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The End Of The Diamond Trade !?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by SMASH, Aug 12, 2003.

  1. SMASH

    SMASH Guest

    Jan 18, 2000
    "This is very rare stone," he says, almost to himself, in thickly accented English. "Yellow diamonds of this color are very hard to find. It is probably worth 10, maybe 15 thousand dollars."

    "I have two more exactly like it in my pocket," I tell him.


    The New Diamond Age

    Armed with inexpensive, mass-produced gems, two startups are launching an assault on the De Beers cartel.

    Next up: the computing industry.

    By Joshua Davis

    Aron Weingarten brings the yellow diamond up to the stainless steel jeweler's loupe he holds against his eye. We are in Antwerp, Belgium, in Weingarten's marbled and gilded living room on the edge of the city's gem district, the center of the diamond universe. Nearly 80 percent of the world's rough and polished diamonds move through the hands of Belgian gem traders like Weingarten, a dealer who wears the thick beard and black suit of the Hasidim.

    David Clugston
    Yellow diamonds manufactured by Gemesis, the first company to market gem-quality synthetic stones. The largest grow to 3 carats.

    "This is very rare stone," he says, almost to himself, in thickly accented English. "Yellow diamonds of this color are very hard to find. It is probably worth 10, maybe 15 thousand dollars."

    "I have two more exactly like it in my pocket," I tell him.

    He puts the diamond down and looks at me seriously for the first time. I place the other two stones on the table. They are all the same color and size. To find three nearly identical yellow diamonds is like flipping a coin 10,000 times and never seeing tails.

    "These are cubic zirconium?" Weingarten says without much hope.

    "No, they're real," I tell him. "But they were made by a machine in Florida for less than a hundred dollars."

    Ian White
    A microwave plasma tool at the Naval Research Lab, used to create diamonds for high-temperature semiconductor experiments.
    Weingarten shifts uncomfortably in his chair and stares at the glittering gems on his dining room table. "Unless they can be detected," he says, "these stones will bankrupt the industry."

    Put pure carbon under enough heat and pressure - say, 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and 50,000 atmospheres - and it will crystallize into the hardest material known. Those were the conditions that first forged diamonds deep in Earth's mantle 3.3 billion years ago. Replicating that environment in a lab isn't easy, but that hasn't kept dreamers from trying. Since the mid-19th century, dozens of these modern alchemists have been injured in accidents and explosions while attempting to manufacture diamonds.

    Recent decades have seen some modest successes. Starting in the 1950s, engineers managed to produce tiny crystals for industrial purposes - to coat saws, drill bits, and grinding wheels. But this summer, the first wave of gem-quality manufactured diamonds began to hit the market. They are grown in a warehouse in Florida by a roomful of Russian-designed machines spitting out 3-carat roughs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A second company, in Boston, has perfected a completely different process for making near-flawless diamonds and plans to begin marketing them by year's end. This sudden arrival of mass-produced gems threatens to alter the public's perception of diamonds - and to transform the $7 billion industry. More intriguing, it opens the door to the development of diamond-based semiconductors.

    Diamond, it turns out, is a geek's best friend. Not only is it the hardest substance known, it also has the highest thermal conductivity - tremendous heat can pass through it without causing damage. Today's speedy microprocessors run hot - at upwards of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, they can't go much faster without failing. Diamond microchips, on the other hand, could handle much higher temperatures, allowing them to run at speeds that would liquefy ordinary silicon. But manufacturers have been loath even to consider using the precious material, because it has never been possible to produce large diamond wafers affordably. With the arrival of Gemesis, the Florida-based company, and Apollo Diamond, in Boston, that is changing. Both startups plan to use the diamond jewelry business to finance their attempt to reshape the semiconducting world.

    But first things first. Before anyone reinvents the chip industry, they'll have to prove they can produce large volumes of cheap diamonds. Beyond Gemesis and Apollo, one company is convinced there's something real here: De Beers Diamond Trading Company. The London-based cartel has monopolized the diamond business for 115 years, forcing out rivals by ruthlessly controlling supply. But the sudden appearance of multicarat, gem-quality synthetics has sent De Beers scrambling. Several years ago, it set up what it calls the Gem Defensive Programme - a none too subtle campaign to warn jewelers and the public about the arrival of manufactured diamonds. At no charge, the company is supplying gem labs with sophisticated machines designed to help distinguish man-made from mined stones.

    Ian White
    "I was in combat in Korea and 'Nam. You better believe that I can handle the diamond business," says Genesis founder Carter Clarke, center. His lieutenants have 27 diamond-making machines up and running -- with 250 planned -- at this factory outside Sarasota, Florida

    In its long history, De Beers has survived African insurrection, shrugged off American antitrust litigation, sidestepped criticism that it exploits third world workers, and contended with Australian, Siberian, and Canadian diamond discoveries. The firm has a huge advertising budget and a stranglehold on diamond distribution channels. But there's one thing De Beers doesn't have: retired brigadier general Carter Clarke.

    Carter Clarke, 75, has been retired from the Army for nearly 30 years, but he never lost the air of command. When he walks into Gemesis - the company he founded in 1996 to make diamonds - the staff stands at attention to greet him. It just feels like the right thing to do. Particularly since "the General," as he's known, continually salutes them as if they were troops heading into battle. "I was in combat in Korea and 'Nam," he says after greeting me with a salute in the office lobby. "You better believe I can handle the diamond business."

    Clarke slaps me hard on the back, and we set off on a tour of his new 30,000-square-foot factory, located in an industrial park outside Sarasota, Florida. The building is slated to house diamond-growing machines, which look like metallic medicine balls on life support. Twenty-seven machines are now up and running. Gemesis expects to add eight more every month, eventually installing 250 in this warehouse.

    In other words, the General is preparing a first strike on the diamond business. "Right now, we only threaten the way De Beers wants the consumer to think of a diamond," he says, noting that his current monthly output doesn't even equal that of a small mine. "But imagine what happens when we fill this warehouse and then the one next door," he says with a grin. "Then I'll have myself a proper diamond mine."

    Clarke didn't set out to become a gem baron. He stumbled into this during a 1995 trip to Moscow. His company at the time - Security Tag Systems - had pioneered those clunky antitheft devices attached to clothes at retail stores. Following up on a report about a Russian antitheft technology, Clarke came across Yuriy Semenov, who was in charge of the High Tech Bureau, a government initiative to sell Soviet-era military research to Western investors. Semenov had a better idea for the General: "How would you like to grow diamonds?"

    Read the rest here : http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/diamond.html?pg=1&topic=&topic_set=
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Wow, that's really neat.

    anyway I can get my skeleton coated in diamonds?
  3. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I'm not sure. I mean I think it's cool - I'm all for toppling the De Beers dynasty. But the truth is that they've managed to cultivate the idea of diamonds being exceptionally rare, even though they're not. So price is still driven by what people think they're worth, not how hard they actually are to find.

    So the question is - will Gemesis et al charge a reasonable price, or what the market will bear?
  4. Honestly I don't like it because there are diamond industries popping up in Canada (which BTW is becoming one of the world's largest diamond exporters) which would be put at risk. These industries fuel thousands of jobs in some otherwise poorer areas of the country, and I generally don't like seeing Canadian companies at risk.
  5. SMASH

    SMASH Guest

    Jan 18, 2000
    Geshel - well said. In the rest of the article there are details on their planned entry prices (10-50% of current retail).

    Rarity myth aside, another thing people don't know - or want to know - is how much sweat and blood, including that of children, is spilled in the diamond trade. The sooner that ends, the better IMO.

    Masamax makes a good point though. Just as Canada (and Australia I believe) are emerging and producers of excellent diamonds - blood free at that - this comes along. Oh well, it was bound to happen and it'll be a long while yet before there are commonplace I'll bet.


    Jun 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    i think whats so cool is that they can make a real diamond of such quality so cheaply! very cool stuff
  7. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    The diamond trade at present is largely a monopoly with prices vastly inflated based on control of supply and marketing lies... if the more ethical suppliers (eg. Canada and Australia, based on the information above) get squeezed, that's a shame - but surely that's better than the perpetuation of a system in which a large proportion of the gems are so-called 'blood diamonds'?

    Hopefully Australian and Canada will be able to keep up with the new technologies. I know De Beers are - a friend of mine is having his PhD funded by doing diamond growing research under their auspices.

    Finally, for those who like science fiction, check out Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, set against the backdrop of a world where things like mass-produced diamond has become commonplace.

  8. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    Oh... Diamond guns... diamond bullets... good by airport security.
  9. Wow, nifty!

    I want a diamond powered superfast computer!

    Seriously, this does sound very interesting. The potential industrial and, yep, commercial gains would seem to be quite high. Plus, Valentine Day's shopping will be cheaper :D
  10. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Basses (even cheapies) are still cooler!
  11. If the price goes down that much on diamonds, I don't think people will buy them anymore. If you think about it, we only buy diamonds because they're expensive!
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    well, we only buy them for aesthetic reasons because they are expensive, I think that if it became as cheap as dirt, then people will buy them for more pratcial purposes.

    all's I'm saying is, I have me a custom made gemosis diamond coated fretboard on the way :p
  13. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    What are women going to want now?
  14. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    A Fodera?
  15. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Diamond isn't really that strong. Just hard. A shell casing made of diamond would just shatter.
  16. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    Ya, but the shell could be re-enforced with something.
  17. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    I find it amazing that people think this rock is precious just because some guy said so. It's so rare, that they'll never run out of them. :rolleyes:
  18. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Hmm yeah. Like. . .steel? :p

    IOW, there is nothing about a bullet shell (or slug for that matter) that would benefit from using diamond.
  19. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    something metal? oh there goes your theory :rolleyes:

    d'oh geshel beat me too it :p
  20. BigBohn


    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    Good article. I remember seeing an article that went into greater depth on how the machine worked a few years back in a local newspaper down here in South Florida. It was in the Science Sunday section and it had a good diagram on how it worked and all the potential controversy and industry backbreaking that would occur if such a thing produced enough "diamonds".

    Well, I guess it's starting to happen now. This guy gets a [​IMG]

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