by Eleonora Pedron MONACO-MONTECARLO. At $65 per gram, $13,000 per carat, (a carat = 0,2 grams) diamond ranks as the fourth-most expensive material in the world, after Antimatter (the $100 trillion per gram Antimatter could possibly fuel spaceships to the planets, and maybe the stars, in the years to come), Californium 252, ($27million per gram) and Painite ($300,000 per gram).
Diamond is the best known and the most heavily marketed gemstone by far, largely thanks to its unique optical properties including a high index of refraction, high dispersion, and high shine. A diamond is a testament of endurance and strength – and not surprisingly, the ultimate symbol of love. In fact, on an annual basis, diamond is also the most popular gemstone with worldwide consumers, chosen by an incredibly wide margin on other stones as an engagement ring.
But diamond, of course, is more than just a pretty stone to admire. It is an incredibly unique super-material, with industrial applications unmatched by any other mineral on earth. For one, diamond is highly chemically resistant and the hardest natural substance known to man — making it ideal for cutting, abrasion, and many other purposes. All said and done, 70% of the world’s diamonds (by volume, not by revenue) are used for industrial applications. The secret behind the many remarkable properties of diamond is its unique molecular structure. A diamond is composed of many carbon atoms, each covalently bonded to four other carbon atoms in a lattice pattern. These covalent bonds are incredibly strong, and diamonds have a lot of them. This unique molecular structure of diamond allows for the following properties:
- Optical: broadband spectral transparency
- Thermal: highest thermal conductivity (of any known material)
- Mechanical: hardest natural material
- Electrical: high charge carrier mobility (it’s a world-class semiconductor)
- Chemical: highest durability
Together, these properties make diamonds suitable not only for jewelry and industrial machinery but also a wide range of other current and future applications. Diamonds can be used for transparent electrical contact, as electrodes for batteries, as lenses for laser systems, for water purification, and as a wear-resistant coating. Recent research even suggests that diamonds will have a unique place in advanced computing applications in the future. In fact, Wired recently gushed over the potential uses of diamond in technology, calling it the “holy grail of electronics.” It even went so far as to proclaim today as the “Dawn of a Diamond Age of Electronics.”
According to the Department of Energy, diamonds could be used to enhance the performance of electronic devices by overcoming current heat limitations on semiconductor circuits: “The unusually attractive thermal properties of diamond thin films have led scientists to suggest using this material as a heat sink that could be integrated with a number of different semiconducting materials.” Additionally, diamonds could very well become a necessity in building practical quantum computers…While commercial applications are still many years away, in separate experiments, researchers at MIT and the University of Southern California have already successfully built quantum computers inside a diamond. Without getting into too much detail, the structure of diamond serves to protect against “decoherence,” or noise that prevents a quantum computer from functioning properly. Again, this particular application is years away, but the point is that diamonds are poised to be essential to the consumer electronics industry in more ways than one. According to Semiconductor Today, revenue from diamond materials for semiconductors is expected to grow to $43 million by 2020. Quantum applications or not, the near-term growth in computing for diamonds remains surprisingly strong. Aside from the incredibly unique properties and applications of diamonds, the material is notoriously difficult to find. Natural diamonds form 100 miles below the Earth’s surface under extreme pressure and heat over billions of years. All told, diamonds are said to be 1,000 times rarer than gold.
Well, it might surprise you to learn that we can, in fact, grow diamonds in labs through a process known as “chemical vapor deposition” (CVD). In fact, CVD is ideal for industrial and electronic applications, because it ultimately gives more control over the shape and size of the diamond. Over the last several years, CVD has begun to penetrate the highly valuable gemstone market in addition to industrials. Improved growing methods have made for better stone quality and lowered operational costs. It should go without saying that the synthetic diamond-growers will make incredibly well for the years ahead. Yet all diamonds share certain features that allow us to compare and evaluate them. These features are called the 4Cs, Color, Clarity, Cut, Carat Weight. But, also if The National reports, “Grown diamonds are as real — optically, physically and chemically — as the crystallized carbon creations found inside the Earth…” it is different when it comes to these companies certifying synthetic colorless diamonds as Type IIa, the purest type of diamond, almost or entirely devoid of chemical impurities. Gemological examination by General Electric of two near-colorless, isotopically pure, car- bon-12synthetic diamondsgrown recently reveals short-wave ultraviolet luminescence behavior, a cathodoluminescence pattern, and small metallic inclusions that are typical of other gem-quality synthetic diamonds. These characteristics also help separate them from natural type-IIa diamonds. Moreover, GIA observed that study of additional near-color- less synthetic diamonds is needed to confirm these preliminary observations. Less than two percent of the world’s diamonds produced naturally are Type IIa. Many of those Type IIa diamonds are among the most widely sought after in the world, including the “Elizabeth Taylor Diamond,” formerly known as the “Krupp Diamond,” a 33.19-carat Type IIa diamond that was recently auctioned by Christie’s.
Actually, every “natural diamond” is unique. Each reflects the story of its arduous journey from deep inside the earth to a chershed object of adornment. Anyway, more and more companies are selling their synthetic diamonds on their Internet site directly and through retailers Many consumers are already seeking them out too because the reduced cost and because lab-grown diamonds are guaranteed to be conflict free and sustainable.
For some time, these compnies were producing lab-created fancy colored diamonds, with limited acceptance by the jewelry industry and consumers. By now, they say they have created high-quality, colorless, lab-created diamonds, by far the most widely used diamonds in the world. With what they call “excellent color and clarity”, these companies could give jewelry retailers, jewelry designers and consumers a real choice when specifying diamonds. In this case the term “colorless” is used to describe what are also known as “white diamonds,” meaning not colored diamonds. Of course, it will take many years before these start-up companies reach the status of the gemstone giants, major producing countries including Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, South Africa, and Russia. Worldwide reserves are estimated to be some 600 million carats.
Referring to INTERNATIONAL INFO we recall that Australia has the largest reserves, estimated at some 220 million carats.
Some 127 million carats of diamonds – around 25.4 thousand kilograms – were estimated to have been produced from mines worldwide in 2016, but there is no doubt that synthetic diamond are the future of the gemstone industry. Actually, the diamond industry has suffered the ripple effect from the mild decline in consumer demand, especially due to China’s slowing GDP growth, with Greater China’s diamond jewellery retail dynamics having caused a decrease in demand for polished diamonds and, in turn, rough diamonds.
Amid industry turbulence & continuing pressure on the market, companies are being forced to reevaluate their business models . The mid-market has little bargaining power over rough producers and retailers and limited access to financing, yet mid-market players unconsciously or deliberately bear risks and benefits of price volatility that their business models cannot support. We observe that the continuing development of the mid-market segment should enable the industry to implement more sustainable business models. As in past years, the industry faces key challenges: sustaining long-term demand for diamonds in developed markets and among a new generation of consumers, and boosting demand from other sources than jewellery and aesthetic use. The risk of penetration of undisclosed synthetic diamonds persists, as this serves to undermine consumer confidence in the entire diamond category.
This problem is more acute for smaller stones, and industry participants are actively addressing these concerns by tightening certification requirements; diffusing and adopting synthetic-diamond detection technologies, even for smaller diamonds; and tightening the legal and regulatory framework definitions of synthetic diamonds. While mining costs have nowhere to go but up, the cost of growing diamonds in a lab can only go down as technology continues to advance. Anyway, the long-term outlook for the natural diamond market remains positive, with demand expected to outpace supply starting in 2019.