contact me at:
Disclaimer: at some point in your life, you need to simply say, I have my principals, but there's a game, and there are rules to this game, and I've chosen to play this game. Even if you know the rules are simply wrong, and a product against everything you believe in, it's simply somthing you need to suck up and say, okay... there are more important things in life than being right for this one instance..
A summary of what I understand about diamonds.
Mining - Debeers owns a significant portion of the diamond
mines in the world,
Cutting and Polishing - when they determine how the
rough diamonds will be cut and polished.
Once the stones are cut and polished they are probably sent to Antwerp, Belgium, still the diamond capital of the world.
Debeers - probably about 4 times a year will sell diamonds from their stocks to the high level wholesalers, in probably lots of 100,000 or so. They're further sorted and distributed down the channel. They essentially control the supply, and create a bit of false scarcity, to maintain high prices.
Wholesalers - People who buy diamonds in 100-1000 diamond lots. At this point they probably are sorted according to average and median weight. These are the images which one has of the guys who keep diamonds in black velvet bags, and are able to sort through them like a pharmacist would drugs. These wholesalers are the ones who finally will submit the diamonds for grading (if they're going to be graded at all) from the GIA or other certification bodies.
Retailers - These are mostly the people that the end user deals with, they're in the business of making jewelry, and setting the stones. Although there are some retailers who do span the market and are able to do what a wholesaler does (and some wholesalers who on a smaller scale do what.
So I wonder about the retailer who claims to be able to go directly to the mine, the Russians or the Canadians and truly get a conflict free diamond. As most of the mines are in Africa, even if they're part of this Kimberly process, to prove that they're mined in a sustainable fashion, it's obfuscated by the fact that probably over 90% of the diamonds go through DeBeers vaults in Antwerp, and are mixed blind. Thus that even the high level wholesalers don't know, and probably intentionally don't care that they may have been brought out of a war torn country in Africa.
Let me say first and foremost. You can make diamonds in the laboratory. Industrial diamonds that is.
However making gem quality diamonds is still in it's infancy.
In the last five or ten years, it's made strides, but is not quite there. I have no doubt that Debeers and the GIA are wondering "What is this going to do to our business" However as I've found, a diamond still is the standard for everlasting love.
There are cracks in the armor. Everyone is referring to the same couple of articles, and stories saying that the diamond industry is about to be shaken to it's core, and the DeBeers monopoly will be finally broken. However... It hasn't happened yet, and the DeBeers marketing continues.
There was an article in Wired magazine.
There was PBS report,
and recently there's an NPR piece
And a wall street journal article, on the synthetic diamond industry.
Current Status - From what I can tell as of 2007
Since I work in the semiconductor industry, and know that we can grow a silicon crystal ingot ten nines pure (99.99999999% pure silicon) it's only an engineering challenge to grow a diamond that pure, it's just a matter of getting the right conditions, and controlling the process. Hell I even understand the process:
HPHT - High pressure, High Temperature
This is essentially a modification of the process developed in the 1950's by GE, and which all the industrial diamonds are made. Ever hear of a a diamond tipped blade, or diamond sandpaper. Well it's a process that they can make diamon
However initially although it really did produce diamonds with the same physical characteristics of diamond (hardness primarily) the actual diamonds produced were small, and containing impurities which although not affecting the hardness, definately made them unfit for cutting into gemstones. They were small, and they contained impurities, affecting the color. It's no surprise that people figured that they could control the process such that instead of making a whole lot of small diamonds, they'd try and slow things down to create gem quality stones.
This is the process which gemenisis, and some others are trying, currently they're able to make diamonds in the magic 1 carat range, although the color still falls below the true colorless. Most being yellow, orange or amber. My hunch is that if they indeed are able to make colorless diamonds, they're not admitting it and holding onto those stones.
De-beers is worried about these guys, which is why they're making their push for mined diamonds as billions of years in the making. A way of saying that one made in a lab, just aren't the same. I don't think that diamond prices are going to fall, however within my lifetime the diamond business is going to become what the pearl, and even ruby and sapphire business is. one where true gems are still mined but there are still enough of the syntetic stones that the public just doesn't care.
CVD - Chemical Vapor Deposition
This is actually based upon a semiconductor process, thus somthing I've gotten an interest in. It's probably done at pretty low pressures,
One can make a pure diamond film. the problem is making it any thicker than a few microns. A few microns thick film is perfectly fine for providing a base for growing semiconductors upon. A gem that's a few microns in size is forgettable. However, one that's a couple of milimeters thick? That's reason to think of scaling up the process. If not just for scientific engingeering (Can we really do this?) interest. Creating film 8mm thick (thick enough to produce a 1 carat polished diamond) , versus being able to create one thick enough.
Thus what Apollo diamond, which it's been reported by a fluke, has been able to do is to use this process to create a film thick enough to actually make diamonds. they can grow the diamonds on a thin substrate. Apollo's business probably started out, and continues to be providing diamond substrates for reasearch into novel semiconductors.
However the process they use to grow films, they can also create large diamonds.
From what I can tell they can make gem quality diamonds which after cutting and polishing make total carat weights of about
I think they probably have made a 1 carat stone, but probably just one or two. and they're probably being held by the founders and unique and one of a kind, and they're not being sold to the public. What they've released (to just one jewler in Boston as far as I can tell) is 0.25-0.50 carat diamonds in the G H I - SI1 range. Gem quality nonetheless, however
At last check, Apollo has released a 0.7 carat diamond for sale, unfortunatley at that size it was an M color, far below one would characterize as colorless. Perhaps they'll be able to get the film thick enough to make even bigger diamonds for retail sale, however, they're not there... yet.
September 16, 2007