TRACY HALL (General Electric, retired): We can take some of this
material and put it in this tube which is constructed out of graphite
and we will be heating this in a high pressure, high temperature
press and in the process the peanut butter will be carbonised, it
will turn to a graphitic-like material. So peanut butter to diamond.
DR ROBERT HAZEN (Carnegie Institute): I guess the question you've
got to ask yourself is: is it possible for humans to synthesise
diamonds till they're absolutely indistinguishable from a natural
stone and I suppose the answer has to be yes.
NARRATOR (LINDSAY DUNCAN): There is something so special about
diamonds and they are so valuable that people have always been prepared
to go to the most extraordinary lengths to find them.
STEPHEN LUSSIER (Marketing Director, De Beers): There's something
magical about diamonds. They've captured the imagination of people
for so long I think it's things like, you know, the fact that they
are 3 billion years old, the fact that it takes enormous effort
to find diamonds in the world, it takes even more enormous effort
to get them out. They have this magnificent way of dealing with
light that separates them from all the other precious stones. They
really are just a miracle of nature.
NARRATOR: For hundreds of years people have bought into the mystique
of diamonds and have been seduced by the hardness and brilliance
that makes them so glamorous.
STEPHEN LUSSIER: The consumer actually wants a piece of forever.
That's what a diamond is. It's a promise of forever.
NARRATOR: But how would we feel about the uniqueness of diamonds
if it was possible to make one in a laboratory, just like the real
thing, down to the nearest atom? In the last few years there has
been a scientific race to do exactly this, to manufacture the perfect
DR BORIS FEIGELSON (RUSSIAN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) (Diamond
Scientist): Today the diamonds we produce are gem quality. They
possess the same properties as natural real diamonds. They are exactly
GENERAL CARTER CLARKE (Gemesis Corporation): Our diamond is so
much cheaper to produce. It's more rare right now because we're
not producing very many, but I don't think you could ever dig a
natural diamond out of the ground, go through all the processes
they have to have, for anywhere close to what we can make them for.
INTERVIEWER: How much can you make them for?
CARTER CLARKE: Less than $100.
NARRATOR: For hundreds of years people have tried to cash in by
copying diamonds out of glass, paste and modern simulants like cubic
zirconia, but these have none of the qualities of diamond because
they are not made of the real thing. Fake diamonds can never equal
nature because they are not made of the same unique material. In
fact for centuries no-one knew what diamonds were made of. The only
way to find out is to destroy one. In this lab a real diamond is
being heated to over 1500 degrees Centigrade, then put immediately
into liquid oxygen. The diamond burns away completely to leave:
only carbon dioxide gas. There is just one material that reacts
this way: pure carbon. Diamond is made out of pure carbon, but then
so is graphite, the material we make pencils from. It's hard to
imagine that this soft, dark substance is made out of the same thing
DR ROBERT HAZEN: You see these structures couldn't be more different.
You have graphite which is a beautifully layered structure. It has
layers of carbon atoms separated by very weak bonds. Now within
the layers each carbon atom is beautifully co-ordinated to 3 other
carbons and that leads to very strong layers, but the bonding between
the layers are exceptionally weak. By contrast, diamond, the hardest
material known and it's hard because of the way it's bonded together.
This three-dimensional linkage in which every carbon atom is surrounded
by 4 neighbours and it forms a complete three-dimensional structure
like a trestle bridge, an incredibly strong structure. You see the
beautiful three-dimensional symmetry when you look in one direction
and you see just rotate the structure slightly and you get that
four-dimensional symmetry and it's the interaction of these symmetry
elements that gives diamonds its strength. You know a structure
can only be as strong as its weakest direction and in diamonds there
are no weak directions. Every bond is almost as strong as a bond
NARRATOR: The challenge for the diamond makers was to change the
atomic structure of graphite, a soft and slippery substance, to
diamond, the hardest, with a structure that refracts light in the
most extraordinary way. No-one had got close until the 1950s. Nature's
monopoly of the diamonds was challenged by the American engineering
company General Electric. It was the beginning of the race to make
diamonds. In the greatest secrecy, in Schenectady, New York GE started
Project Super-pressure. Its aim was to make the world's first industrial
diamonds with the same properties as natural diamonds. A young chemist
called Tracy Hall was invited to join the team.
DR TRACY HALL (General Electric, retired): A person came in and
announced that we had this big secret project that we were going
to try and make diamonds and so hold up your hand and there's only
one man we want, so I was the only one that held up my hand so I
got the job.
NARRATOR: Then Hall was joined by a physicist, Herbert Strong.
DR HERBERT STRONG (General Electric, retired): And he said how
would you fellows like to try to make diamonds. Huh, yeah, sure.
I was enthusiastic about it, no thought of failure at all. No of
NARRATOR: The diamond makers' first challenge was to break down
the carbon atoms in graphite. Their problem was that graphite is
amazingly resistant to change.
ROBERT HAZEN: The bonding between the layers is weak so graphite
flakes apart, but the bonding within the layers is incredibly strong
'cos each carbon atom has 4 electrons that it wants to share with
its adjacent atoms in covalent bonding so in graphite there are
3 adjacent carbons to every individual carbon sharing 3 electrons
and then the fourth electron resonates within these ring-like structures
adding additional strength to the graphite layer.
NARRATOR: The only clue the GE team had to turn graphite into
diamond came from nature. Geologists knew that hypersonic explosions
had brought diamonds to the surface as passengers in molten rock,
that somehow 200 miles under the earth nature had turned graphite
into diamond, that diamonds are found in the necks of extinct volcanoes.
ROBERT HAZEN: As a result, geologists found out that diamonds
had to be high pressure materials, they were high pressure minerals
and that was the key to diamond synthesis.
NARRATOR: The GE team had to find a way to replicate in minutes
millions of years of pressure from a rock column 200 miles deep
and the vast temperatures of the Earth's mantle. Only then might
they be able to break down the atoms of graphite and reform them
into diamond. But they had little idea what the right combination
of temperature and pressure should be.
HERBERT STRONG: Just having a sense of how nature works you realise
it was going to have to be way up here at very high temperature
to get the atoms loose from graphite so they could go to diamond.
It would have to be over 1,000 degrees Centigrade, probably higher
than that. That was a guess and the pressure then would have to
be up or diamond would be stable at that high temperature, it wouldn't
go back to graphite.
NARRATOR: GE spent millions on diamond presses capable of focusing
huge pressures and temperatures on the graphite capsule, 60,000
atmospheres and 3,000 degrees Centigrade, but still the graphite
wouldn't turn to diamond. They had learned a crucial lesson.
ROBERT HAZEN: Graphite at high temperatures and pressures remains
graphite. You can go to tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands,
perhaps even a million atmospheres pressure at room temperature
and the graphite will persist for a long time because those carbon
atoms are so tightly bonded to each other.
NARRATOR: After 4 years of broken presses Project Super-pressure
was in trouble. The team knew that they had to find a way of making
diamonds at lower temperatures and pressures or the project would
be cancelled, but before they could make diamonds they had to find
a way to break down the atomic structure of graphite. They had one
more clue. Diamond may need high temperatures and pressures to form,
but in one way it is no different from any other crystal, like ice.
The individual atoms form together out of liquid solution.
HERBERT STRONG: What seemed logical to me was to dissolve the,
the graphite into a solvent so as to get the carbon atoms loose
and make 'em available for forming diamond. Well what is the solvent
TRACY HALL: Well I had read that some tiny diamonds had been found
in the meteorite crater that was in Arizona.
NARRATOR: In the 1950s it was discovered that this crater was
made by a meteorite. When geologists looked at the meteorite diamonds
they realised that they had been formed on impact.
DR SARAH RUSSELL (Natural History Museum): When the asteroid hit
the Earth there obviously must have been an explosion of tremendous
energy and we now think that this huge explosion actually provided
high enough temperatures and pressures to form these diamonds.
NARRATOR: The GE team found another clue in that meteorite, something
they thought must have helped form the diamonds. The diamonds were
surrounded by metal.
SARAH RUSSELL: I've got a piece of the meteorite here and you
can see this dark coloured inclusion here is mostly made up of tiny
diamonds and it's surrounded by this metal that makes up most of
NARRATOR: It was the evidence the GE team were looking for. They
hoped that this particular metal, called troilite when heated into
a liquid state would act as a solvent to break down the carbon atoms
in graphite. They tried adding some troilite in their growth capsule.
TRACY HALL: It was a wintery day. It was cold but the sun was
shining through the window and I had put some troilite in this graphite
tube. I put it in my belt apparatus. I turned up my heating system
and I put the pressure on.
ARCHIVE FILM NARRATOR: The force builds up and up and up, eventually
reaching nearly 500 tons, almost one million pounds per square inch.
The outer surfaces reach 750 degrees Fahrenheit, inside 2,600 degrees
NARRATOR: They hoped in this experiment that the carbon atoms
in the graphite would dissolve into the molten troilite and then,
when they had reached a high enough pressure and temperature, would
crystallise as diamond.
HERBERT STRONG: We were in the hunch stage and my hunch was that
when you're in the diamonds pressure region and you'd melt the metal
and these carbon atoms dissolve, then it turns out the metal says
hey I've got too much carbon in me here, I'm going to have to precipitate
it out some way to get, get rid of it and the way to do that is
to precipitate it out in the form of diamond.
NARRATOR: They could only risk running their machine at full pressure
for a few minutes, but they hoped that this would be enough for
diamonds to form. Just as they had dozens of times in the past 5
years they broke open the capsule.
TRACY HALL: I got down to the point where I picked things apart
and got to look at what's there in the middle and my eyes caught
the gleam of the sun shining on these things and I, I, you know,
twiddled it around a little bit and saw the sparkles and at that
instant I knew that man had finally turned graphite into diamond.
My knees weakened. I had to sit down. I, I was overwhelmed.
HERBERT STRONG: Well it was just a very nice feeling that we had
a tough problem and we had solved it. We had been challenged and
we met the challenge and faced it and won.
TRACY HALL: It was front page news in almost every newspaper in
the United States overseas too, also and the people in the diamond
people in, where would they have been, Antwerp, they were scared
NARRATOR: The diamond market had no reason to panic. Although
the diamonds General Electric made had the same atomic structure
as natural diamonds they were like grains of sand, but they revolutionised
industry because just like natural diamonds, they were the hardest
material in the world and they could cut through anything. But these
tiny pieces of grit could never set a girl's heart racing. The science
just wasn't there to make them sparkle. But for years no-one knew
how to turn industrial diamonds into these. It takes millions of
years for nature to grow gem diamonds and that is what makes them
STEPHEN LUSSIER: Women truly desire diamonds. It helps them sparkle
brilliantly when, when they're wearing it. They like that feeling
of wearing diamonds. The task of marketing really is only to help
them achieve their desire of getting one.
NARRATOR: De Beers is the diamond business and this building is
where they control the world diamond trade. By buying up most of
the world's uncut diamonds the company can regulate supply to select
dealers, increasing it in good years and reducing it in bad to keep
prices high. Every year from this building £3 billion's worth of
rough diamonds are distributed around the world for cutting and
polishing. It is a cartel that has been built on the claim that
diamonds have a unique appeal to women.
STEPHEN LUSSIER: The consumer actually wants a symbolic product
and I think if the product is it forever there's no 3 billion years
old. If it did just come out of a, you know, popped out of a machine
3 days ago it can't possibly have that symbolism.
NARRATOR: The beauty, glamour and cost of diamonds presented a
new challenge for the diamond makers, to synthesise a gem quality
diamond just like nature but in a fraction of the time. Now there
are places in the world where nature's monopoly on gem diamonds
is being challenged. Hidden behind the Iron Curtain industrial diamonds
have been produced for years, but in a new Russia, scientists are
becoming more ambitious.
In July 1993 Boris Feigelson set up his own lab in rooms rented
from the Institute of the Blind. His plan was to grow industrial
diamonds so they became as big as gems, but this required expensive
high pressure equipment and with little money everything he did
had to be built from scratch. To make large gem quality diamonds
Feigelson had to find a way to make the diamond grit grow, but this
meant running his presses at high temperatures and pressures for
days. At the beginning this was impossible.
BORIS FEIGELSON (WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION): We had to select the
right materials and the right parts for the press because if it
was set up wrongly then it was quite possible that there would be
an explosion. Everything would come flying out at high pressure.
NARRATOR: Feigelson tried repeatedly to redesign his presses to
withstand higher pressures without breaking. Finally in 1995 the
presses could run for the days needed to produce larger gem quality
crystals. But the real science of diamond making is in the delicate
chemistry of the growth cell itself. It is here that Feigelson focused
his attention. At one end of the growth cell Feigelson planted a
grit seed of tiny diamond. Above the seed is the metal solvent and
then the graphite source. Heat at the top causes the carbon atoms
to filter down from the metal solvent to the cooler temperatures
at the bottom where they latch on to the seed. If the process is
regulated carefully the seed grows. After 2 days of high temperature
and pressure, these machines can each produce a one carat diamond,
large, but flawed, with tell-tale signs of manufacture.
Boris Feigelson was not the only one trying to make gem diamonds.
There are at least 5 labs spread around the old Soviet Union, from
Moscow to Siberia, and they have all learnt the same basic skills
of diamond synthesis. Even the earliest flawed diamonds the Russians
made were enough to set the alarm bells ringing at De Beers. In
fact De Beers had been taking this threat seriously for years. They
have been growing diamonds in this laboratory to see if their own
scientists can distinguish between synthetic and natural diamonds.
DR ROBBIE BURNS (De Beers): We've been able to grow a phenomenal
range of diamonds, some of them quite large in fact. In fact some
of these over here were grown in a growth run which lasted something
like 6 weeks and they are 25 carats in weight each grown 4 at a
time, so we're actually quite proud of this.
NARRATOR: The diamonds grown in Johannesburg come here to a research
laboratory outside London. This building is the centre of the gem
defence programme where they spend £3 million a year in a race with
the diamond makers to maintain the confidence of their customers.
100 staff are employed to identify the tiniest difference between
the new synthetics and natural diamonds. As the synthetics have
become ever more perfect, De Beers have had to invent new methods
DR PAUL SPEAR (De Beers): De Beers's aim is to instil confidence
in the diamond consumer that their diamond is a natural diamond
and not one made by man. There are very few synthetic diamonds available
in, in the trade and the vast majority of those, of course, are
the yellow brown material. There are very few near colour stones,
but it's very important that although there isn't a current threat
from synthetics that we need to look to the possibility in the future
that there might be a threat so we need to be well prepared.
NARRATOR: While De Beers deny the diamond makers are a serious
threat the trade is already feeling the heat. This is the world's
largest gem fair. Thousands of diamond dealers selling their wares
to jewellers' shops around the world, a £30 billion a year industry.
It is a business that the diamond makers want a part of. Alex Grizenko
is a middle man for other Russian diamond makers. He is here to
sell the idea that man-made diamonds are intrinsically the same
as the real thing.
ALEX GRIZENKO (Diamond Trader): You think on a philosophical level
a diamond is a diamond. If it's carbon and if it looks like a diamond
it's a diamond. It's not a simulant. Now as we know there are many
simulants on the market. They're cubic zirconi has been around for
many years. A new simulant called moissonite has entered the marketplace,
but these are all pretending to be carbon. They're not carbon, and
here the diamonds.
NARRATOR: The potential payout of synthetic diamonds entering
the market place for the first time has already got the trade worrying
about a doomsday scenario, the worst imaginable threat to the natural
VOICE: You've hit the jackpot!
MARTIN RAPAPORT (Diamond Trader): The concern in the industry
today is what if, just what if there is a way to synthesise diamonds
that are non-detectable from natural diamonds, what if technology
gives us the ability to make a synthetic diamond that no-one knows
NARRATOR: The trade may believe that diamond makers are far from
producing undetectable synthetics, but behind the scenes the scientists
have been working hard to rid their gems of the telltale signs of
manufacture. The biggest problems were bits of metal that got trapped
in the growing diamonds. They came from the metal solvent used to
dissolve the graphite.
PAUL SPEAR: This diamond contains quite a number of inclusions.
I'll zoom in on one of those and you can see how this, this inclusion,
a metallic inclusion, has actually grown roughly in the shape of
the growing diamond so it's partially faceted and these come from
metallic solvent used to grow the diamond. Of course this microscope
has a limited power, but the point is it's what the gemologist can
see easily with his standard tools.
LECTURER: Metallic inclusions are solidified remnants of the flux
metal from which the synthetic diamond is grown in the laboratory.
NARRATOR: It is a lesson that De Beers are keen to spread to gemologists
around the world. In gem testing centres classes are taught in synthetic
diamond detection using similar diamonds supplied by De Beers.
LECTURER: In some cases synthetic diamonds can be attracted to
a magnet as a result of the presence of these metallic inclusions…
NARRATOR: For these gemologists identifying synthetic diamonds
with metal inclusions is as simple as putting them under a microscope.
LECTURER: The next slide please.
NARRATOR: To stop metal from ruining their diamonds the Russians
had to control the atomic growth of the crystals in a far more exacting
way. They had to prevent the metal from joining an interrupted flow
of carbon atoms as they formed the diamond. They had to keep the
flow of carbon so perfectly constant that the metal couldn't get
near the growing diamond and the way to do this was to control the
temperature within the growth cell in the most minute way.
BORIS FEIGELSON (WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION): It was clear to us
that we had to refine the chemistry and stabilise the heating process
as much as possible and that would control the temperature.
NARRATOR: Feigelson adapted and refined an old idea. By minutely
controlling the temperature gradient, hotter at the top to dissolve
the carbon atoms into the metal solution and cooler around the diamond
seed, Feigelson could ensure the carbon came out of the solution
in a constant flow preventing the metal from reaching the diamond
seed. After hundreds of experiments Feigelson found a temperature
gradient that seemed to work.
BORIS FEIGELSON (WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION): How we solved it is
a top secret, but thankfully finally we managed to solve it.
NARRATOR: Feigelson had achieved his aim. His diamonds were now
metal free, but the next problem he and all other diamond makers
faced was that their diamonds were yellow. The colour is caused
by nitrogen from the atmosphere getting into the presses.
DR MARK NEWTON (Oxford University): Any synthetic diamond you
grow will have a lot of nitrogen in the structure and this nitrogen
is incorporated as single substitutional nitrogen atoms, isolated
nitrogen atoms dotted around the diamond lattice. The consequences
of having nitrogen there is it gives the diamond colour, the nitrogen
impurities set up an absorption of light and it gives the diamond
a not very attractive brown colour.
NARRATOR: Natural diamonds also contain nitrogen, but over millions
of years the pressures and temperatures in the Earth's mantle concentrate
the nitrogen atoms together into imperceptible clusters and reduce
or eliminate the yellow colour.
MARK NEWTON: The nitrogen atoms have hopped around and formed
aggregates where more than one nitrogen atom is bonded together.
There's two atoms bond together in what's called the A aggregate,
4 atoms in the B aggregate and in this form the nitrogen doesn't
give rise to any optical absorption in the visible which means the
diamond looks white. It's still got the impurity in there but it
just, the light is now not absorbed in a visible wavelength.
NARRATOR: If they were to make their yellow diamonds colourless
the diamond makers had to find a way to replicate the passing of
millions of years in nature in the laboratory.
BORIS FEIGELSON (WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION): To get colourless
diamonds what we had to do was get rid of the nitrogen which gives
them their yellow colour.
NARRATOR: The clue for getting rid of the nitrogen came from an
American experiment 20 years before. It suggested that the nitrogen
atoms could be chemically attracted away from a growing diamond
by using a nitrogen getter. The nitrogen getter Feigelson chose
was aluminium. Feigelson found that by putting aluminium in the
growth cell it melted into the metal solvent and the nitrogen atoms
were irresistibly drawn towards it leaving the carbon atoms free
to form as pure and colourless diamond.
BORIS FEIGELSON (WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION); When we got our first
good diamonds we were absolutely overwhelmed. They have the same
characteristics as real diamonds, the same hardness, same conductivity,
the same sparkle.
NARRATOR: In fact Feigelson has managed to remove the nitrogen
and the metal inclusions. Although he can't make many, his diamonds
can now be both clear and colourless. Colourless diamonds like these
could turn into a nightmare for De Beers.
PAUL SPEAR: Clearly the, the near colourless diamond if there
were no clues such as the presence of inclusions then a microscope
is, is very little help to you.
NARRATOR: While Feigelson is more interested in diamond science,
a bigger threat to De Beers comes from a group of diamond makers
in Siberia who want to mass produce gems. They have been making
diamonds at the Institute of Geology in Novosibirsk for more than
20 years, but with state funding drying up money has run out. They,
too, have had to look for new business opportunities. What they
had to offer was skill, the science of making gem quality diamonds.
Desperate for money to keep the Institute running they have been
forced to look abroad. Eventually word of their achievements reached
an American company. In return for the Institute's know-how the
Americans have invested millions of dollars in a joint research
project to make coloured synthetic diamonds a commercial reality.
CARTER CLARKE: Our 2 years of operation so far has been devoted
to be able to insure ourselves that we can produce the same quality,
the same size, the same consistency, the same colour time after
time. We have now accomplished that so we're now ready to go into
the commercial side of this business. NARRATOR: Now they are packing
up some of their presses to send to Clarke in America, the beginning
of a new diamond production line, the first time that synthetic
gem diamonds will be produced for the mass market.
CARTER CLARKE: We started off where ours were taking one carat
diamond in about 72 hours. That roughly equates to about 1.8 milligrams
per hour of growth. We now have that up to 8 milligrams per hour
of growth which means we can produce a 1 carat diamond in roughly
24 hours. We expect to get that down even further and so it's just
a matter of how many machines you have.
MARTIN RAPAPORT: A synthetic diamond by itself is no problem.
As long as the industry maintains rules of detection & disclosure.
That means scientifically gemologically the industry is able to
detect that a certain type of diamond is a synthetic, is not a natural
STEPHEN LUSSIER: And your consumer in the old days easily could
tell an imitation from the real thing. Now it's a bit more tricky.
De Beers's role really is to make sure that we can always do it
and that we can always make that discrimination for the consumer.
NARRATOR: Faced with the potential crisis of confidence caused
by new synthetics undetectable under a microscope, De Beers have
been forced to look at the atomic structure of natural and synthetic
diamonds to find the tiniest difference, and that has required new
and more sophisticated machinery.
PAUL SPEAR: One of the properties of diamonds is that they, they
emit light when it's sighted by laser light or light of other wavelengths.
Synthetic diamonds and natural diamonds because of the nature of
the defects are different in both types of diamond, emit different
types of light, different types of spectra because the defects are
different, so we can actually distinguish spectra and the defects
which discriminate synthetic from natural diamond using this equipment.
NARRATOR: After hundreds of experiments De Beers's scientists
have identified what they believe is a unique difference in synthetic
PAUL SPEAR: This is a very intense short-wave ultraviolet lamp
and what we see here on the left are 4 synthetic diamonds and on
the right 4 natural diamonds and we're looking at the luminescence
which is given off by the diamond and you can see that on the left
the 4 synthetic diamonds are glowing very brightly under the action
of this very hard ultraviolet light, but as the 4 natural diamonds
are almost inert under the action of this ultraviolet light and
of course from synthetic diamonds you see phosphorescence when the
lamp is turned off - the diamonds glow in the dark.
NARRATOR: De Beers believe that the cause of phosphorescence in
synthetic diamonds can be traced to the way they grow. While natural
diamonds have an octahedral structure because synthetics grow in
an artificial environment they also form cube shaped sectors. It
is this mixture of cubes and octahedral growth that causes synthetics
to absorb ultraviolet light differently.
PAUL SPEAR: If we look at the, the image here you can see here
where the seed crystal was positioned for the synthetic diamond
to grow from and here are the octahedral growth sectors which are
fluorescing. If you rotate the diamond round you see these octahedral
growth sectors have grown larger and at the same time that initial
small cubic sector has grown much larger as well, so this very simple
growth sector structure is indicative of a near colourless synthetic
NARRATOR: Because of the way defects like nitrogen concentrate
in these growth sectors light is held back and released slowly causing
this unique phosphorescence. De Beers have incorporated these lessons
into a sophisticated detection device called Diamond View.
PAUL SPEAR: What the camera has done it's waited for the lamps
to turn off, waited a short time and then looked to see whether
there's any residual luminescence, termed phosphorescence, and indeed
there's a very, very high level of phosphorescence on this diamond.
Every diamond that we've looked at with these instruments, every
synthetic diamond we have looked at, always trapped by the Diamond
NARRATOR: The Diamond View machine is only available to a few
gem laboratories and not to the average dealer, but De Beers believe
they have found the one feature of synthetic diamonds that proves
they can't replicate the passing of time in nature.
ROBBIE BURNS: This difference has given natural diamond properties
and a structure which is very different to synthetic diamonds and
in the laboratory I can't see a simple way of being able to bridge
that time difference.
NARRATOR: De Beers say that they have defeated the diamond makers
at an atomic level, but even this is being challenged. The diamond
makers claim that their diamonds may not be detectable for ever.
CARTER CLARKE: When you send one of our diamonds to De Beers,
right, the only way they can detect that, that this is not a natural
diamond is really through phosphorescence. They take this and they
put it in, they hit it with a UV light and after the UV light goes
off this thing will phosphoresce for about 3-5 seconds. That is
typical of a synthetic diamond versus a natural diamond. Something
you would not do in a jewellery store, for example. However, we
have a way to overcome that.
NARRATOR: Carter Clark has yet to prove he can overcome it, but
it's clear that the scientists have been working hard to make it
happen. Today one team of Russians is trying to grow diamonds in
conditions closer to those in the Earth's mantle. Much of this technology
is secret, but because they are using a carbonate rather than a
metal solvent and lower temperatures in their presses, their tiny
diamonds have the pure octahedral form of natural diamonds.
DR YURI PAL'YANOV (RUSSIAN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) (Russian
Academy of Sciences): Today we can grow diamond crystals in conditions
which are more like nature and that creates more natural looking
diamonds, but as in nature, the speed of the process and the speed
at which the diamonds grow is extremely slow.
NARRATOR: These are not industrial grit diamonds, but minute diamonds
made in the laboratory under conditions closer to nature than ever
before. These scientists believe that before long they will work
out how to grow these tiny diamonds into gems. Faced with the future
threat of synthetic diamonds being imperceptible to the trade, De
Beers are already preparing their bottom line, one low-tech way
to guarantee detection: they are putting minute logos on their diamonds.
STEPHEN LUSSIER: If we can give the consumer a little bit more
help in telling him what's a good diamond that regardless of what
they know or what their jeweller knows, De Beers has told them that
this diamond is, is natural from as it, as it came out of the ground,
created by nature billions of years ago and, and not one that popped
out of a machine last Wednesday in Kansas City.
NARRATOR: Finally the science of diamond making has become so
ingenious that even experienced dealers can't tell the difference
between man-made and natural diamonds without the most sophisticated
technology. For diamond makers this means that the only real difference
is in the mind.
HERBERT STRONG: I would have to conclude that if you have to have
gems you can make just as beautiful gems out of man-made as nature
NARRATOR: In the future the consumer may well have that choice.
STEPHEN LUSSIER: I always think it's a bit like a masterpiece
from Picasso and, and a copy. In the end one is worth $30 million
and, and a magnificent treasure in the world and the other is a
CARTER CLARKE: We have asked many women whether they would prefer
a 4 carat synthetic diamond or a 2 carat natural diamond, if all
else was equal - the characteristics the features, the chemical
composition, all those things were the same which would they take.
I've never had anyone say they wouldn't take the big one.
HERBERT STRONG: These man-made diamonds are also for ever, just
as forever as any natural diamond is and maybe then some.
Back to The Diamond Makers programme