Memorial synthetic diamonds are made of carbon which is inside us



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At the end of May 2018, a very important event took place in the jewelry world: De Beers, one of the leading and most famous diamond mining and processing companies in the world, announced the launch of the Lightbox synthetic diamond brand for a young audience. «Lenta.ru» found out who benefits from it and why «fake» stones can supplant natural ones.

Hardness standard
Diamond, or, in scientific terms, the cubic allotropic form of carbon, is a material in every way unique. The hardest on the mineralogical scale of Mohs hardness (that is, with its help you can cut all other stones, including the previous one on the scale, corundum — sapphire and ruby). It is also a wide-gap semiconductor and has a very low coefficient of friction for metal (which allows it to be used in metal processing — both in cutting and in drilling), as well as the highest elastic modulus and the lowest compression coefficient (in comparison with other materials known to scientists).

However, initially a diamond (in the faceted form it is called a diamond) was valued for its, so to speak, visual qualities — brilliance and play (in physical language — a high refractive index and dispersion). In ancient times, this stone was very rare, due to the peculiarities of its extraction, and was valued above all other precious stones. Over time, techniques and techniques for cutting diamonds improved, which made it possible to enhance their brilliance, as well as diamond mining methods.

But the discovery of new deposits in the 19th century (the largest in the area of ​​the Orange River in the territory of present South Africa), and new technologies in mining did not reduce the shortage of natural diamonds, since in addition to their jewelry purpose, they have become very popular in science and technology in recent times — due to their unique physical qualities. By the middle of the 20th century, the need for synthetic crystals with characteristics identical to natural cubic allotropic carbon became obvious.

Art versus nature
The development of artificial gemstones began simultaneously in several countries. The first in 1953, the Swedes received a synthetic diamond. Since in the middle of the last century the focus of the leading world powers was the space race and the arms race, the USSR was also engaged in synthetic diamonds, which were necessary, among other things, in rocket science. In the Union at the Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences — FIAN — they created the so-called cubic zirconia (cubic zirconium), and then technical diamonds. They were inferior to the best natural diamonds, but in many respects they suit those for whom they were created, used for microcircuits, X-ray equipment, and telescopes.

Now even young girls know about cubic zirconia: this is a popular insert in inexpensive silver jewelry of different brands like Pandora and Thomas Sabo. Jewelry-quality artificial diamonds were not widely sold until relatively recently — so that their defining characteristics (purity, on which the refraction of light and color depend on later) correspond to the level required in jewelry, high production technologies and equipment are needed, which are roughly saying, it is capable of simulating in laboratory conditions the natural environment in which carbon-graphite is transformed into diamond, and accelerate this process, the natural course of which takes millennia, to several days.

Scientists have developed two main technologies for the synthesis of artificial diamonds, which are not inferior to natural stones in their physical and chemical characteristics. These are HPHT (High Pressure, High Temperature, in translation «high pressure, high temperature») and CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition — «chemical vapor deposition»). In the first case, a press is used, electric current and heating to 1500 degrees Celsius, in the second, a crystal is formed from a hot reaction gas mixture by condensing it on a special substrate, or, as experts say, on a controlled surface.

It would seem that everything is simple, but in fact the manufacture of large stones, colorless and high purity is not such a simple matter. CVD technology, which, by the way, is used to apply scratch-resistant coatings to metal surfaces, when trying to grow synthetic crystals, does not give the best result: experts note that stones grown, so to speak, from gas, do not shine in every sense — they have a noticeable dark shade, which significantly lowers their jewelry merits. HPHT technology has its own problems, as well as the production of very large gem-quality stones, but scientists are scientists to solve problems.

Better Bigger and Cheaper
The new Lightbox brand, created by De Beers, is far from the first in this business. Synthetic diamonds have been made by many American brands for several years. Some of them are very remarkable. For example, one of the investors in a major California-based producer Diamond Foundry is Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, and at Helzberg’s Diamond Shops Inc. invested billionaire Warren Buffett. There are companies that advertise themselves as fighters for ethics in jewelry: for example, American Grown Diamonds tells how environmentally harmful diamond mines are and how immoral it is to depress low-paid workers on these mines — do not torment, they say, nature, buy synthetic.

The LifeGem and Heart In Diamond brands completely brought to life the satirical novel of Evelyn Waugh “Unforgettable” and make diamonds from biomaterial: locks of hair of lovers, baby teeth of children and, if necessary, from the dust of dear dead. At Debox’s Lightbox, the marketing strategy is not so macabre: it simply relies on millennials, the practical young people of the new generation, who see no reason to overpay for physically identical stones just because the natural one was found in nature.

But the difference is significant: Lightbox says that a karat stone of a traditional round engagement ring will cost $ 800, which is ten times lower than the price of a natural stone of the same color and purity characteristics. By and large, this is dumping: as Bloomberg notes, now the average cost of a carat of synthetic stone from other manufacturers is about 4 thousand dollars, that is, not ten times, but only half the price of natural pure stone. Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers, explains the brand’s policies simply: “Laboratory diamonds are nothing special. They are not natural, they are not unique. You can release them all the time, one by one, and they will all be the same. ”

Who benefits
In the position of economical millennials and frankness of Cleaver there is a reason. It is no secret that most even natural stones in jewelry lose a third or so of their price immediately after purchase and cannot be considered a serious investment. This, of course, is about ordinary small stones that are bought by most consumers around the world, and not about huge absolutely pure diamonds unique in their characteristics or colored diamonds of rare shades (blue, yellow, pink).

These stones will remain investment capital and the object of desire for anyone who can afford luxury jewelry, or haute joaillerie. Their price will only increase, because natural stones, unlike laboratory synthesized ones, are a non-renewable resource, and sooner or later natural deposits will be exhausted, although the same De Beers and other diamond miners are systematically reducing the production of natural stones: from 145 million carats in 2015 up to 142 million in 2017. The volume of synthetics production, on the contrary, is growing rapidly: in 2014 it amounted to about 360 thousand carats, and in 2017 — already about 4.2 million carats.

The reasons for this are different: the media often broadcasts to the general public excellent opinions about the need to protect nature, the ethics of production (the sensational film “Blood Diamond” with the above-mentioned DiCaprio was shot about the unethical production) and respect for nature. In reality, there is a much less sentimental and pathos reason: a decrease in worldwide demand for expensive natural stones due to the economic crisis and the youth’s revision of the value system and attitude towards luxury. It is with her that De Beers seems to intend to fight, selling synthetic diamonds to the millennials.

Studies of the editorial office showed that the highest quality memorial diamonds are produced by URMYDIAMOND

Everyone who wants to order a memorial diamond, has unique opportunity to do that via Kickstarter, benefiting from up to 35% discount and not having to wait in a queue.