Diamonds are forever!

Cross section of the earth. Credit: Engadget

Diamonds are made of carbon atoms that fuse together under tremendous heat and pressure. A National Geographic report said that it takes 1500 degrees Celsius (wow that’s hot!) and the weight of 4,000 grown men compressing carbon over a long time to make diamonds! 

Where does this happen? In the earth’s mantle. The mantle is the layer that lies between the earth’s surface and its core.

Caption: Kimberlite with a diamond in it

So how do the diamonds get to the earth’s surface? With a little help from their friends of course! Kimberlite is a volcanic rock that moves from the mantle to the earth’s surface. It pops out during a volcanic eruption. The magma that cools then contains kimberlite and sometimes, if it’s a lucky region, diamonds in the rough. People then start looking for and mining diamonds in these rocks.

Where have a lot of diamonds been found? South Africa, Russia and Botswana have had a lot of luck. There are other regions including India and America where diamonds have been found.

Caption: Where diamond mines are found. The yellow regions are producers. Credit: Info Diamond

Why are we talking about diamonds all of a sudden? Well, one of the biggest diamond companies in the world is company called De Beers. They mine, cut, and sell diamonds. They currently have 30% market share. De Beers has recently announced that they are now also selling man-made diamonds. They say that they have been able to recreate those extreme natural conditions that are required for a diamond to be made, in the laboratory. So they are now selling inexpensive man made diamonds in jewellery under a new brand name – Lightbox.

Wait a second – why does that make sense? Diamonds are used in jewellery, but they are so strong that they are also used in industrial machines, for cutting and drilling and other activities that require a stone that durable.

In addition, diamonds are expensive and have been out of reach for a lot of people. Some years ago, some enterprising companies saw that there were individual and industrial needs for fake diamonds that are strong, and started selling man-made or synthetic diamonds. Over time, the quality has really improved.

Enter the Chinese! The Chinese started growing diamonds in a laboratory. Apparently in a matter of weeks, they can now produce what it takes the earth a billion years to make! And the quality was apparently very good. These are being used for industrial purposes and also for jewellery.

De Beers turned their noses up at these ‘cheap imitations’ and fakes. Meanwhile, over time, the quality of the fakes got so good that it became harder to tell what was real and what wasn’t! So a certification board started etching a tiny certification number on the real diamonds and jewellers could see this number under their special magnifying glass. Then people would know if they were getting the real thing or getting cheated.

Well De Beers has taken the world by storm and is changing the rules of the market again. They too are creating man-made diamonds in a laboratory, but are entering this market with all the force that they can. They are pricing them at 75% below the competition, have come up with beautiful designs and boxes for gifting, and plan to own this market like they do that for the natural diamonds!

Genius stroke or silly mistake? That remains to be seen… De Beers thinks that those who are in the market for real diamonds will continue to be. And that they will now be able to gain some marketshare in a portion of the market that was lost to natural diamonds. So that could only be additive… right? Hmmm… we will have to wait and see how this plays out. Will more people be opting for man made diamonds now that the quality is so good and since growing diamonds in a lab is less damaging to the earth? Will this bring down diamond prices?

While this gets worked out in the market, De Beers has smartly called this new venture by a different name – Lightbox. So look for the pretty pastel boxes and let us know what you think!

Written by: Sunaina Murthy.

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