industry.



To those within the jewelry industry, however, synthetic diamonds are
business-as-usual. Gemesis and now synthetic gemstone-maker Chatham have been producing synthetic
diamonds for several years, and the process was even the subject of a Nova back in
2000. Apollo's technique has produced some recent advances, but to hear Jeweler's
Circular Keystone
report it this is all just steady technological
progress. It would seem the only important point to jewelers is whether
gemologists can scientifically distinguish synthetics from natural
gemstones, not whether the synthetics are "as good as" diamonds in any
other way. And according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), it
is fairly
straightforward
to identify even the new Apollo diamonds. They also
note that Apollo is working with the GIA "to ensure that these CVD
laboratory-grown diamonds are correctly identified before being introduced
into the market."



The key is that the price of diamonds, and gemstones in general, are
governed by the laws of fashion rather than some objective
standard. Certainly diamonds are pretty, but then so is Cubic
Zirconia. There are two things that keep diamonds in high demand over
substitutes like CZ. First, the De
Beers
cartel goes to great lengths to remind us that the only way for a
man to prove his love to a woman is by giving her diamonds, and you
can bet that De Beers won't let synthetics in on that little bit of
spin. As Jef Van Royen, a senior scientist at the Diamond High Council put it to
Wired: "If people really love each other, then they give each other the
real stone. It is not a symbol of eternal love if it is something that was
created last week." The second reason reaches the heart of fashion:
diamonds and natural gemstones are expensive. This is why people will still
buy natural emeralds, even though they are some 300 times more expensive than synthetic emeralds. Or more
accurately, they buy natural emeralds because they are 300
times more expensive than synthetics. Like luxury cars and designer-brand clothing, the
point is not the product itself so much as the ability to say "I can afford
this and you can't." As long as people can still say "happy birthday, Honey
— it's a natural diamond" I don't see synthetics destroying
the diamond market anytime soon.



References



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