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World Diamond Trade Threatened

Lynnette Thomas

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Now that synthetic diamonds can be successfully grown, De Beers Diamond Trading Company will no longer be able to ruthlessly manipulate supply.

While holding onto vast stockpiles of the precious gems De Beers tightly controls supply, maintaining the mystique that diamonds are a rarity.

Because of their supposed rarity people buy diamonds, yet De Beers maintains vast stockpiles and tightly controls supply.

Gemesis, the company that created synthetic diamonds, had developed a marketing strategy that describes synthetics as superior to naturals. The company's proposed brand designates the diamonds as “cultured" - a deliberate repetition of the title given to the vastly successful (and more valuable than natural) cultured pearl.

It was “unfair or deceptive" to call a man-made diamond a “diamond, " said the Federal Trade Commission in an ambiguous April 2001 ruling. However they expressed no opinion on the question of calling it a “cultured diamond".

"If people really love each other, then they give each other the real stone. It is not a symbol of eternal love if it is something that was created last week, " says De Beers’ officials.

“Man-made diamonds are more like synthetic emeralds, introduced in large quantities in the mid-'70s. At first, their price was very high, but then the gem labs discovered that the synthetics could be easily distinguished using a standard microscope. The price collapsed and is now less than 3 percent of naturals”, says Van Royen, a senior scientist at the Diamond High Council.

De Beers is scurrying to provide machines that will uncover synthetic diamonds.

Gemesis fully discloses the nature of its diamonds, but already one of its wholesalers does not.

On the ‘real diamond’ front there are rumours of a 7000 carat diamond. However neither the South Africa Diamond Board, nor the Diamond and Jewellery Federation, the trade body, have been able to confirm the validity of the new discovery. The only proof so far is a mobile-phone photo of the gem, presenting a smooth stone with a rare green tinge.

If it’s real it would be the 8th wonder of the world.

The Great Star of Africa, the Cullinan, which was cut down into 9 diamonds, weighed a mere 3106.75 carats.


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