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Scientists learned how to make diamonds in a microwave – this is going to change the entire industry

Posted April 24, 2018

It is very interesting that a diamond, which really is not that rare noble stone, is such a widely desired rock. All kinds of people love diamonds and pay a lot of money to get them. Diamonds are useful in the industry, but most people imagine jewellery as soon as someone mentions diamonds. However, the truth is that one out of four diamonds is covered in blood. But that is about to change.

Synthetic diamonds are made from the same atoms and have the same properties as the natural stone. Image credit: Jim Harper via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

A term “blood diamonds” refers to gemstones, sold to fund civil wars, terrorist organizations, military regimes and other structures that we tend to oppose. A lot of people get killed or are pulled into slavery because of blood diamonds and the illegal trade of gemstones is on the rise. The worst thing about it is that these diamonds, mined using immoral methods, often end up on a regular market. In fact, if you own several diamonds, it is likely that you have at least one blood diamond. That is the truth, but scientists think they can change that by flooding the market with cheap synthetic diamonds.

Scientists managed to pretty much cook new diamonds in a microwave. The process is obviously more difficult than that. They had to put a “diamond seed” (a little piece of diamond) in a microwave oven, filled with carbon-rich gas. Then temperature is raised and microwave oven is turned on. A plasma ball appears, which breaks down the gas and makes carbon atoms crystalize on the diamond. It only takes several weeks to grow a commercial size diamond. But is it real or a synthetic diamond in this case?

The industry of natural gemstones is pushing for legislations, forcing synthetic diamonds to be appropriately labelled. If the diamond has been grown in a laboratory, it should be marked as synthetic just not to fool the customer. However, synthetic diamonds are diamonds – they are made from the same kind of carbon as the natural gemstone. In fact, microwave-made diamonds are difficult to distinguished from the natural ones – most jewellers wouldn’t know the difference. Actually, it takes specialized equipment, which analyses the crystalline structure of the diamond, to tell the difference between the natural and synthetic diamond.

Even people who sell diamonds should be happy about the rise of synthetic gemstones. There will be more diamonds and they will be slightly cheaper, so more people will be able to afford them. This has a potential to increase the sales and revenue. People will be able to buy jewellery with real (yet synthetic) diamonds that last forever. All while merchants of blood diamonds will lose their market share. This is the goal of producing the synthetic gemstones in the first place.

A new poll revealed that people from the North America are quite positive about synthetic diamonds – only less than half of them prefer the natural stones. Furthermore, in 2026 there will be 20 million carats of synthetic diamonds on the market. This is going to change the entire industry. However, this is not only going to impact illegal merchants of blood diamonds, but also those, who invested their money into gemstones, because their value is likely to decrease.

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