It is a well-known fact
s are made out of carbon
, one of the most common substances on earth. It is also known that diamonds are fairly rare
, though this may be simply the cause of an artificial
shortage created by the De Beers cartel
. However, diamonds of any grade -- whether for jewelry
use, were difficult to get ahold of, especially during World War II
, when they were badly needed for the war
And so it was that the Diamond Race began, though it was too late to help with World War Two. This was not unlike the Space Race or the Arms Race in that it was top secret and condoned by the government, but it was not directly led by governmental agencies. Instead, General Electric really led the effort, starting in the 1950's, with independent scientists, researchers, and universities not far behind.
However, when you’ve got a large corporation competing against independent scientists with less funding, it’s pretty clear who’s going to win out. GE assembled an elite team of physicists, chemists, and engineers and set them to work on creating synthetic diamonds and nothing else.
There was false alarm that involved one member of the team claiming he had invented a machine that would synthesize diamonds, but his results were never repeated. Upon further examination, it was proved that his diamonds were natural, to boot. Nevertheless, kind of like the Cold Fusion scandal, a lot of the media was taken in and you still find books with the wrong name.
It was H. Tracy Hall (my grandfather) who eventually created the half-belt apparatus, a machine that would create High Pressures and High Temperatures to the degree needed to squeeze and press carbon into a new molecular arrangement otherwise known as diamond. There are some chemical aspects to it, as well, but those are beyond my powers to explain. GE erroneously claimed that it was a team effort (thus disqualifying my Grandfather from the Nobel Prize, which he may very well have received after the Government secrecy order was removed) and subsequently lost him as an employee. They still, of course, make millions off his inventions.
Howard Tracy Hall later went on to create the Tetrahedral Press and the Cubic Anvil press, which is still the preferred machine for use in scientific research. He still lives in Provo, Utah, puttering around with various things, though his inventing days are mostly over. His website can be found at www.htracyhall.org.
Anything carbon-rich can be put into one of the synthesizing machines, including Peanut Butter. It doesn’t turn out very high-quality diamonds, but they’re green, due to the amount of nitrogen in the substance. Very Cool.
The diamonds that come out of the presses are not gem-quality, but are used for industrial purposes. The prices of drills, diamond dust, grinders, and other things requiring the hardness of diamonds have all dropped substantially because of this invention.
You can find out more about the race to create synthetic diamonds in the book The Diamond Makers, by Robert M. Hazen. The New Alchemists was a book I once had that entailed both the making of diamonds and the use of whole diamonds in further High Pressure High Temperature research, but I can’t find it on Amazon ... don’t buy the other book entitiled The New Alchemists, it’s about corporate strategy and junk like that.
Point of clarification: I've seen that this has been soft-linked to lab-created stones
, wherein it explains that synthetic rocks are fake and lab-created stones are real. So the title of my write-up is a bit misleading
. However, my grandfather has always referred to his diamonds as synthetic (or on occasion, man-made) and that is how I'm used to thinking of them. The diamonds created in the belt apparatus are REAL -- they are chemically identical
to natural diamonds (except when you make them with peanut butter), and are just as hard etc. They are not cubic zirconia
. Just in case I confused anybody.