Those Not So True Diamonds

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Your eyes may deceive you for both possess the same glamour and beauty. They equally sparkle and glow under the glimmering light. But what you might not know is that one may be true, the other just a copycat. For it has taken ages for the earth to create diamonds, but only days for man.

Synthetic diamond is a diamond created by man’s engineering through technological processes, as opposed to natural diamond produced by geological processes. The idea of producing diamonds in a laboratory was conceived way back 1797 after discovering that the precious gem is actually made of pure carbon. There were several attempts and few successes, but the products had no commercial applications. In 1941, General Electrics (GE), Norton and Carborundum companies agreed to further develop diamond synthesis. They were able to heat carbon up to 3000OC under a pressure of 3.5 gigapascals (GPa). It was only in December 16, 1954 that the first commercially successful synthesis of diamond was realized. And like they say, the rest is history.

Some important properties of diamonds are:

a. Crystallinity: Large, clear, and single-crystal diamond is suitable for gems. Whereas, polycrystalline diamond consists of several small grains, very visible to the naked eye, which make it appropriate only for industrial applications such as mining and cutting tools.

b. Hardness: This is a property to resist being scratched. Typically, synthetic diamonds are the hardest material known.

c. Impurities and Inclusions: Impurities are generally avoided for gemstones. But for other applications, inclusion (a process where elemental atoms are aggregated into the carbon concentration) is performed, such as adding boron to fit as an electrical conductor.

Synthetic diamonds for use as gemstones are available in yellow and blue. The yellow color is due to the nitrogen impurities from the manufacturing process, while the blue comes from boron. Other colors like pink or green are possible through irradiation procedure after the synthesis. White or colorless diamonds are seldom produced.

Synthetic diamonds can be identical to natural diamonds, whether chemically, physically, and optically. The difference can be distinguished only with spectroscopy in infrared, ultraviolet, or X-ray wavelengths. Hence, the mined diamond industry is practicing certain countermeasures to the appearance of synthetic diamonds on the gem market.

Well, he next time you spot diamonds on display, you should ask yourself – Is this the real thing?

More great articles at the author’s blog: guims’ Random Science

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