"The Diamond Age" is a book by Neil Stephenson, about a world where nanotechnology is as common as sand. And if you have the power to re-arrange molecules, why settle for anything less than diamond?
Anyway, the title piqued my interest, and I started reading. It turned out to be an article about synthetic diamonds. Now, synthetic diamonds are nothing new: they've been around since the 50's, and serve as hardening material for tools, ranging from drills to saws.
A few years back, a company called LifeGem was founded, to make small diamonds from the carbon of cremated loved ones (a bit morbid, but there you go).
But what is new, is that researchers have succeeded in producing flawless 3-carat, gem-quality diamonds. I've seen a documentary about the diamond hunters, but at the time of filming, the state of the art had stuck at 1.5 carat -- too small to serve as jewelry items. It seems this boundary has been broken.
The De Beers cartel is, of course, less than thrilled with this development. They've got the world market in diamonds cornered, and they're afraid to lose their monopoly. So they have instated a programme to educate consumers about synthetic diamonds, and started to issue certificates of authenticity and all that.
Meanwhile, the diamond creators are silently working to make diamonds that are indistinguishable from the real thing. It's a bit like copy protection schemes: DeBeers things of something to prove that their diamonds are natural, and the diamond creators research their production methods better, so that their synthetic diamonds are, once again, indistinguishable. It's a running battle, and the diamond creators are sure to win in the long run.
In the documentary we saw on TV, the guys from DeBeers were explaining how cool natural diamonds are, and how synthetic diamonds could never have the symbolism natural diamonds have.
To me, it is exactly the other way around. A natural diamond simply exists, just because it was a lump of carbon at the right place, at the right time. There's nothing romantic about that, if you think about it.
But the synthetic diamonds... Someone applied all of their sentient force to create that diamond. It's there because someone decided to make a diamond, to design a machine that recreates gigantic seismic forces. It's a great feat of engineering -- the resulting diamond is not a mere accident of nature or a geological curiosity, it's the result of human inventiveness.
Am I weird in thinking that synthetic diamonds are way cooler than natural ones?