Apollo Has Landed?

Foreword: On September 9, 2003 Wired magazine broke an incredible story about a new type of synthetic diamond that would, in theory, revolutionize the way people buy diamonds and at what price.

Assertion: Mr. Bryant Linares, (President of Apollo Diamond, the company that has invented the technology) stated in his interview that Apollo has patented a process to grow diamonds. The tag line for this new product is the C.V.D. diamond. C.V.D. stands for Chemical Vapor Deposition. The idea, according to Mr. Linares, is “you must first determine the exact combination of temperature, gas composition, and pressure—a ‘sweet spot’—that results in the formation of a single crystal.” Apollo states that they have discovered that “sweet spot.” The Wired magazine article goes on to paint a picture of $5.00 per carat, non-detectable, synthetic diamonds soon to be on the market. The article continues, this could potentially break the iron grip that DeBeers has had on the diamond industry for over a century and awake us from our slumber to affordable diamonds for everyone! Happy ending? End of story? Not quite.

Reality: Not mentioned in the article by Joshua Davis from Wired magazine is that the product they are producing is averaging only 2 millimeters thick! That’s the exact thickness of a nickel—a far cry from the typical size diamond preferred by the diamond-buying public. Unless you’ve got a craving for a 1/20th of a carat engagement ring, there is no Utopia here or expected any time in the near future. Another thing not widely reported is that when they are able to get slightly larger crystals, they tend to be brown. The American buying public is primarily a buyer of whites. Apollo’s solution to the brown color is to anneal (bake) the diamonds after step one and bake the nitrogen and boron right out like a ring around the collar. Apollo also likes taking credit for discovering the “sweet spot,” when in reality chemical vapor deposition of carbon atoms from hydrogen-rich, carbon-containing gas was invented in the 1980’s. The process has been used to deposit thin polycrystalline diamond films on cutting tools. One of the last claims to fame for Apollo’s C.V.D. rocks is the potential that they will be undetectable from the naturals. Not hardly. Natural diamonds occur in nature, forming paired nitrogen atoms. Synthetics have only single nitrogen atoms. Also, all the samples examined so far fluoresce a very weak yellow-orange under long-wave UV (ultra-violet) light; moderate yellow-orange in short wave UV and strong red fluorescence under high energy UV light. It’s true that man (just like in the 50’s) has the capability to grow diamonds, but they are nowhere near the time when they will be able to mount said white diamond into a Tiffany setting and sell it to the public on a widespread commercial level.
If that day ever comes, you’ll be the first to know.

by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®