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Scientists at De Beers Fight the Growing Threat of Man-Made Diamonds (wsj.com) 365

"In the past few years, lab-grown diamonds have become indistinguishable from natural diamonds to the naked eye..." reports the Wall Street Journal. This creates a problem for diamond-mining company De Beers. HughPickens.com writes: While synthetics make up just a fraction of the market, they have growing appeal to younger buyers -- a headache for mine owners, who are under pressure to cut supply and lower prices, because traders, cutters and polishers are struggling to profit amid a credit squeeze and languishing jewelry sales... "Martin Roscheisen, chief executive of Diamond Foundry Inc., a San Francisco synthetic-diamond producer with a capacity of 24,000 carats, says he believes nearly all diamonds consumers purchase will be man-made in a few decades," reports the Journal. "To counter the threat, last year De Beers helped launch a trade association with other producers to market the attraction of natural diamonds. It also started marketing a new, cheap detector called PhosView, that uses ultraviolet light to detect lab-grown stones that quickly screens tiny synthetic diamonds.
It always seemed like a waste of money to me. After all, it's literally raining diamonds on Saturn.
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Scientists at De Beers Fight the Growing Threat of Man-Made Diamonds

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  • OR! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:51PM (#53225405)

    Hopefully before then, the main threat will become the consumer realizing they're a massive waste of money.

    • Re:OR! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:53PM (#53225421) Homepage

      If generics significantly disrupt the market, then the prices will drop way way down and they won't be a massive waste of money, at worst a small waste of money, and at best a very very durable shiny that lasts a long time and is cheap.

    • As are many things in the consumer world, especially in technology space. If you start rating things by whether they are a waste of money or not then a lot of industries will be backrupt very quickly with everything from alcohol on up disappearing.
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonr ( 1130 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:51PM (#53225407) Homepage Journal

    That is all I have to say about this.

    • Yeah, I think this is really great! I hope the prices drop far enough in a couple decades that it can be used as a building material.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think I can say a bit more.

      If Beers is actually concerned about the "blood diamonds" they don't want people buying, then these 'fake' diamonds gaining popularity is actually the best thing that could happen.

      Granted, their own company will go under unless they just go ahead and transform into a synthetic diamond manufacturer, but that's a small a small price to pay.

      The only reason the stupid rocks have the value they do is caused by marketing anyway.

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:12PM (#53225559)
        It doesn't matter because a synthetic diamond is going to be of better quality than anything you can dig out of the ground. About the only thing De Beers could do at this point is play up the whole blood diamond thing. I think some consumers would totally pay more if they knew their their diamond somehow financed a warlord that massacred an entire village. The only thing they're lacking is some way to quantify how much human suffering was caused, but given their history they should have a pretty good idea of how to construct an accurate measure.

        Why anyone would spend thousands of dollars on a ring is beyond me anyways. Take all of the money you would have spent and put it towards a house or if that's not an issue, spend it traveling. Experiences together are worth more than a piece of carbon.
        • Re:Good. (Score:4, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2016 @09:08PM (#53225855)

          They can measure that in massacarat.

        • Why anyone would spend thousands of dollars on a ring is beyond me anyways. Take all of the money you would have spent and put it towards a house or if that's not an issue, spend it traveling. Experiences together are worth more than a piece of carbon.

          There is a lot of societal momentum behind the diamond ring, or at least in the ring itself. People like wedding bands and even my very practical brothers got wedding bands. They bought a nice rock for the wife but they didn't, at least in my mind, go overboard on the expense. One brother, a mechanical engineer, got a wedding band made of titanium or something for himself, it's not gold and cost less than a nice dinner out.

          You can try to do away with the ring but I believe you are going to have a lot of

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Their business model is to sell proof of having spent lots of money.

          So really they are not worried about the quality of synthetic diamonds, they are worried about not being able to accurately judge the price.

          It's kinda like Ferrari cars. They aren't too worried that a Nissan GTR is cheaper because people who buy Ferraris aren't really looking for value for money or an equivalent product. It would only be a problem if the GTR looked identical and people were fooled into thinking it was a Ferrari.

          Synthetic di

    • I never understood the attraction to diamonds.

      I see them as a means of concentrating a large sum of money in to a small package in order to show off how much one has.

      I find women that flaunt large diamonds as superficial and something to avoid. Most of the time, they want them to display "how much someone cares about them" (by spending a lot of money on them).

      No thanks.

      • They can also be a means of concentrating a large sum of money in to a small package in order to show off how much money one used to have, before they spent it all on diamonds.

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:54PM (#53225427) Journal

    "A concern is the risk that you buy the necklace that your wife wanted and discover it's not the real thing," De Beers strategy chief Gareth Mostyn said.

    It's so much more romantic to give diamonds that were mined by people on subsistence level wages in terrible conditions and then used to make massive profits by a parasitic organization that is dedicated to preserving a monopoly through artificial scarcity. What's "real" when the end result is the same, or perhaps even purer when man-made?

    Diamonds are not as rare as some other gemstones. It's only the massive market manipulation that gives them their value.

    The end of DeBeers cannot come soon enough.

    • by batkiwi ( 137781 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:12PM (#53225549)

      I think they should absolutely be free to market/etc the terms "natural/mined" diamond vs "man made/lab grown" diamond, but "real" vs "fake" is incorrect and should be hammered on by agencies who regulate advertising and commerce.

      Cubic zirconia is a "fake" diamond if it's sold as such. Man made diamonds are real, end of story.

      • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:32PM (#53225657)

        +1 !!!

        Man-made diamonds ARE diamonds. They look the same, act the same, have the same structure, and it is impossible to even tell them apart from mined diamonds without very expensive and specialized equipment. They are not "fake" they are just not mined.

        I don't understand people's obsession with this crystallized carbon, but pretending that mined ones are somehow superior or worth more seems just completely irrational.

        • Source matters, it may not make sense but a doodle by Da Vinci is worth a lot more than a doodle by me even if they have the same aesthetic appeal.

          If people perceive precious then they are by definition precious, people don't always make sense.

          • The point people here are making is that the perception of value you are referring to is based on a persistent and blatantly untruthful propaganda campaign brought to the masses by DeBeers. DaVinci was a singularly valuable artist/inventor/engineer, his doodles are valued because of who he was and what he did. Diamonds are valued because some marketers came up with an extremely successful campaign, not due to an inherently superior value of these particular stones.

        • just completely irrational.

          And there you have summed up marketing in 3 simple words...

        • I don't understand people's obsession with this crystallized carbon, but pretending that mined ones are somehow superior or worth more seems just completely irrational.

          It's easy, let me help.

          In my right hand I have a real diamond, found and taken from a mine by a hard worker providing for his family. God created the diamond, mine, and you and me. Fred over there made the diamond in my left hand. This was when he was at work only slightly drunk after beating his wife at the time -- but never mind that. He can make more imitations that are just as good as the original.

          Now your money (at least in the US -- at least it USED to) has "In God We Trust." If hung-over Fre

    • It's so much more romantic to give diamonds that were mined by people on subsistence level wages in terrible conditions and then used to make massive profits by a parasitic organization that is dedicated to preserving a monopoly through artificial scarcity.

      May not be romantic, but it certainly seems like a good fit for the institution we call "marriage".

    • Diamonds are not as rare as some other gemstones. It's only the massive market manipulation that gives them their value.

      A touch over-blown, but certainly DeBeers have done a great job of driving up the price of their product through damned effective marketing. Kind-of like Apple. Now, personally I wouldn't buy an Apple product (had a Mac ; didn't like it), but I recognise their marketing skill. And apparently, their hardware is pretty good too, if over-priced.

      It's so much more romantic to give diamonds tha

    • massive profits by a parasitic organization that is dedicated to preserving a monopoly through artificial scarcity.

      Artificial scarcity and artificial demand. The traditional wedding ring is a simple gold ring. Has been for centuries if not millenia. De Beers paid Hollywood to promote the concept of a diamond engagement ring in movies in the early 1900s. It worked, and it's now ingrained into the public consciousness that an engagement ring is (incorrectly) a diamond ring.

      So you've got an organizati

  • Fuck DeBeers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:55PM (#53225433)
    ....yeah, fuck DeBeers in their cartel ass
  • Very good (Score:5, Informative)

    by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @07:58PM (#53225459)

    Diamonds aren't particularly rare, the only thing that makes them valuable is that DeBeers has been holding a very tight near-monopoly, so there's no free market.

          Their operation is a reality version of the cartoon view of capitalism promoted by leftists for years. Every bad thing you can think of, they do, from the monopoly, exploitation of workers, callous disregard for humanity, and on and on. Capitalism and western society left this sort of bullcrap behind 100 years ago, but not these bastards. Anything that breaks their hold will be welcome from all sides of the spectrum,

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      What is worse than De Beers, the idiots that buy those diamonds, seriously sucked in and stupid. Diamonds are forever, no, stupid is forever.

      • Actually, stupid dies usually after about 80 years, though there are a few outliers that live into the 100s. To be more correct, true stupid probably dies well before 80.

    • And there's an entire industry dedicated to selling these things at high prices.

      Go take a look at an auction house - not necessarily Christies or Sothebys, just a normal house that sells off the estates of well-to-do-but-not-insanely-wealthy people. Read their sales results for jewelry. It sells for at most half the price you'd pay at a retailer.
      • I can't bring myself to care too much about the purchasers. They know what they are getting and how much it costs, and whether it is worth it to them.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:00PM (#53225467)

    Diamond Foundry Inc., a San Francisco synthetic-diamond producer with a capacity of 24,000 carats

    A day? An hour? Per year? Their office safe can't hold more than that? How does this provide any sort of perspective?

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:02PM (#53225483)

    "...a headache for mine owners, who are under pressure to cut supply and lower prices, because traders, cutters and polishers are struggling to profit...

    When the retail end of this entire market reflects rather obscene profit margins, the real problem is rather glaring.

    Sorry, but with the collusive pricing actions of the entire industry on the retail end of things, they are likely getting what they deserve. Pure unadulterated greed created these alternate products, and for valid reasons.

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:04PM (#53225497)

    last year De Beers helped launch a trade association with other producers to market the attraction of natural diamonds

    And "the attraction" would be the blood of Africans that is spilled in obtaining them? The horrible working conditions that they are mined under? The environmental destruction that is wreaked by digging them up? Please help me out here, there are so many "attractions" to choose from.

  • No surprises here, given that debeers et al's business model is based on one of the silliest examples of artificial scarcity. Of course they feel threatened.

  • I mean, the more childrens' hands have been cut off from warlords mining these things means the love is greater.

  • Yeah? Let's see one survive a house fire.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @08:48PM (#53225741) Homepage Journal

    believes nearly all diamonds consumers purchase will be man-made in a few decades

    What, just because they're cheaper and of higher quality, and don't involve unethical and environmentally unfriendly mining operations, and as a bonus reduce the money earned by a nasty cartel?

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @09:05PM (#53225843)
    and Trump has better odds being our next 3 presidents than I do getting married but I'll say this: No way in hell would I buy a woman a diamond engagement ring. Even without the ethical quandaries (blood diamonds anyone?) I'd still feel like a chump. I remember growing up thinking a diamond engagement ring was a 1000 year old tradition and finding out it was all made up in the 20s by marketing execs to sell diamonds.
    • Diamond cutting has existed for (at least) hundreds of years. Diamonds have always been plentiful but the skill to cut them was not. It was one of the trades that allowed the Jewish people to survive through centuries of persecution. It was really DeBeers that took an ancient craft and turned it into something horrible.
  • by tgibson ( 131396 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @09:08PM (#53225853) Homepage

    DeBeer's behavior parallels other established interests we have read about recently such as taxi "cartels" trying to suppress upstarts Uber & Lyft, or hotel "cartels" trying to suppress VRBO & Airbnb. Jump ahead 50 years. I would wager that taxis, hotels, and natural diamonds will have lost their stranglehold to the likes of Uber, Airbnb, and synthetic diamonds. Adapt or die.

  • Yeah, we should be really concerned for the interests of diamond companies [youtube.com].

  • Synthetic diamonds are superior. They flawless, and eventually they'll be made much larger than any natural diamond ever found. DeBeers needs to come to grips with this fact, and either come up with a new business model or liquidate their operations.

    -jcr

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @09:53PM (#53226095)
    I love that a good synthetic diamond simply can't be distinguished from the real thing without the aid of very advanced technology. Specifically, that even a trained diamond cutter with decades of experience working with diamonds can't tell without the assistance of advanced technology.

    Then they try to tell the public that synthetic is somehow bad.

    I am not a fan of margarine but this sounds like when the butter lobby managed to do things like prevent margarine from being coloured yellow after an unsuccessful attempt to get it banned.

    I am willing to bet that what is coming is one of two things, or both. First is that you must label a synthetic diamond as synthetic. Or they will try to force people to label synthetic diamonds as something else entirely(as if they weren't chemically a diamond).

    The next is a campaign of "fake means he doesn't love you"

    Then it will turn out that they will go after any jewelers who cut, sell, design, or anything that anything to do with synthetics. Basically the rule will be, if you sale synthetics then you don't get to sell the real thing.

    But when all this is over just look at what happened to the natural pearl industry after cultured pearls took over. There was a brief orgy of resistance, and then it all fell apart.
    • Your analogy is terrible. Margarine is nothing like butter, margarine is a completely unnatural product that wreaks havoc on a person's health who mistakes it for a food product and ingests it. Butter, on the other hand is a natural product whose fats are an excellent source of nutrition. Yeah, some people are sensitive to the proteins but for most people, butter is a great source of nutrition. Margarine is gray death in a tub.
      Your analogy is terrible because a synthetic diamond is very much a diamond, w

  • Aluminum used to be expensive, too, up till the late 1800s, now it's cheap and we use it in pop cans and fast food wrappers. Someday, with improved technology, we might take diamond for granted too...
  • ...This is what you'll get This is what you'll get This is what you'll get When you mess with us Karma Police! You can't create a monopoly on something, pretend it's rare by creating scarcity due to owning 80% of the world's whatever it is, and expect no one to ever find a way around your bullshit. The fact is that Diamonds are not that rare; in fact Sapphires and Rubies are much rarer than Diamonds. The De beers duped everyone into thinking that diamonds are rare, and then fed the diamond fever with adver
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Sunday November 06, 2016 @10:58PM (#53226347)

    De Beers and jewelers try to convince us that diamonds are an investment and that they hold their value. Completely and utterly false. I remember this great article from years ago:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/mag... [theatlantic.com]

    (turn off javascript to view the article so the anti-ad blocker won't pop up... it's just not safe to disable ad blocking).

    The entire demand for diamonds was created by De Beers. It's a marketing scam.

  • I've been saying for years (probably could find my posts saying as much on Slashdot, were I less lard-assed) that there are two things that are going to screw DeBeers utterly and completely.

    1. Diamond is a really quite nice semiconductor. Lots of good things about it.

    2. The semiconductor industry produces single crystal ingots that dwarf a typical natural stone by, what, three orders of magnitude, at five to seven nines of purity. They know how to make big, ultra-pure crystals in vast quantities much, muc

  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday November 07, 2016 @01:58AM (#53227067)

    In the past few years, lab-grown diamonds have become indistinguishable from natural diamonds to the naked eye...

    This looks suspiciously like a story [wired.com] I read in Wired magazine 13 years ago. Lab grown diamonds have been indistinguishable from natural diamonds for a long time now. The price of diamond should be a lot lower than it is, even without the competition from artificial diamonds, but De Beers has been allowed to abuse their monopoly position to stockpile the output of their mines and control the flow into the market to maintain artificial scarcity, and threaten not to supply jewellers who work with artificial diamonds.

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