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3 posts from October 2008

Improved Process for Synthetic Diamond Production

Synthetic diamonds catch the public’s attention because they immediately think of the man-made diamonds replacing diamonds in the jewelry industry.  However, the motivation behind researchers usually has more to do with industrial applications.  Diamond’s hardness, high thermal conductivity, high electrical resistivity, optical transparency, resistance to chemicals, and other unique properties make it a valuable material for a variety of uses including surgical scalpel blades, equipment “windows” exposed to harsh environments, heat-spreaders for electronic devices, temperature and pressure sensors, and drill bits used in mining and oil exploration.

CVD Diamond Scientists at the Carnegie Institution‘s Geophysical Laboratory recently announced an enhanced process for growing diamond crystals using the chemical vapor disposition (CVD).  Most synthetic diamond methods require high temperature and extremely high pressure to mimic nature’s own diamond growing process.  However, the CVD process uses high temperature but low pressure to produce single-crystal diamonds rapidly and with more controlled results.

The Carnegie researchers add a new twist to the synthetic diamond process by heating the diamonds at temperatures up to 2000 degrees Celsius but low (less than atmospheric) pressure to alter the color of the diamond.  The raw synthetic diamond crystals are usually yellow-brown in color but this special annealing process transforms the color to a colorless or light pink hue.  With the ability to use low pressure, researchers have been able to identify the specific crystal defects that cause color changes in diamonds.

This annealing process uses microwave plasma to produce the high heat at low pressure, yet keeping the diamond from changing to graphite.  Producing colorless diamonds has been a challenge for synthetic diamond manufacturers and getting a faint pink color could end up being a bonus.  This ability to produce colorless diamond crystals has value not only in the jewelry industry but also in many of the industrial applications where colorless transparency has increased value.

Global Economic Slowdown Impacts Diamond Industry

Diamonds2_download Diamond prices, like most commodity and luxury items had been climbing for years.  Large diamond prices in particular have been sky rocketing the past five years due to the imbalance of supply and demand.  This year alone, diamond prices were up about 16 percent.  However, the global forecasts and now the reality of economic slowdown, are taking their toll on the demand for diamonds.

After seeing the prices of large diamonds begin to fall, the world’s largest producers of diamonds (De Beers and Russia’s ZAO ALROSA) have announced they will cut supplies of rough gems to support prices.

The sight-holders who purchase diamonds from De Beers have requested the supply of diamonds be reduced at the final two “sights” scheduled in November and December.  ALROSA has said they will reduce rough diamond supplies as much as 30 percent.

The reduction of rough diamond supply is an effort to keep the price of diamonds steady and thus encourage continued exploration and mining efforts.  A sudden, short-term drop in diamond prices would play havoc with the capital-intensive diamond mining industry, causing some business to stop exploration and mining efforts.  Then when the economy recovers and the demand for diamonds gets back on its fast track, the supply side would lag the demand side of the industry and cause sharp price increases.  De Beers and ALROSA are acting as a moderating agent for diamond prices.

The plummeting stock market and severe credit crisis have caused the confidence of luxury buyers in the United States to drop to its lowest level in four years.  Stock prices of luxury retailers like Tiffany & Co have dropped as much as 40 percent this year in anticipation of reduced diamond sales.

Consumers will continue to purchase diamonds as engagements, anniversaries and special occasions continue in good and bad economic times.  However, even the wealthy shoppers are being more discriminate about their purchases and shopping for values.

$5 Million Victoria’s Secret Diamond Bra

2008 Fantacy Bra Victoria’s Secret knows how to get attention and their 2008 Black Diamond Fantasy Miracle Bra is no exception.  The one-of-a-kind contains about 3,900 gemstones with 1,500 total carat weight and was created by Martin Katz, the rare gemstone jeweler who has worked with Victoria’s Secret on earlier fantasy lingerie.

The bra has 3,575 black diamonds, 117 certified one-carat white round diamonds and 34 rubies.  Two tear-shaped black diamonds with 100 total carat weight, drop from diamond encrusted cords in from.

Brazilian Adriana Lima is the supermodel who will be modeling the this 2008 Fantasy Bra in the Victoria’s Secret Christmas catalog as well as the December 3 televised fashion show.

Learn more about black diamonds...