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Saturday, September 04, 2004


I recently heard mention of links between illicit diamond suppliers in Africa with terrorist organizations. Typical story here, showing how diamonds sold on the black market can help fund terrorists.

Now, I have no idea whether any of this is true (debate is on at AllAfrica blog), but the fact the first mention I heard was through a Right-wing radio talk outlet, made me think the talking-point may eventually get some traction.

If this story does pan out, and the US retaliates against African evil-doers in some way, let me make a suggestion that has a longer-term impact on under-the-table diamond dealing.

Proposal: Start manufacturing artificial diamonds

I know this will put "reputable" companies, like DeBeers, out of whack, and it won't appease diamond snobs that look for minute impurities in their gems to set them apart, but it will do the trick in a pinch.

This technology has been available for quite awhile, and although it is used quite often for industrial diamond applications, too many political issues have got in the way for it to be used for retail jewelry. The politics actually have been so heated that word was that South African hit squads would use threats and fear to keep this technology off the market. I recall 60 Minutes broadcasting a story on this long ago, and they have periodically repeated it:
May 12 2004:
Scientist Bob Linares runs a small secretive start-up company called Apollo, whose exact location 60 Minutes II is not allowed to reveal. Linares recently received a patent for his method of manufacturing diamonds, using hydrogen and methane gas.

His plan is to create diamonds that can be used – not only for jewelry, but also as semi-conductors for computing. For now, he is producing very pure, nearly colorless gemstones which have been called “too perfect to be natural.”

“It is because we can program the computer to make these more perfect,” says Linares. “In a batch of diamonds, every one will be identical.”

What is the difference between this and a stone that was grown in the earth?

“There is no difference. A diamond is pure carbon,” says Clarke. “This is pure carbon. A natural diamond is pure carbon -- all the same characteristics, all the same features, all the same chemical composition, so it’s a diamond. A diamond is a diamond.”

Having worked in semiconductor labs growing all types of ultra-pure crystals, this is not a pie-in-the-sky proposal. If the current admin wants to get serious about severing funding to terrorist organizations one by one, this is a strategy that may work. Wearing artificial diamond jewelry will become the patriotic thing to do.

Like helping us out of our energy predicament, it just takes a bit of courage and incremental change of mindset to get started down the right road.


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