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Lab-grown diamonds threaten viability of the real gems (scmp.com)
269 points by bobsoap on Mar 9, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 301 comments



As the price of diamond continues dropping, I wonder if people will find more interesting applications of the material and it'll eventually become as mundane as things like steel and aluminium. Besides its hardness, it also has very high thermal conductivity. Diamond is still too expensive to be a bulk material, but I look forward to when things like this become cheap and commonplace:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Single-crystal_CVD_diamon...


Aluminum in the 1800s was more expensive than gold, and was used as jewelry, fancy cutlery, the capstone of the Washington monument, etc. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_aluminium

Inexpensive mass production moved it from niche prestige uses to unlock its many utilitarian applications.


Iron was more expensive than gold at the dawn of the iron age. The only way humans obtained iron was from meteorites.


This is so incredibly badass. I mean, just imagine that the only practicable place to get this new, incredibly strong material, was from space.

On the topic of found vs made materials: I’ve read that shipwrecks are getting mined as a source of steel because it’s more or less impossible to make new steel that isn’t contaminated by trace amounts of radiation from 20th century nuclear testing. While not a problem for skyscrapers, certain lab equipment requires the relatively more rare variety of found steel.


More on the latter point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-background_steel

The same effect was also used in understanding brain development by looking at Carbon isotopes in brains of people born before WW2 to determine which cells were formed when.


That's fascinating to me, I didn't realize anthropogenic radiation levels were significant enough to offer a control for molecular examination of human brains in the general population.

It's almost a bit unnerving.


It’s not “radiation levels” per se. Nuclear bomb testing in the mid 20th century dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, which has subsequently been gradually declining. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14#Origin


Yeah, I recall reading that a couple years ago. Indeed a fascinating topic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-background_steel


I don't understand this statement, they could not mine iron ores but could gold ones?


Mining the ore isn't the problem. Extraction is. Gold is native gold, so easy to seperate. Iron requires clever furnaces and processing to produce, and it's not until recently we could make mild steel consistently.


Iron extraction is not very high tech after one has the know-how. But it took time to develop the knowledge.

https://primitivetechnology.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/forge-b...


On a more-than-proof-of-concept scale, you have https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuCnZClWwpQ, a traditional blacksmith family in Burkina Faso mining a few kilograms of iron with several person-days of work, which is probably about 1000× as productive as the Primitive Technology guy achieved (perhaps a gram of iron after about a person-day of work). But the US steel industry employs 87000 people to produce about 120 million tonnes of iron and steel per year, which works out to about 5000 kg of iron and steel per person-day. (And that's why Burkina Faso imports its iron instead of smelting it in the way demonstrated in that documentary, the way they had done for the previous 2500 years, until some French guys wrecked a Jeep there in the early 20th century.)

So there are something like six or seven orders of magnitude over which "high-tech" machinery can increase your iron productivity, or, to look at it another way, over which the price of iron can vary even once you have the know-how.


Thanks for sharing, this is a really great documentary!


They could not attain high enough smelting temperatures to produce quality iron.


And FYI where I just heard that this week was in "The Podcast History of Our World", which is totally awesome. In one of the three "The New Kingdom" episodes.


Sounds interesting. Thanks!


In Napoleon's day it was more expensive than gold. By the time the Washington Monument was constructed the price had dropped to roughly the level of silver. Titanium might be poised to follow in its footsteps after the discovery of electrolysis of titanium oxide in molten calcium chloride, analogous to the cryolite process.


IIRC the difficulty with titanium was not in the production, but rather the difficulty in machining the metal afterwards.


Titanium isn't worse to machine than stainless steel. Sure, it's not as straightforward as mild or annealed steel, and not as buttery as aluminum, but the "hard to machine" rep is fairly overstated.

Titanium stock is at least 5x more expensive than steel at retail, so I think the material scarcity is still the major problem.


I'm curious, what are some of the places we would start to see titanium if the prices dropped?


Cheap titanium bikes are high on my list but I think the killer application is titanium hinges. Springs will last a lifetime.

Looks like this is starting to happen alreadt: https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/titanium-hinges.html

$0.25 for a hinge

Titanium is light, but my favorite thing is it is next to impossible to bend. So anything that shouldn't bend will be better with titanium.


You can already buy a titanium bike (sourced from China) for a very reasonable place from Bikesdirect.com— mine was cheaper than a steel Surly Straggler for similar specs.

Habanero also sells them for low, but not quite as low, prices: https://www.habcycles.com/

There seem to be a bunch of low-cost titanium manufacturers in China selling directly on eBay.


Ti bikes are all over a thousand on bikesdirect. I am thinking that ti bikes will cost just a hundred more than steel when ti becomes common.


There's very little actual titanium in titanium bike frames. Most of the cost is in the machining and labor, so I doubt prices will drop much. And the majority of riders seem to prefer carbon fiber anyway.


>Most of the cost is in the machining and labor, so I doubt prices will drop much.

I'm not sure why that would be the case. Titanium alloys are only marginally more difficult to work with than aluminium alloys. The tubes are hydroformed and die cut, so the only difference is a touch more die wear. Titanium is a bit finicky to weld, but that can't possibly account for the ~500% price premium over aluminium frames. There's a tiny bit more surface preparation and your fixtures need to be more complex to provide adequate gas purging, but the differences in a mass production environment are quite marginal.

>And the majority of riders seem to prefer carbon fiber anyway.

Carbon is better for competition road bikes, because it offers the absolute lowest weight and can be easily formed into complex aerodynamic profiles. Entry-level bikes tend to be aluminium for cost reasons. For touring and audax bikes, many riders still prefer steel for durability and comfort. Titanium has the corrosion-resistance and light weight of aluminium but the comfort of steel, so it's considered by many to be the ideal material for non-racing bikes, but the cost is often prohibitive.

As far as I can see, the bike industry would be transformed if titanium were to achieve price parity with aluminium.


The point is that a modern titanium bike frame costs at least $1200 even though it contains <2kg of titanium, and high purity titanium only costs ~$50/kg. So I can't see how just cutting the cost of the raw material would have a transformative impact on the bike industry.


That is due to tooling but it is an issue because it is rarely used.

Carbon is fragile and breaks but it is cheaper to repair once again because Titanium is exotic right now.

https://www.livestrong.com/article/271286-titanium-vs-carbon...


> Titanium is light, but my favorite thing is it is next to impossible to bend.

This gives an insane amount of tensile strenght since it always wants to retain its shape. TBH I have no idea why we haven't seen Titanium in things like golf clubs, hockey sticks, baseball bats, tennis rackets, snowboards etc, where you could really use its springy characteristics to a huge advantage.

I've always felt like it has a huge potential for widespread use in sports.


As far as I know, they are used quite heavily in golf and tennis equipment.

Hockey sticks tend to be carbon fiber.

<s>I think the baseball wood/aluminum debate can't handle another metal </s>

Snowboards and such do benefit from being able to bend. I could see it more in alpine snowboard equipment, but again, I'm not sure that carbon fiber wouldn't be the better bet.


Baseball has been moving away from lively metal bats. Too dangerous for the infield. Never ending debate when I played 6A baseball in HS.

Now, slow pitch softball had Ti bats in the early 90's that added 10 mph. Even then some of the new composite materials out hit Ti.


> Even then some of the new composite materials out hit Ti

The issue is one PEOPLE DIE because of these bats and balls. (I'm old but I was one of maybe three people that could hit a home run now all 10 players can)

1) The other bats were so thin that you had to rotate the bat when you hit because the bats bend or will break. The ti bats are durable and you can still sue them. The issue is nothing really is better than ti but ti has a cost.


Since someone is doubting what I said here is SBNations take on Ti Bats.

>"The pitcher’s mound for amateur slow-pitch softball varies according to the field and age of players, but is generally between 40 and 50 feet from home. This means that after a ball is hit, assuming an exit velocity of between 78 and 102 mph, the pitcher has between 0.456 and 0.350 seconds to react to a batted ball. Adding exit velocity shaves precious micro-seconds off that time. That was what made titanium bats so dangerous. Softballs became missiles and pitchers became targets. And the dangers are real. Players have lost teeth, eyesight, motor function, IQ points and even their lives when struck by balls hit off hot bats."

https://www.sbnation.com/2015/8/5/9041099/the-bat-doctor-is-...


Diamond-like carbon should be applied everywhere there's wear. It could allow drill bits, gears, bike chains, joints, etc to all last virtually forever.


I doubt it's happening already. Metalysis currently owns the patent rights to the process and is focusing on tantalum and zirconium (higher profit margins) while working on scaling it up.


Tantalum ore concentrate currently sells for over $150/kg. Making metallic tantalum powder from the oxide is barely interesting even if the FFC process works quite well. Tantalum would remain an expensive specialty metal. Titanium dioxide, OTOH, is closer to $150 per tonne. A cheap process to convert that inexpensive raw material to metal would be one of the most impressive advances in industrial metal production in decades.

There's an ugly licensing fight in the history of the FFC Cambridge process. See the section "Commercial challenges" in this article:

http://www.saimm.co.za/Journal/v111n03p199.pdf

In 2000 Cambridge University Technical Service issued a sub-license for the technology that British Titanium Plc used for the purpose of producing bulk titanium and titanium alloys. BTi worked closely with researchers from the Fray group (one F of the Fray, Farthing, Chen inventors whose names make up "FFC.")

The US Office of Naval Research issued contracts to BTi for R&D work in 2000 and 2002. In 2002 DARPA started funding more expensive scale-up work also associated with BTi. In 2004 NASA issued an even larger contract to BTi. Cambridge spun off Metalysis in 2002 with another license, but Metalysis didn't seem to be making much progress compared with BTi. In 2005, CUTS revoked the sub-license granted to BTi and made all of the IP exclusive to Metalysis. The license revocation destroyed BTi.

My interpretation: CUTS crippled BTi because Metalysis wasn't making enough progress on implementation to compete against BTi. But CUTS really crippled the whole concept because the experts that had been working for and with BTi didn't want to work with Metalysis after getting screwed by CUTS. Metalysis "pivoted" to tantalum and has failed to make notable progress there, too. Maybe the application to titanium will finally resume progress toward industrialization after the patents expire.


Not everyone cares about patents. I think Chinese factories do not care and who cares whether the result product was patent-free or not.


I think pipes might be a strong contender. Currently titanium is roughly the same price as copper, but harder to machine -- and it's produced in ugly forms by the Kroll process. Electrolysis produces a metal powder using less energy. Titanium is practically immune to chloride corrosion but is slowly worn down by fluoride, although fluoride is typically present at just 1 PPM in tap water (anything higher is toxic) so Ti pipes should last quite a while. Boats can also be made of titanium alloys. Anything dealing with water gets easier when titanium is in play, for the most part; one of the few things that really affects it is lactate (biofouling), but even that can be inhibited with the right alloying additives. More speculative uses might include offshore wind turbines and underwater (isobaric) compressed-air energy storage equipment.


Cars.


Neal Stephenson has a book that assumes such an advance -- it's not a key component of the story, but definitely features large in the title : The Diamond Age.


That’s my favourite book of his, but I’ve stopped recommending it to non-programmers because I think much of it’s magic is knowing how much of it is actually possible in the future.


Possibly a key indicator of a quality SF idea / author -- how much closer we are to their universe a decade or two later.

I've loved everything Neal's written, though I may begrudgingly agree with various critics that suggest he really doesn't do endings very well (REAMDE and Anathem are much, much better on this front).

I've tried recommending various books of his to different friends, and I've concluded that I have basically zero predictive capability in terms of working out who would like which of his books. Maybe I've simply failed to grade them properly on the geek scale, but it feels like some of his more technical books appeal to people who don't normally like deep tech, and his deeply social commentary style novels appeal to people who normally push back against strong societal allegory. Which just makes me love his stuff even more.


Possibly a key indicator of a quality SF idea / author -- how much closer we are to their universe a decade or two later.

I wholeheartedly disagree. As the great (and unfortunately late) Ursula Le Guin wrote, I write science fiction, and science fiction isn't about the future. I don't know any more about the future than you do, and very likely less.[1]

Predictions are cute and all, and I enjoy reading them, but SF certainly can't be judged by how predictive it is.

[1] http://theliterarylink.com/leguinintro.html


Margaret Atwood claimed that if she could predict the future she wouldn't be an author, she'd be a stock trader


I read somewhere (cannot find source at the moment) that Neal Stephenson would start each day with a complete reread of the book he was working on, editing as he went. This would explain why the first few chapters of his books are always the strongest, because they get the most attention and polish in this method, while the endings tend to be weaker.


Were you thinking of William Gibson[0]?

[0] https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6089/william-gibso...


You are correct, and I was thinking of William Gibson. Thank you for correcting me.


> though I may begrudgingly agree with various critics that suggest he really doesn't do endings very well (REAMDE and Anathem are much, much better on this front).

It seems his "formula" is that the first 90% of the book is world building (and he's absolutely amazing at that), then the last 10% is the actual story, but packed into an impossibly small space, so it feels like everything happening at once.

In REAMDE and Anathem, the split feel more like 70/30, but he "compensates" by having so much more story, so it's still everything happening at once, but for much longer. It almost feels exhausting.

Seveneves tries a different formula, it's more like 40/10/40/10. Still, I'd wish he'd nail a story that actually goes on throughout the novel, with the world building interleaved.


Normally with his books I can self-restrain in the 'this is interesting, but I want to keep it going as long as possible' and put the book down for a bit. REAMDE was the first book of his where it was more along the lines of 'jesus christ I must know what happens next, I don't care what time it is' ... and got through the whole thing in a couple of days. Much agreement on the 'exhausting' sensation, but also in a good way.

REAMDE was also similarly received by my other half -- a case in point to my earlier observation about being unable to predict which NS book matches (my understanding of) someone's literary tastes.

Seveneves also backs up my low-quality self-assessment capabilities -- my other half loved that too, despite always pushing back on 'science fiction'. I read an astonishingly annoying spoiler in an HN comment soon after that book was released, and I've subsequently been very cautious talking about it. Suffice to say the ending of that book is frustrating primarily because it's still not clear if there may be a follow-up work.


I would suggest checking out Dan Simmons. He's like Neal in many ways (lots of world building, interesting scifi), but I think a better writer and story teller. I picked up Hyperion based on a review of Seveneves, which suggested the third part was a pale imitation. It and Ilium are amazing.


+1 for Dan Simmons and especially Hyperion. It is more what I'd call "science fantasy" in my personal classification system, but it's an amazing book, in my top 5 for sure.


Thank you both for the recommendation - Hyperion's now queued up on my ebook. Sounds like the first pair of novels are more highly regarded than the second pair?


I think if I had to rank them I'd say Hyperion is top-tier, the sort of book I can quote from even years after reading it. The others are merely excellent sci-fi novels. I don't know how I'd rank the second book against the last two; they're fairly different and I enjoyed them all.


Hyperion is the best of the books in my opinion. One of my favorite books of all time. The Endymion books are a different story set in the same universe, and can be skipped if you want.


REAMDE was his first book that I read. I was totally captivated by the book, but I hated the ending. That's one of his good endings?


Stephenson is terrible at endings.


This is why I like Vernor Vinge - sci-fi authors tend to have a scientific focus based on their background, e.g. physicists tend to focus on physics world building - because he is a computer scientist and is capable of expressing ideas around that at many different levels.


Yeah, Fire upon the Deep had literally the best first chapter of any AI-based scifi book I'd ever read (I listened to the audiobook).

I really wish Vinge would revisit that universe - Deepness in the Sky was great but it was a prequel of sorts.


Vinge did write a sequel to The Fire Upon the Deep. The title of the sequel is "The Children of the Sky".


>I’ve stopped recommending it to non-programmers because I think much of it’s magic is knowing how much of it is actually possible in the future.

That's sad. Recommend it and they either pick it up and read or don't. That's up to them but why not give someone a chance to be inspired, experience that magic, and think about these things?

There are more non-programmers than programmers. They spend money on and vote on things that have an effect on what's possible in the future too.

I read it as a teen, am a non-programmer, and still think about it two decades later. Everything we read can help in how we approach the world, especially as the years go by and we experience more of it.


Similarly, his book Cryptonomicon is quite long and likely would only hold ones interest if they had an interest in Cryptography.


Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age examines, among other topics, the socio-economic impact of cheap plentiful diamonds produced by molecular nanotech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diamond_Age


Such a fantastic book.


Yay, diamond coolers for CPUs and GPUs!


Diamond chef knives.


> De Beers fights fakes with technology as China’s lab-grown diamonds threaten viability of the real gems

From what I understand, these gems are actually better than natural ones, since they're 100% pure. Maybe it's time to call lab-grown diamonds "real" and mined ones "fake".


Saying lab grown gems are fake is like saying "Is that Orchid you bought me a fake from greenhouse or a real one that someone picked from a jungle?"

It's funny what massive marketing campaign can do.


In fairness, that massive marketing campaign only worked because people are very susceptible to preferring “natural” things over “artificial” things, especially with art and luxury items. Diamonds are not unusual in this regard.


Natural art?


For art, exchange "natural" for "authentic."


They should do what they did with pearls: start referring to the lab-grown ones as "cultured diamonds."


One company does that.

DeBeers' big win was when they convinced the US FTC that synthetic diamonds had to be labeled as synthetic. They're real diamonds, and arguably not different from natural ones. The tests required to detect synthetics keep getting more complicated and expensive as the synthesis technology improves.

The old heat and pressure process was first used by General Electric to make a synthetic diamond in 1956. That's used today to make diamond abrasives by the ton. Making gemstones that way wasn't cost-effective until, in the 1990s, Gemesis, in Florida, got the process to work better. The process is touchy, but that's what computer control is for. DeBeers tried threats and intimidation. Unfortunately for them, the Gemesis CEO was a retired US Army general and didn't intimidate. The synthetic diamond gem industry, based in Florida, was soon going strong.

Then came controlled vapor deposition of carbon. The heat and pressure process forced some metal from the press anvils into the diamond, and this was detectable. The CVD process, using technology similar to that used to make near perfect crystal IC substrates, didn't do that. Synthetic diamonds could not longer be detected with standard diamond industry tests.

DeBeers developed more elaborate tests. Diamonds glow for a few milliseconds after being hit by a UV flash, and DeBeers makes testers which flash the target and then take a picture. The results differ for CVD diamonds, but not by much. There are videos of the difference, and it's now at the point where the precise symmetry of CVD diamonds is what distinguishes them. This blows away a basic sales pitch of the diamond business - the best diamond is a flawless crystal. Now they're up against a semiconductor materials technology that makes perfect crystals. DeBeers has been trying to spin this as "natural flaws" being important, after decades of promoting "flawless" as the goal.

CVD was originally really slow. Then the process got faster. Then more companies started using it. Now there's a glut of small diamonds. You can buy them in kilogram bags on Alibaba.

As for cubic zirconia, that's now so cheap that for $500 you can buy a gemstone 200mm across for about $500.

Most other gemstones have been produced in bulk for decades. You can buy ruby and sapphire rods and sheets, and it's not that expensive. The checkout scanners at Home Depot have a sapphire layer on top of the glass. You can drag tools across those all day for years before they scratch much.


I like the opposite approach, diamond and blood diamond.


Or "Would you rather buy a diamond from your friendly local diamond farmer or from the diamond poacher cartel?"


Would you want a Mickey Mantle rookie card or a flawless counterfeit? I have a feeling you want the former


>> From what I understand, these gems are actually better than natural ones...

Yes, for decades they claimed clarity and purity to be indicators of the highest quality. Now that humans can manufacture them with better specs than nature, they're shifting to claim that "natural" is better. In the end it's a pretty carbon lattice.


Yeah, for them fake means that it's not being artificially inflated by blood and perverse business practices.

It's such bullshit, from the social usage as a token of value for females to the fake perception of value.

I hope they fall hard.


In that respect it's the same as any other collectible or antique that can be reliably replicated in slightly better condition and with slightly less irregularity than the highly prized "mint condition" originals made by the most skilled artisans...

(Less so for industrial uses, or for inserts into the average person's engagement rings where it's the thought and style rather than the provenance that counts)


Photorealism was the ultimate goal of artists, until that became easy.


Well, there was really a bifurcation in art.

Painting and drawing went for various forms of stylized representation, because competing against photographs doesn't interest most people.

But you also had a new field of photography, where the focus is now composition. There is a marked difference between the photographs I take and the photographs a skilled photographer takes, even if both are realistic depictions of a scene, and the difference is, sometimes, art.


All discussion aside, I see portrait photography as painting with people.

That is, it's not so much about composition, as it is about using objects around you - people, nature, etc - to paint a picture instead of using paint and brushes.

It's much easier than painting when the picture you see in your head is much like what the camera lens sees when you point it in a given direction.

However, often there's work required to paint the picture you see in your head. With people, it's figuring out what to say to them to make them look the way you see them - to bring out the inner warmth - and to figure out how to capture in a static image what the eye sees over a stretch of time.

Ultimately, with movies we've come full circle: filmmakers often resort to painting (i.e. CGI) instead of photography, because sometimes it's easier just to paint the picture one has in their minds with a graphics tablet than it is to paint it with real-world objects positioned around the camera - even if realism is the goal.


I would rephrase this as that the market demand for photorealistic portraiture decreased due to the rise of photography.

The artistic merits and goals are another axis altogether from market demand, and a bit more difficult subject.


That's true but I think part of it is also that once we achieved photorealism, we began to realize that photorealism isn't everything.


I think Bouguereau managed to surpass photorealism. It's more real than real, but, from what I read, the techniques he used are forever lost.

http://webneel.com/william-adolphe-bouguereau-paintings


Yup, when I doing some research for an engagement ring I read "reviews" on Moisanite arguing that it wasn't as nice as a real diamond because it had "too much sparkle." So I got the Moisanite and my fiance loved and gets compliments on it all the damn time!


I'd expect a significant change in diamond pricing structure — De Beers and the jewelry industry sure can keep prices from dropping uncontrollably, but I'd guess some kinds of impurities will become markers of superior value ("true natural 10..100× more expensive") due to difficulty of artificial reproduction.


I can see the desire for obviously occluded diamonds to become chic, since their manufacturing value would be low enough that fakes likely wouldn't exist, but I don't see how impurities would be "difficult to reproduce".


It's organic vs synthetic. Not real vs fake.

There was a similar problem with Rubies and they detected the fakes by virtue of the fact that they were flawless.


All the carbon is ultimately from a star. And the pressure that makes the real/organic diamond is 0% organic.

Geo-sourced vs anthro-sourced?


I like mined diamond vs lab diamond.


Even if they succeed (edit: with that fake-vs-natural campaign), what if the next step introduced artificial flaws and impurities?


Probably but I doubt they'll be successful. For decades they've talked about the flawlessness and purity of diamonds, now faced with a superior product they have to change everyone's minds.

They could go the granola from the earth natural route but unlike organic farming, which evokes images of the stoic farmer, their image is of conflict diamonds and exploited children in dangerous mines.

Couple that with the fact that many people no longer buy the diamonds or see the value that DeBeers put on them. And the fact that millennials are poor and they have a fading empire.


> Probably but I doubt they'll be successful. For decades they've talked about the flawlessness and purity of diamonds, now faced with a superior product they have to change everyone's minds.

I believe that with really good marketing (which De Beers can easily afford) this should not be a problem. For example the fact that Persian rug makers traditionally include deliberate small imperfections into their carpets

> https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/32361/did-persi...

might be a good starting point for how one might create such a campaign.


It wouldn't be the first time. The practice of giving diamond engagement rings was a result of a very clever marketing campaign by De Beers ("diamonds are forever").

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/diamond-de-beers-marketin...


I wouldn't be so quick to say that they won't succeed - their marketing has been managing the public opinion about diamonds for 7 decades. Neither blood diamonds, environmental issues nor the (false) perception of scarcity has brought them down yet.


Managing yes, but managing a decline. Their one lever to keeping prices up has been the (artificial) scarcity.

With that gone they have very little to play with. Fashion, possibly, but that’s strongly fickle & temporary.


It's only been in the last couple decades that those things have come into the public consciousness. It can take decades to change perception, especially with something like diamonds that aren't usually purchased by or for kids.

Those kids growing up in the 90s who heard about all the shit DeBeers did and continues to do are now of the age where they would be a customer and they aren't buying. The up and coming generations certainly don't value diamonds either.

I would bet that in 15-20 years the market will decline significantly further and the artificial diamonds are only going to hasten that decline.


> They could go the granola from the earth natural route but unlike organic farming, which evokes images of the stoic farmer, their image is of conflict diamonds and exploited children in dangerous mines.

I wonder whether they could go a fair trade route, focus only on communities which could be improved, and give them a small slice (which would make an enormous difference). It would require a change in approach, not just a marketing whitewash.


They're called conflict or blood diamonds for a reason. The controlling interests in the regions of Africa where most diamonds come from employ slave, child, and forced labor in mines.

If you want a fair trade diamond you need one that's certified to have come from somewhere like Canada.


It doesn't matter. If factory diamonds are cheap, the tacky hoi polloi will slap them on everything Swarovski-style, the appearance of diamond will no longer connote wealth, and the wealthy will drop them like a… rock.


This is on-point. Cultured gemstone-grade diamonds started becoming viable in the early '10s, and manufacturers were careful to provide better value than mined gemstones but not overly sell on it, instead stressing the ethical aspect of CVD/HPHT-treated stones. In addition, the process wasn't yet refined enough to undercut traditionally-mined diamonds by too much. If that changes, then the meaning of diamonds to the rich will as well.


> what if the next step introduced artificial flaws and impurities?

Develop methods to distinguish "natural"/"organic" impurities from artificially introduced flaws.


Paleo and progressive diamonds?


They’re called fake because they’re artificial, not because they have more flaws. The diamond industry might have once thought it could rely on artificial diamonds being less perfect, but it’s under no such illusion now. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that, even if we don’t like it, many people prefer natural diamonds because they’re natural, not because they believe they’re somehow more “pure.”

In other words, I basically agree that diamond prices are subject to artificial scarcity, but give credit to the other side’s point. They have a reasonable and internally consistent argument, even if we find it disagreeable. If you interpret “real” to mean “natural”, their position is reasonable. This isn’t novel - we use “real” and “fake” to refer to “natural” and “artificial” for many other things.


> They’re called fake because they’re artificial, not because they have more flaws (...) give credit to the other side’s point: they have a reasonable and internally consistent argument

The only thing I credit them for is being ruthlessly manipulative. "Fakes" is not a neutral word. It was very specifically chosen for its emotional baggage, similar to "pro-lifer" or "franken-foods". It is an emotional distracting piece of doublespeak and should not be condoned at all as being "reasonable".


You’re taking away a lot of agency from people who prefer natural diamonds. Yes, of course their marketing campaign set off the industry, but the reason it worked is because many people are already predisposed to prefer natural things over artificial things. What you’re calling “emotional baggage” is a subjective preference for some things over other things.

It’s only doublespeak if you subscribe to a literalist form of communication that most people do not use. “Fake” isn’t a neutral word because it’s not intended to be - some people actually do prefer natural diamonds, just as some people really do prefer non-GMO food. It doesn’t matter if the reason they have that preference is due to artificial scarcity or a marketing campaign, the point is that they have that preference and many will keep it even if they are very informed on the matter. People are not hyperrational in the development of their preferences.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while I agree people shouldn’t spend ostentatious amounts of money on items with artificial scarcity, I think litigating the use of the word “fake” is effectively a strawman and a sideshow when we’re discussing De Beers. In my opinion, while lab-made diamonds are more fiscally responsible, they’re not less silly as a purchase than natural diamonds if you dislike the capitalist insertion of a jewelry preference. It’s just local maxima: if you buy a lab-grown diamond you’re still buying a diamond. You’re still buying into that “emotional baggage”, as you put it, you’re just being a bit more fiscally savvy about it. If we assume people are not born with a desire for diamonds, then there is a credible argument buying synethic ones is still feeding a desire you (and I!) find fundamentally disagreeable.


> You’re taking away a lot of agency from people who prefer natural diamonds.

No, I'm not. I'm stating the fact that the language used by De Beers is manipulative. Whether or not people fall for that manipulation is a separate argument.

I did not bring consumers into the equation, you did. And speaking of manipulative language, I would appreciate it if you didn't try to spin it as if I'm the one talking down to them.


It’s only manipulative to take advantage of people’s desires for “real” diamonds insofar as it is manipulative to take advantage of people’s desires for “real” luxury items of any sort that can be faked. In other words: calling it manipulative isn’t productive, because that is essentially how the entire luxury industry works. We can make hyperrealistic imitation handbags and watches, but people still prefer the real items over the “fake” ones, regardless of how close they are in literal quality.

More abstractly, to call a marketing campaign emphasizing the “realness” of a luxury item manipulative is to say that people could be manipulated by it. I disagree that people are manipulated into their desires for these items, even if their desires are not financially rational.


> In other words: calling it manipulative isn’t productive, because that is essentially how the entire luxury industry works.

The fact that an entire industry relies on fallacies does not make calling out those fallacies counter-productive. On the contrary.


“Productive” here means that there is no distinguishing feature of the diamond industry in particular with respect to the luxury industry. In other words, the criticism of the diamond industry is not productively precise. Of course, you can productively criticize the entire luxury industry, sure, I don’t disagree with that.

More to the point, what exactly is the fallacy? That the “real” products are better? They are better for some definition, you just don’t share the same definition of “better” as the people buying them. That’s the problem: the claim of superiority is not falsifiable, and it’s normative. It’s valid to say that synthetic diamonds are better according to some metrics like flawlessness, but that isn’t the metric everyone values. Many people demonstrably want “as flawless as possible for the ‘real’ diamond I can afford.” That desire is not based on a fallacy, it’s based on different priors. People are approximately never perfectly price-efficient in their purchasing decisions, which means there’s some amount of irrationality everywhere. A desire to buy an inefficiently priced luxury item with artificial scarcity and status associations is price-irrational but it can make sense in general. In your view, there should be a rigorous notion of “the metric” to optimize for across various products, but that notion is fundamentally at odds with how humans operate culturally. To put it bluntly, many people know and don’t care that synthetic diamonds are better in many respects, just as many people know and don’t care that a “franken-Rolex” can be better than an actual Rolex in many respects. They still want the “real” version, and from there they’ll optimize further.

Like I said, I think there are legitimate criticisms of the diamond trade, but in my opinion they’re glossed over when we get preoccupied talking about what constitutes “real” versus “fake” and whether or not people should want the “real” thing.


> “Productive” here means that there is no distinguishing feature of the diamond industry in particular with respect to the luxury industry. In other words, the criticism of the diamond industry is not productively precise.

Oh really? And you did not think of explaining this completely non-standard usage of the word "productive" until now? Who is not being "productively precise" in their argumentation here?

I'm done with this debate. Your style of discussion is basically building up a giant Rube Goldberg machine of words for something that is extremely simple at the core, which is turning it into an endurance run of who can keep up with the walls of text the longest. That is neither convincing, nor respectful of the person you are debating with to.


> I'm done with this debate. Your style of discussion is basically building up a giant Rube Goldberg machine of words for something that is extremely simple at the core, which is turning it into an endurance run of who can keep up with the walls of text the longest. That is neither convincing, nor respectful of the person you are debating with to.

Sorry, that wasn’t my intention. But respectfully, I disagree. I don’t think this topic is at all simple, and I find nuance to be a helpful perspective.


The use of fake/real is definitely manipulative.

Especially for people who are not (yet) particularly invested/interested, it signals that the "fake" ones are flawed and objectively worse in terms of quality, because of the parallel to fake (counterfeit) goods which often are.

Instead of fake, calling them synthetic or artificial would be more neutral choices. For "real" you could use "natural(ly occurring)" or similar.


> You’re taking away a lot of agency from people who prefer natural diamonds. Yes, of course their marketing campaign set off the industry, but the reason it worked is because many people are already predisposed to prefer natural things over artificial things.

Predisposed is a pretty strong word. Do you think people are born with a preference for “natural” diamonds? I happen to believe that most preferences you hold are learned throughout life, perhaps even manufactured by others.


No, many people are predisposed to like luxury items due to instilled cultural values, not because of an innate utility. But that was part of my point: to honestly criticize the diamond industry, we should criticize the entire market of veblen goods in general.


[flagged]


If you're going to leave the debate like you said you would, just do so. But don't reply to my comment with nothing but an irrelevant Wikipedia link - that's extremely dismissive. It's also intellectually insulting, because it presumes that the other party is so poorly informed that the mere mention of a dialectic phenomenon should be enough to enlighten them.

This is not whataboutism because I'm not excusing the diamond industry's behavior by distracting the conversation to irrelevant examples. Instead, I'm generalizing the diamond industry as part of a greater phenomenon to demonstrate that the problem isn't just the diamond industry, it's the way human beings are incentivized to operate with respect to status symbols in general.

Simply replying with that link tells me that you believe my points can be reduced - and similarly dismissed - simply by labeling them with whatever the term is for the (perceived) fault in the argument. That's about as constructive as saying something is an ad hominem without any effort to explain why, or to declare something is fake news without providing more information.

You're not debating in good faith. Moreover, what's the point? You must know you're not going to convince me with a low effort comment sending me to a Wikipedia page describing one of the many possible ways an argument can be fallacious. You didn't even both to explain why it applies (which, again, it doesn't). So why are you even bothering with this?


> Moreover, what's the point? You must know you're not going to convince me with a low effort comment sending me to a Wikipedia page describing one of the many possible ways an argument can be fallacious. You didn't even both to explain why it applies (which, again, it doesn't).

YES IT FUCKING DOES YOU HYPOCRITICAL TWAT. Obtusity is NOT nuance.

> to honestly criticize the diamond industry, we should criticize the entire market of veblen goods in general.

You're both defending the diamond industry and admitting that they're bad, but saying we are only allowed to criticise it if we criticise everything that has remotely similar workings. That is the whataboutist fallacy

It would have taken you three sentences of reading comprehension of linked WikiPedia to figure this out. I do not for one second believe that you are arguing in good faith yourself sir. Good day.


> “Fake” isn’t a neutral word because it’s not intended to be - some people actually do prefer natural diamonds, just as some people really do prefer non-GMO food.

"Fake" means something isn't what it's claimed to be.

A piece of glass cut to look like a diamond is a fake. You make like it or not, but it isn't a diamond. A diamond is a mass of carbon in a particular structure, and glass isn't.

A lab-grown diamond is not fake. It is, in fact, a diamond.

If people want to distinguish between "natural" vs "synthetic" or "mined" vs "grown" diamonds, fine. But "fake" is truly a misleading term here.


"Fake" carries a negative connotation of being an inferior facsimile/fraudulent in some way/a lesser product. It takes no agency away from people to indulge in those irrational preferences to insist that emotive language shouldn't be used to deepen those preferences and suggest an inaccurate view of what lab-grown diamonds are.


Sure but even "natural" diamonds aren't as rare as they're made out to be. There's an artificial scarcity because De Beers wants to keep the prices up:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07...


The De Beers cartel fell apart when mines in other locations were established. It was only valued at 13 billion in 2011.

De Beers definitely mined cornered the market for a long time. But its over.

The meme that diamonds are falling off frees if not for De Beers is not accurate. But with these artificals, it may very well come true.


I’m well aware of all of that, I was just commenting on the legitimacy of peoples’ preferences with regard to natural versus artificial items.


What makes a diamond "natural"?

IMO it's not much different than deciding to drink "natural water" over simple tap water (though I'm basing this off living near a spring well that supplies my tap water, experiences may vary).


That’s an interesting analogy, I’m not really sure how to answer that. I suppose I would respond by saying that water isn’t exactly analogous because it’s not a luxury good. A better example might be a “fake” Rolex or a “fake” Hermes handbag. Both such items can be convincingly faked (at least up to very close review, even if not by a qualified inspection team with knowledge of trade secrets). But people still prefer the “real” luxury items.

Preferring the “real” over the “fake” is only irrational insofar as preferring either is irrational. You either buy these items because you want the status signalling effect, or yoy buy them because you actually have an innate appreciation for them.


I think the gp's analogy of natural water is better than the luxury good you suggested because the underlying distinction is a choice between something naturally occuring vs man-made.


I disagree. Gold is clearly a luxury item despite being natural. More importantly, diamonds are luxury goods, for better or worse, which means they wouldn’t adhere to the price dynamics of water.


Not sure what the source of disagreement is, particulary when my comment was merely to agree with the gp's water analogy when s/he asked:

"What makes a diamond "natural"?"

Diamonds are perceived as luxury goods because of the elaborate fiction of artificial scarcity woven around it by De Beers, which you have acknowledged upthread.

Mentioning gold wasn't necessary because alchemy never delivered on a man-made substitute for gold. And it distracts from the core issue, we are here debating the consequences of the Chinese lab's feat for diamond after all.

EDIT: To summarize, I'm not clear on why you think applying a "luxury goods" lens will lead to better insights as to why people prefer "natural/real" over "man-made/fake" substitutes, when the underlying issue is one of perception, which can be shaped by anyone with an agenda and a marketing budget.


One local jeweler advertises using the terms "geologic" and "artisanal" diamonds, and those seem like reasonable terms. They sell both kinds.


What exactly is that internally consistent argument?

They now basically say, "the more pure they are, the more valuable, because they are incredibly rare (because we artificially limit supply) unless they are really, really pure, because we can't limit supply of those."

Remember, lots of things are natural, but only the rare ones are valuable.


The internally consistent argument is that these items are, like many other luxury goods, designed to signal status (or, more rarely, to elicit a response of much more fundamental appreciation, the sort a fellow watchmaker might have for a Patek Philippe). Diamonds are not unique in this regard, because many people prefer natural/real over artificial/synthetic/fake when it comes to art, antiques, luxury items, etc.

If you approach this from the perspective that you’re spending more money for imperceptible characteristics encouraged by a massive conglomerate, then sure, it’s obviously irrational. But if you look at it from the perspective of signaling or status seeking, it makes sense to pursue the “real” item over the “fake” one.

If you buy a synthetic diamond, the only people you’re signaling favorably to are those in your particular ingroup with respect to opinions on De Beers. If you buy a real diamond, you are signaling to a much wider set of people. It’s not fiscally rational, but it’s not supposed to be.


How does this hypothetical wider set of people know your diamond is de beers approved?

Do you keep the price tag on it?

Or do you just talk about how, obviously, you'd never stoop to buying man-made diamonds?


Assuming they talk about how they prefer “real” diamonds, the latter. Similarly, people on the other side signal their association by talking about how they’d never buy “real” diamonds.


So, the consistency of the argument is just that, "I spend more for this, therefore it gives a better impression to people who also choose to pay more."

Can't argue with that.


We can also grow monoisotopic diamonds, which exhibit superior thermal conductivity compared to natural ones.


For any other resource on earth we would be rejoicing that a new "cost saving" way of making something had been discovered!

The Diamond cartel has done a lot of PR spin to say these new ones "threaten viability..."

The world is literally run by PR and marketing.


I thought that De Beer had changed their approach to one of promoting the imperfections of real diamonds. And the news this week regarding "deeper" diamonds having exceedingly rare minerals embedded within could further this cause.

https://www.sciencealert.com/super-deep-diamond-contains-cal...

"Rare" still has status and therefore a price premium.


It does but it requires them being ok ceding the mass market.

Which is fine, but it’s a massive cultural shift for them & I’m not sure they’d want to do that (though they may have no choice).


So perhaps this "De Beers-test" involves testing for impurities. And then China will make their diamonds impure to make them look real.


I'm not sure they always have the same color/clarity. I was looking around for diamonds at one point recently (friend's looking to propose) and the synthetic selection didn't seem to go all the way up to the highest end of the scale.

Also I was surprised that the price difference wasn't bigger, in the 1-2 carat range it seemed the difference was maybe 10-20% or so, which is not nothing but not massive.

Could be an artifact of where I was looking however.


Yeah, what are lab gems if not real? Imaginary?

If god herself could not tell the difference in a blind test, then there's no significant difference. Except price of course.


Yep I am calling man-made gems “real” diamonds from now on.

Der Bers, take that! (I hope your social listening catches this)


> Yep I am calling man-made gems “real” diamonds from now on.

I believe that De Beers has hired a group of highly qualified advertising specialists. So your "little first world anarchy" is really futile.


> Der Bers, take that! (I hope your social listening catches this)

You probably might want to, like, spell their name even remotely correctly for that to happen.


Y'know, I think that the whole diamond hype is nonsense, but I do understand how a stone which was formed over millennia (or more?) and discovered by a miner has more of a story to it that a stone which was grown in a lab by a technician. I've no problem with considering a natural diamond real and a lab-grown one fake, even though they are the same 'stuff.'


Sure but knowing that De Beers artificially inflates the price and that the "natural" diamond market is a major driver of bloodshed and slavery I'd hope that "natural diamonds" are eventually as frowned upon in polite society as "real fur" already is.


I feel like if we're going "good, fuck De Beers" but still going "finally I can buy a less expensive ring for my finance" we're still in a very narrow set of railroad tracks created by De Beers.


Is that story of how humans exploit others who are unfortunate enough to be born in environments with fewer resources (natural and social) such that they have to engage in activities which simply allow someone in richer areas to flaunt their wealth?

If that is the story, then it doesn’t need to be told.


Appreciating the story and quality of a product doesn't automatically imply "flaunting their wealth"... you can simply appreciate it for your own enjoyment.


The thing is that these diamonds aren't fakes - they are real diamonds. Also for many years there have been gluts of diamonds and the market has been rigged to keep them expensive. Eventually the flood gates will open and diamonds will get real cheap.


Yeah, I'd like it if the word real was put in quotes in the title of the HN post at least.


I recently went shopping for a diamond.

Price depends on grading factors such as cut, colour and clarity (inclusions). I was surprised to learn that lab grown diamonds also vary in colour, and may have inclusions, and as such are graded on the same scale as natural diamonds.

At most of the stores I visited, the price of lab-grown diamonds was about 30% cheaper compared to their natural counterparts at the same grade.

Most surprising though was that the sales people were really pushing hard to sell the lab grown diamonds over the natural ones.

I would imagine the markup and commission is much much higher.


> De Beers is fighting Chinese lab-grown diamonds

And I hope they lose.

https://priceonomics.com/post/45768546804/diamonds-are-bulls... (and HN comments on original posting 2013-03-19 -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5403988 )


I also highly recommend Edward Epstein's Atlantic article on this too: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-yo...

One of the best pieces of long-form journalism ever published, without a doubt.


The Priceonomics post didn't really say much more than the Atlantic article, I don't think it discussed synthetic diamonds or the internet or anything.

Cubic zirconia looks identical to diamonds but it's not chemically the same so people always considered it fake. Synthetic diamonds are chemically identical so De Beers need to invest millions in figuring out ways to distinguish them. Natural diamonds don't add anything more, but the whole purpose of them is that they're expensive.


Cubic zirconia is significantly different from diamond in hardness, optical dispersion, and density. Moissanite is a much closer match, but is more expensive to manufacture.


And HN comments from five years ago on that The Atlantic article:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4535611


Why was De Beers called “The Syndicate” in Israel? Was that where they had their supervillain lair or something? Almost all of the other names are trying too hard to be inconspicuous, and then they go with “The Syndicate”?


syn·di·cate noun noun: syndicate; plural noun: syndicates ˈsindikət/

    1.    a group of individuals or organizations combined to promote some common interest.


Of course the literal meaning of it isn't bad, but the connotation is pretty negative. Although perhaps it isn't there, it could just be the English translation that "sounds" that way.


Yeah, it's been used for "crime syndicate" for a while.

But we call them organized crime. So shouldn't calling something an organized <blank> be negative as well?

My goal for my Syndicate is like the old video game. Good times!


If you ever want a proof that the market can be utterly irrational, look no further than:

> The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has challenged the widely-held assumption that diamond prices could only go up


Feel like diamonds are such a great example for the 'a free-market' people. They typically argue that in a truly free-market everything is better.

Well diamond trade exists largely in a free market until it hits some of the countries they sell in but before that we basically have blood being spilt over them and companies existing outside of strong regulated countries to funnel the diamonds into and control the price.

A truly free-market seems very scary in a modern world.


Typically 'free markets', at least among sincere proponents of them, don't include "blood being spilt"; that's what makes things un-free.


Here the guy you're replying to is talking about U.S. Libertarian ideology, which wouldn't care about foreign conflict of any type.


It's not true that U.S. libertarians don't "care about foreign conflict of any type".


I hate comments like these. You could have used this as an argument against the free market in general, but instead you tried to turn it into some us-vs-them tribalistic debate punctuated with an appeal to emotion. It's the lowest form of dialog crafted only to rowdy up people, split them into two extremes, and pit them against each other.


Free market as an economic model really isn't considered acceptable in a laissez-faire approach. So I would have attacked 'free market' and people respond with 'economist don't actually believe a true free-market would work well in today modern world.'

Instead I attack the ones that are actually driving to make policies that reflect a 'free-market', deregulate and push the ideology. Those are the ones pushing for an unreasonable policies.


A truly free market requires complete transparency, something the diamond market has historically lacked.


Yes, but a lot of free market proponents seem to ignore that transparency in markets doesn't just happen. There is no "invisible hand" guiding that.


I disagree. I think in a lot of cases buyers should or would demand transparency (ie. has this house ever been flooded?), but I don't think it's a strict requirement in the broad sense you may be implying.

Transparency can be subjective. For example, a person sells 100 shares of ACME stock to a savvy buyer. A short time later the stock triples in value, and the seller sues the buyer because they were not "completely transparent" about their knowledge that the stock would rise.

Of course, in all of this I am not talking about deliberate fraud which would be strictly forbidden in a free market.


I was talking about market transparency; it's more like the person selling the shares sells them to one person at a discount and another person at a high price. For a free market to function, the buyer would need to know the other prices people have paid for the same goods.

If you don't have that, a free market can't work well.

When you buy something in a free market, you should know its quality, characteristics and the price on the market. You should also know its provenance, relative supply and transport/marketing cost. That's transparency. It lets you buy things and make the most efficient choices, which is why it's fundamental for a free market.


>...That's transparency

The criteria you specify for transparency is subjective and I don't agree that all of those criteria are strictly necessary. Specifically, I don't agree that knowledge of "provenance, relative supply and transport/marketing cost" is required of a buyer at all in a free market, though they may personally have an interest in those things. I would venture that most consumers know and care very little about those things.

>If you don't have that, a free market can't work well.

>which is why it's fundamental for a free market

What's important is the principle of subjective value--that the buyer and the seller value what they are getting more than what they are giving up--and that can happen without the various criteria of transparency you outline. Certainly there are cases where market actors will demand some of those (and many cases they will not), but I wouldn't state it's a foundational requirement the market must be built upon.


We don't currently have a free market, and most customers definitely do not know the provenance, relative supply or transport/marketing cost of almost anything they buy. They trust food, for example, because the government secures it and regulates it.

>What's important is the principle of subjective value--that the buyer and the seller value what they are getting more than what they are giving up--and that can happen without the various criteria of transparency you outline.

No, that's important to a market period. A free market is a specific thing.

You need the other things to move away from the necessity of government regulation (transparency, for example.) If you don't know what's in that apple and nobody is going to make sure it's safe, you can't buy or sell it efficiently.


Even absent government regulation, I still don't see consumers being terribly concerned about the source of their apple. Why? Because the quality of it is reflected by the reputation of the seller. But even if I were to concede the argument for the particular case of food, that does not mean that knowledge of provenance is a prerequisite for a free market.

>You need the other things to move away from the necessity of government regulation

I guess this is the crux of the matter. You are suggesting that transparency must pre-exist a free market, I am suggesting that a free market pre-exists transparency, and when necessary transparency will be demanded by the consumers.


>You are suggesting that transparency must pre-exist a free market, I am suggesting that a free market pre-exists transparency, and when necessary transparency will be demanded by the consumers.

The issue, I think, is that we have a different definition for a free market. A free market, by the definition I am using, functions at peak efficiency and is free from monopoly and large stakeholder or government intervention/regulation. For that to occur, the kind of transparency I'm talking about must theoretically be present.

If transparency came afterward, what happened prior would not be perfectly efficient and would be vulnerable to monopolization, intervention or unbalanced deals and so would not, by definition, be a free market.


In a truly free-market who would enforce this 'transparency'?

That is the whole point against it, no one would enforce it.

You say the people would but would they? Would they care? People in the US know about 'blood' diamonds, heck a movie came out with an extremely famous cast and helped get lots of people aware of the dirty trade of diamonds.

Diamonds still sell extremely well. Banking on the common person to push for transparency and help improve the market by not 'supporting' these diamonds doesn't work already. They know about diamonds trade and people still constantly buy them.


Someone should tell the bitcoin people.


But now we can make more diamonds :) there will never be more than 21 million bitcoin


Great business idea. Here is the freshly made AD[1]. Curious to see if there is any business plan follow ups.

[1](https://i.imgur.com/oD50taU.png)


Priceless!

So, a real diamond of fake value is used to engrave fake value of real bitcoin .. or something ..

xkcd material!


Until the next fork! Then there will never be more than 42 million bitcoin.


;) Until the nexr coin. And the next one. Etc...


Synthetic bitcoins when?


That's what all these altcoins and ICOs are.


I guess if there's no blood on your diamond, it isn't real...


It is only in the last half decade that technology has advanced to a level that scientists at De Beers, itself a pioneer in lab-grown diamond production [..]

Of course they have their own diamond growing lab and Deep Sea diamond mining rigs. I too hope are beaten by other market players.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/a-new-frontier-f...


>Deep Sea diamond mining rigs

That's actually ridiculous, we're destroying the enviroment to mine something we can produce cheaper in a factory.

Not to mention the issues with blood diamonds. child labour etc.


Me too. When I was in the diamond market I got some from Diamond Foundry: https://qz.com/630512/would-you-propose-with-a-diamond-grown... which I also learned about on HN! https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13038912 although I can't find which submission.


From the article:

>The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has challenged the widely-held assumption that diamond prices could only go up

I'll admit I don't know a lot about the diamond market and perhaps I'm misinformed, but how on earth was this a widely held assumption? In a world where people are increasingly aware that De Beers and other companies hold major stockpiles of diamonds solely to keep the price inflated, and when man made diamonds for industrial purposes have been a thing for a long time?


An assumption can be widely held even if most informed people would dispute it. For example the widely held belief that housing prices will only go up, despite historical and theoretical arguments to the contrary.


That is absolutely true. I guess my incredulousness stems from that I would consider myself rather uninformed about diamonds and other gemstones, and still I have found the future of the diamond business very questionable. Basically since I saw some movie about how they are kept in stockpiles, and also the movie Blood Diamond. I would have thought it to be rather mainstream knowledge.


I don't think that's the sense in which the article stated it. It seems to me like there might be a significant number of people in the industry that believed it.


Can you provide a source on the housing please? Particularly that on the historical side.


Maybe one day people will also realize that diamonds or other gems have "no intrinsic value", at least when used as jewelry. I know, crazy, right?


Diamond blades on my grinder are great, and there is definite value in their hardness. If I could get nicer looking ones with good clarity it would make cutting rebar and grinding steel prettier.


Probably because these are both relatively new developments? I'd wager that as recently as 5-10 years ago these were much less of an issue.


That sounds like one of those bullshit, exaggerated sentences they throw in articles. Is that actually a widespread belief?


Good! ... The DeBeers cartel is monopolistic and exploitative. There's an interesting article that talks about how they initially created demand for diamonds as they weren't commonly associated with an engagement. I'm glad to hear there's a competitor that should at a minimum lead to a price correction.


DeBeers having a monopoly isn't really true anymore. DeBeers lost an antitrust lawsuit in 2012 and had already sold off its stockpile by 2004 under increasing pressure for a lot of new mines opening up, particularly in Russia, which wrestled away their control of the market. Prices of diamonds have actually shot up quite a bit since DeBeers lost control but I don't know what the explanation for that is (maybe they were artificially low because of the stockpile selloff?).

I agree that this is a good thing though.


The article states the increase in price is because "supply in natural diamonds has peaked and due to strong Asian demand".


This has to have been the greatest marketing ploy of all time.

They created an engagement ring tradition so strong & embedded people assume that it's traditional... Out of thin air. They were able to create a "suggested price" of 3 months salary! Can you think of anything else like that? They got Marilyn Monroe to sing their jingle, one of the most iconic pop songs ever. They were able to label all competition as "fake," or fraud. Truly amazing.


> There's an interesting article that talks about how they initially created demand for diamonds as they weren't commonly associated with an engagement.

One of my favorite Priceonomics Articles - "Diamonds a re Bullshit" [0]. Previous discussions on HN [1,2]. Also, previous discussion on "Lab-Grown Diamonds" [3].

There are some cheap alternatives to diamonds like Moissanite. Here's a nice overview [4]. Also, discussed previously on HN [5].

[0] https://priceonomics.com/post/45768546804/diamonds-are-bulls...

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5403988

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9251952

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11903409

[4] http://diamondssuck.com

[5] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12944464


In the USA, people don’t primarily buy diamonds for their looks or physical properties, but as a signal to a significant other that they are willing to invest in a relationship.

⇒ If there is a large price correction, something else will replace diamonds (what that something will be is anybody’s guess)

De Beers knows that, but wants to stay in the game, so they market “made by nature” as a pre of ‘real’ diamonds.


If the actual marriage itself wasn't enough of a commitment, I don't know what the stone says! My wife's engagement ring is a sapphire, and I later realized that her mother and grandmother also had sapphire rings. My wedding ring is $20 from Amazon. Good riddance, diamond jewelry industry!


> At a trade fair in Hong Kong on Tuesday De Beers unveiled its latest diamond verification technology, the coffee-machine sized AMS2 that costs US$45,000 – already a substantial discount to the US$65,000 price tag of its predecessor. Within the first few hours of its release, over a dozen orders had flooded in, the company said.

All I can think when I read this is that of course they get orders -- all the companies producing synthetic diamonds want to get hold of this machine so that they can train their production process to produce synthetic diamonds that register as organic.


I was about to quibble with you about the usage of organic, but then I remembered that diamonds are literally just carbon, so, by chemistry, you're right.


Feel free to quibble with the PC! “Organic” in chemistry usually means compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen bonds. So diamonds, graphite and graphene, carbon mono- and dioxide, carbonates, and even cyanide* are traditionally considered inorganic forms of carbon.

*Cyanides are considered inorganic even though hydrogen cyanide contains a C-H bond.


I was going to put organic in quotes, but then I had the same thought as you. Although, as the sibling post states, the use or "organic" in the chemistry sense is probably not precisely accurate. Still, better than advertising organic table salt!


Would be very surprised if they don't vet the purchasers and lock them down with very, very strict terms. In fact, I'd be surprised if they weren't more so loaning instead of selling the devices, with the right to reclaim in case of "misuse".


You can't vet friends of friends. If a respected jewelry house in Hong Kong buys one, that in no way implies a synthetic diamond producer isn't best bar buddies with the jewelry house's owner and deals for access to the machine aren't made outside of business hours.


Maybe I missed something: how exactly is a diamond "organic"? Do you mean "natural"?


one definition of organic is more or less natural. Think of "organic growth."


Possibly a good time to plug moissanite yet again: http://diamondssuck.com


Also, fianite (rather popular in Russia, very few links in English — https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Fianite).

BUT a friend of mine once said that she would never wear them since they're too chromatic, too much rainbow, therefore too prominent and that to her was a bad taste. I tend to agree with her: expensive everyday jewelry, clothes etc. shouldn't be in your face, but recognizable only on closer inspection.


Does anyone know of a reputable European moissanite store?


I bought our engagement ring here, 0 complaints about them: https://www.moissanite.co.uk/


This whole time I thought moissanite were "lab diamonds" but it appears that it's actually a unique gem in regards to chemical properties


Moissanite is so much prettier!


terrible name though..


>Indeed, even the most experienced diamantaire’s in the world can’t tell the fakes from those extracted from mines when using their naked eye, which is where technology comes in

if they look identical to the naked eye, how can jewelers and debeers justify buying the naturals? are you now buying the diamond for its "history" or "story"? is it like buying "organic" food? or is it purely because it was never about the diamond itself; the diamond was just a representation of how money you sank into your spouse?


I bought a "real" diamond after protracted negotiations (with my SO, not the diamond seller), and I still don't really understand it. She cried more during the process than when her grandmother was dying, and she still wanted one particular diamond even though I'd explicitly given a significantly larger budget for either lab grown or moissanite.

And although she understood why there was no real difference outside of price, I think she was very worried she would be judged by other women for not having (or being worth) a "real" diamond. She also felt that she wanted something that showed (again, to whom?) I recognized her commitment to me and that I thought she deserved to have the things she wanted, whatever they might be. She got me something in return which I never expected, so it wasn't at all one sided.

And it really is amazing seeing all of the reactions and sidelong glances other women give to her ring. I've never noticed anyone's jewelry in any detail beyond that they were wearing some, but now it's like we're surrounded by car fanatics and she has a McLaren P1 strapped to her hand.


Will she carry around the certificate of authenticity to show her girlfriends as she's showing off the ring? Better carry the price tag around as well. That'll make them even more jealous, which, after all, is really the purpose of this whole kabuki dance.


A little guidance to people who may be in a similar situation. Just get what she wants.

" I think she was very worried she would be judged by other women for not having (or being worth) a "real" diamond. "

Your projecting your own ideas on her.

"She also felt that she wanted something that showed (again, to whom?) I recognized her commitment to me and that I thought she deserved to have the things she wanted, whatever they might be. "

The 'to whom' is to her. It's what she wanted. Give it to her, don't fight her about it.


> A little guidance to people who may be in a similar situation. Just get what she wants.

This is, frankly, very bad advice. If you don't care about the money or your values are aligned with buying an expensive natural diamond, then sure, go for it, but that's not the person who needs advice in this situation anyway. Arguments over money are a leading cause of conflicts in relationships. Failing to address a disagreement on a large purchase like this and the underlying values that cause the disagreement are quite likely to cause conflict in your marriage.

Personally, if a potential spouse felt strongly that an expensive natural diamond was necessary, I'd consider it, but I'd need to hear some good reasoning. In the absence of other information, wanting an expensive natural diamond indicates to me a very large mismatch in values between me and the potential spouse, and I'd want to understand that mismatch before we commit to sharing finances and teaching children our values.

I don't view this as "fighting her about it", either. It's not me versus her, it's us trying to gain a better understanding of each others viewpoints and using that understanding to assess our compatibility.

>> " I think she was very worried she would be judged by other women for not having (or being worth) a "real" diamond. "

> Your projecting your own ideas on her.

Alternate theory: maybe he talked to his wife and she said that. It seems that you're making a very large assumption that the poster hasn't talked to his own wife about this.


>And although she understood why there was no real difference outside of price, I think she was very worried she would be judged by other women for not having (or being worth) a "real" diamond.

get fake diamond, claim it's real to everyone else. it's not like they can tell the difference, or they will take her ring to get tested.


Oh, I told her I'd ordered a duplicate ring with lab grown stones of identical quality, and she could have them appraised and choose whichever one she thought was better.

I haven't been snarled at many times in my life, but that was one of them.


Just think of it as a real 356 Roadster vs a reproduction fiberglass 356 Roadster, one will get a "that's nice" while the other will get a "dude, really!" from your buddies.


She probably feels like its dishonest. Like hanging a fake painting.


I get that, which is why the whole thing is such a shame.

I hate that people don't just get what they want. I suppose I could be projecting, but it's like when someone shows off their engagement ring and the diamond is quite small, but then everyone has to act all amazed and find ways to gush about it. Sure, maybe they wanted something simple and modest and not too flashy (which I definitely agree with), but it just makes me think how much better off everyone would be if they bought a non-diamond ring with the same amount of money (or less!) and had something more special.


As somebody who recently had to buy a replacement wedding ring I can assure you price of jewellery has little to do with price of materials. Mark-up is huge, but knowing this doesn't help you much if everyone is on the racket (to some extent).


> if they look identical to the naked eye, how can jewelers and debeers justify buying the naturals? are you now buying the diamond for its "history" or "story"?

For some certificate of "naturalness" that comes with the diamond which the jeweler will be able hand out to his customers.


They have control over the natural diamond production, much less so over the (man-made) diamonds industry. If they want the "diamonds are forever" adage to survive, they need the public to get the opinion that natural is the real thing.


Fuck De Beers, their blood diamonds, and their useless engagement ring scam.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/02/ho...


My SO is a geologist and likes the idea that Earth created the mineral over millions/billions of years through extreme processes. I'm a technologist, so I kinda like the idea that humans created something "better" using our tools and techniques.


have you bought the diamond yet? it sounds like you guys are one of the rare couples for whom diamonds are particularly romantic. maybe you could buy half of a 'real' and half of a synthetic diamond and combine them?


I'm not sure if this article refers to cubic zirconia, moissanite or some new flavour of human-made diamonds but in either case, this is has been going on for 40 years.

The market for diamonds isn't rational, so how it will behave is not predictable.

First, the idea that diamonds maintain value is nonsense. This isn't gold or some other mineral "currency." You can sell gold anywhere for close to its spot price. Diamonds OTOH, have buy-sell "spreads" more like antiques or collectible shoes.

So, the subtitle is already on the wrong path. Diamonds have never been good stores of wealth, that's why the earlier dowry traditions use gold, cattle, secret recipes or some other reliable asset.

With cubic zirconia & moissanite, the diamond industry learned to recognise the "fakes." They've had machines for a while, but the industry also invested a lot in jeweler training. The reason for this is perception. If only machines know the difference...

For the average buyer, they're encouraged to note differences in "brilliance" & "fire" which is kind of visible in certain light. Ironically, zirconia & moissanite are different from diamonds in opposite ways, one more and the other less fiery.

This is a pure pr fight. If people use terms like "fake diamonds" then de beers wins. "Blood diamonds," then they lose.

Curious side note: the CCP has influence on Chinese consumer culture that doesn't exist elsewhere. If they say manufactured diamonds are real, then they are. China doesn't mine diamonds, but they do manufacture them....


Replying to myself with a conspiracy minded thought....

Now that I think of it, De Beers probably has a strong interest in "fraud" being a problem. If manufactured diamonds are sold as natural, this is fraud. There will be victims, trials, fraud prevention... All good reinforcement that these things, they're not really diamonds. Fake is debatable. Fraud is something that you can get a judge to say.

So, back toy initial question. What is this article talking about? Is this a new type of gem, or the ones that have already been available for decades. If not...


Synthetic diamonds are exactly that. Not cubic zirconia.


The article is definitely not about cubic zirconia or moissanite, which are easier to distinguish. You don't need special machines for that.


At some point De Beers is going to do an elegant little flip and suddenly proclaim “engineered diamonds” to be far superior to anything that ever came out the ground... only just their particular brand of engineered diamonds.


Ten years ago I actually tried to buy a synthetic diamond engagement ring. My wife is a geek, I thought she would think it was cool. The jewelry store was offended when I asked.


Good thing you weren't marrying the jewelry store then.


I just don't get it. Who cares what the source of a diamond is?

Isn't the point of a diamond its beauty in the eye of the beholder? If I had a big diamond I would definitely want the cheapest one possible with a visual aesthetic I like. Fortunately, my wife and I don't like diamonds and we have purple sapphires in our wedding bands.


There's a very philosophical question underlying this whole thing. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and is in pretty much all the ways that matter in any given context indistinguishable from a duck, is it a duck? Even if we know it's a robot?

At any rate, at least we can rest assured in the knowledge that if it weighs the same as a duck it is definitely a witch.


My wife and I did a similar thing, not even bothering with precious stones but designing rings that featured some stunning turquoise set in white gold. Non-traditional? You bet, but neithor of us gave a fuck and we love them. Plus, we didn't go into debt to pay for them, using that money to entertain our guests.


Yes, I also don't understand that "it must be a natural diamond" craze.

With all the problems of natural diamonds, I would prefer a lab-grown diamond...


100% marketing. When two competing products have an intrinsic difference of nearly zero, the marketing boys have to start making up campaigns that focus on anything that can drive a wedge between the products.


Jewelry has always served as an efficient way to show status, hence the effort behind trying to grade a diamond and verify its origin.


> I just don't get it. Who cares what the source of a diamond is?

Women's cultural conditioning and arguably human nature. It being a completely unnecessary but very costly sacrifice to the man is the feature, not a bug. It doesn't need to have intrinsic value, all that matters is that it is an accurate signal of excess wealth.

There are those (like you and your wife) who see past this, which is great, and I hope this trend continues.

I don't know why the equality crowd isn't vehemently against a high and essential cost from one gender to another, nearly unilaterally. (Well, cynically they like it because it affects mostly men, and indeed works as an accurate signal of affluence.) But it would be great, for causes like income equality and the wage gap, if this could be turned symbolic, instead of an actual costly sacrifice which is entirely a burden on men.


Ironically, in countries which aren't so vehemently obsessed with equality, there are rarely traditions of 'engagement rings' at all, and especially with expensive diamonds.

They just make do with wedding bands and wear nothing before the ceremony. Seems like the engagement ring is a phenomenon very specific to some western countries.


It's about rarity and authencity.

You might as well ask why people buy first issue Superman Number 1 comics and not a reprint? Same shit pictures right?


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