Laboratories have been growing diamonds for industrial applications since the 1950s. However, the technology to create gem quality diamonds has only been developed relatively recently. "Synthetic" diamonds actually have the exact same physical structure and chemical composition as a diamond that’s been mined from the ground. To create a diamond that measures up to Mother Nature, you start the same way you would with other lab-grown gems such as sapphires - with a seed.
A "carbon seed," which is a tiny fragment of diamond, is placed into a laboratory microwave along with varying amounts of a carbon-heavy gas - usually methane. The gas mixture is heated to very high temperatures in the microwave to produce a plasma ball. This breaks down the gas, causing its carbon atoms to crystallize and accumulate on the diamond fragment, causing it to grow. Although it sounds simple, the process can take up to 10 weeks to produce a marketable diamond.
Currently, lab-grown diamonds make up a small portion of the jewelry market. However, they have very marketable features. Lab-grown diamonds are 100% eco-friendly, conflict-free, and cheaper than natural diamonds of similar quality. Bloomberg reports that in a New York jewelry store, a 1-carat synthetic diamond can cost about $6,000, compared to $10,000 for a similarly sized natural diamond. With those kinds of selling points, the synthetic diamond market definitely has growth potential.
HRL Laboratories, a research institute that does R&D for Boeing, made a breakthrough in materials science last year by developing Microlattice - which they are calling "the world's lightest material."
The prototype of Microlattice is made of small, interconnected hollow nickel tubes with a wall thickness of just 100 nanometers. These hollow tubes and 3D open-cellular polymer structure result in a material that is 99.99% air and 100 times lighter than Styrofoam – but with the rigidity of metal and a high capacity for compression and impact absorption. Plus, replicating the Microlattice design using a material other than nickel could improve these properties further.
Sophia Yang, a research scientist at HRL Laboratories, described the structure of bones as inspiration for the material. Bones are rigid on the outside, but mostly hollow on the inside, making them tough and lightweight at the same time.
Research on Microlattice is still ongoing, but there is incredible application potential. Boeing could build airplanes that are lighter and tougher than current models. Other industries could also benefit from applying Microlattice toward structural reinforcement, shock absorption, and/or heat transfer applications.
Last year, Sotheby’s auctioned an incredibly rare blue diamond up for a record setting 48.6 million Swiss francs ($48.5 million) at a Geneva auction, including fees (43.2 million francs, excluding fees).
Although, listed as the "Blue Moon" diamond in reference to its rarity (i.e. "once in a blue moon) the gorgeous 12.03 ring set diamond was renamed to "The Blue Moon of Josephine" by its new owner - an anonymous collector from Hong Kong. At a Christie's auction in Geneva the day prior, an unnamed Hong Kong private collector purchased a pink diamond ring for $28.5 million and christened it "Sweet Josephine." Later reports confirmed the purchaser of both gems was billionaire real estate investor Joseph Lau, who bought them for his 7-year-old daughter Josephine.
The diamond was the end product of a year's worth of study and labor. Sotheby's says that the Blue Moon was originally 29.6 carats when it was recovered in 2014 from South Africa's Cullinan mine - which is famous for originating diamonds of record setting size and clarity. Gemology experts took five months for an "intense study" of the original diamond, and a master cutter took another three months to craft, cut and polish the stone. At the time of sale, the cushion-cut diamond had a clarity grade of IF (internally flawless) and a color grade of "Fancy Vivid" by the GIA.