Sparkling news, bad news (to a few)

The foundry where diamonds grow. Credit: Diamond Foundry

A start up, Diamond Foundry, has started to "grow" diamonds  that are exactly like the diamonds we find in Nature.  They are not "synthetic" diamond but real diamonds.  And "grow" is the right term!

Diamond Foundry is using natural diamonds, a tiny fragment, and grow it into a big diamond (up o 9 carats so far) by keeping it into a very hot environment (at around 4,000° C) full of carbon atoms. These atoms under the right temperature density and pressure stick on the diamond "seed" one layer onto another resulting in a big diamond in a matter of a few weeks. The procedure is applied to hundreds of seeds so that hundreds of diamonds can be grown in a few weeks. 

Interesting what technology can do!

Even more interesting considering the economic implications of technology.  This growth process promises to transform a scarcity into an abundance with a dramatic decrease of the price of diamonds.  
Every year diamond mines produce some 15 B$ worth of diamonds whose value grow to 24 B$ once they are polished for a final retail value (once they end up in rings, earrings and necklaces) reaching 70B $.

The relative scarcity of diamonds has been controlled for decades by the De Beers worldwide monopoly that places only a small fraction of diamonds on the retail market to keep up its price. 

The Diamond Foundry attacks the status quo in two ways: the cost of producing diamonds through their "growth" process is significantly lower than the cost of extracting the gems trough mining. Secondly they disrupt De Beers monopoly creating competition in the market.

Notice that technology has disrupted the value of many other raw materials. Aluminum used to be extremely rare (it is the third most common element on Earth but it exist as an oxide and silicate -mostly-compound, called bauxite). In 1886 electrolyses was invented and it made possibile to extract cheap and abundant aluminium from bauxite making it a commodity. Less than 100 years before to honour the King of Siam Napoleon offered him a banquet where he and the king eat with aluminium cutlery whilst the other guests had to make do with just gold cutlery!

This is what actually impresses me most: how technology can transform the value of a product, even a raw material. In doing this it creates disruptions.

I can imagine the problem of thousands of people who have trusted their savings to diamonds and that soon will find those diamonds devaluated because of technology.

I guess that diamonds, although still sparkling, may lose some of their sparkling in the eyes of several women as they will start to realise that a diamond might be forever, but its value is greatly undercut. 

Author - Roberto Saracco

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