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Joss Delage

Jewelry grade artificial diamonds

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1168647789...ure_banner_left

The link above will lead you to a WSJ article about the coming availability of lab-produced diamonds, rivalling "true" diamonds in quality, and costing about 15% less. Then diamond industry (i.e., DeBeers) is implementing a variety of measures to fight off the competition. Those include lobbying to force dealers of lab-produced diamonds to label them "synthetic".

I hope that this will lead to a tremendous price reduction of diamonds over the next few years. If artificial diamonds are already 15% cheaper, there's no limit to how low this price difference will go as the technology matures. Right now, they grow diamond from a "seed" of diamond, and the growth rate is about 1/2 carat per week. No wonder the price difference is only 15%! (In fact, this price was set artificially to not deflate the price of diamonds, but it will go down as the technology spreads & competition grows.)

I find those developments interesting. In one hand, I love good jewelry, and I hope this will results in young designers being able to make beautiful pieces at a more affordable price. I also think that we'll see diamonds becoming more available in high precision tools. I wonder if huge, beautiful stones will acquire a "bling-bling" flavor, or whether they'll keep their aura.

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Ooh, great topic! I love jewelry, and while diamonds aren't my favorites (I prefer gemstones), I decided several years ago that I will one day own an Apollo Diamond! Their slogan is "Nature, Perfected." :)

From Apollo Diamond's website:

Apollo diamonds are 100% real diamond. To grow an Apollo we have to start with a "seed" of pure diamond. We then culture (grow) new diamond on the seed in a prepared medium of carbon gas. This results in a cultured diamond that is chemically and structurally identical to a mined diamond.

This is such an exquisitely beautiful example of man's ability to create solutions to nature's "deficiencies" in the supply of a value that is in such high demand.

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I've been watching these developments over the past few years from a very different perspective. My company produces (among other things) high precision windows for the military. These windows sit in front of various visible and infrared sensors in aircraft (and other vehicles), and are therefore exposed to sand and rain at high speeds. Unfortunately, the materials which transmit both visible and infrared light tend to be soft, easily damaged glasses. As a result, a good bit of our business is in re-working windows damaged in use - we've been particularly busy over the last several years, for obvious reasons.

A little known fact about diamond is that it has fantastic optical properties through not only the visible spectrum, but far into the infrared. Although the optics industry has been focussing on using sapphire and similar materials to replace the soft window materials currently in use, these materials have only fair transparency in the infrared. A diamond window would solve these issues easily, and would suffer minimal damage in use.

There is an active effort to grow diamond windows. The largest I've heard of to date is 2x2 inches, and about 1/8" thick. That would be a collosal jewelry piece, but it is a rather unuseful size for a sensor window. We need something at least 6x6", preferably larger.

The issues of working with diamond to shape, grind and polish the window to high precision is a completely different matter. Typically, we use diamond-coated tools and diamond grinding and polishing materials to work softer materials. Diamonds cutting diamonds would be a very slow and expensive process, but then again, producing a window that would never need replacement may allow for a much higher selling price.

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The issues of working with diamond to shape, grind and polish the window to high precision is a completely different matter. Typically, we use diamond-coated tools and diamond grinding and polishing materials to work softer materials.

My guess is that it would make more sense for somebody to work on a vapor deposition process that slowly builds up the diamond window, with basically perfect flatness and optical clarity along the way, rather than starting bigger and cruder and grinding away material.

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Diamond-like-carbon (DLC) coatings have been around for many years. The process is similar to what you describe, sputtering or vaporizing material which collects on a substrate in a diamond-like crystal lattice structure. This coating is used to protect softer materials (incuding some of the infrared materials I refered to), but cannot be grown in macroscopic thicknesses due to the accumulation of internal material stress, which causes thicker coatings to crack.

Good thought, though.

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Hough tough (shock resistant) is diamond? I've assumed that it because it was so hard, it was probably not very tough, but I really don't know.

As a side note, maybe one day we'll have crista chandelliers made entirely of diamond, available at your local furniture store...

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Those include lobbying to force dealers of lab-produced diamonds to label them "synthetic".

I too have decided that some day I would like to own one of these wonderful lab-made diamonds. Since they are structured exactly as mined diamonds, I do not believe they should be labeled as "synthetic", but instead as "cultured" or "lab grown". The decrease in price is a definate bonus too!

Technology never ceases to amaze me these days..

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Personally, I don't think they should even be named "cultured" or "lab grown" or anything of the sort. A diamond is a diamond. Now, if DeBeers wants to develop a label for mined diamond, I wouldn't have any problem with that.

Interestingly, there's a movement among some personaities to buy lab-made diamonds not because of their price or quality, but as a statement to reject "blood diamonds" coming from war zones, etc. I'm mixed on the idea. On one hand, I agree that one should try not to support some of those crazy savages in Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, and the like. On the other hand, this concern is often accompanied with some less rational fears around the environmental impact of mining, etc.

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Hough tough (shock resistant) is diamond? I've assumed that it because it was so hard, it was probably not very tough, but I really don't know.

Here we get slightly outside my area of expertise (this is a mechanical engineering question, and that is one field of engineering in which I'm almost blind), but my understanding is that the fracture strength of diamond exceeds that of most - if not all - other crystalline materals. The issue is not only the ultimate strength of the material, but the resistance to microfractures, which then spread to cause overall failure. This resistance is directly related to hardness, where diamond exceeds all other materials.

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