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Good article, but somewhere in the middle you say, "secondary ion ass spectrometry". I'm not usually one to quibble with small typos, but that one was funny enough to point out.

awesome blog entry!!.....just incredible...

I really enjoyed reading this in its entirety!


Judah Gutwein

You mean there is no ion ass spectrometry?!? I read that and was about to go do some research, I've been looking at going back to school and that seemed like a promising new field of research...

You mean there is no ion ass spectrometry?!? I read that and was about to go do some research, I've been looking at going back to school and that seemed like a promising new field of research...

I must second Judah's comment, this was a fun read.


Since you are so wise in the way of gemstones, you may be able to help me out with something I've been wondering about. Are naturally occurring beryls ever green as a result of impurities other than chromium? And if so, are such beryls still considered emeralds?

Gosh, I'm flattered, Jen. A bunch of scattered points:
a. Carbonado is one of the most obscure minerals around, and generally doesn't warrant a press release.
b. Our reply is still being circulated between me and my co-authors, and then it should really be peer-reviewd before getting let loose on the internet.
c. One of our complaints is that by publishing in an astronomy Journal, Garai et al. managed to sashay around the peer review system that probably would have been more effective had they stayed in the mineralogy literature.
d. Kagi's first name is Hiroyuki. The abstract (pdf) is here:

The reason is is so good is that it finally sorts out the 3H/H3 luminescence puzzle. For those unfamiliar with this saga, here's the short version:

Previously, the Japanese reported all 504 nm lines as 3H, while the British reported them as H3. For those unfamiliar with diamond luminescence, the 3H defect and the H3 defect are two completely unrelated defects that both have a zero-phonon line at 504 nm. Even though the zro-phonon lines are indistinguishable, they have different higher order spectra and they anneal out at different temperatures. Kagi et al. showed that both can be found in carbonado, and described the processes that allow for one or the other to be seen. So suddenly, 15 years of confusing carbonado research (which is about 6 papers, due to the smallness of the field) suddenly makes sense.

What I don't understand is how to make that sound as compelling to non-spectrometrists as "Diamonds from outer space".

I hada bunch of points about gem diamonds, but my browser ate them.

We talk about better science reporting, but I don't know why anyone should expect the general news media to do any better reporting science than they do in all the other, less technical fields. Like politics, for example.

So, is Jen-Luc getting married too, or is she available?

So...the ring. Did you get it sorted out? I'm curious because it seemed like you left with a bad feeling for small independent craft jewellers. I've experienced the other end of the dilemma where a client says they just want a simple fix but then the aesthetics become an issue. You were right to support your local crafters and artists. I wish the communication could have been more productive. Why not have the original craftsman who made your ring originally re-size it and buy something that the 2nd jeweller makes as specialty. In the end, you have more and better jewelry, and have supported more artists.
I'm makin' carbonados my birth-stone, beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

1. There SHOULD be something called ion ass spectroscopy. I'm trying to find a tasteful way to come up with an amusing description of what such a technique might be, and failing... on the tasteful front. :)

2. Jen-Luc is resolutely still available, but be forewarned -- she's fickle. :)

3. Aaron's question about beryls/emeralds seems to me more one of nomenclature. Are treated diamonds "really" diamonds of any given color, just because they didn't come about via Mother Nature? I'm on the fence on that one.

4. Didn't mean to knock local businesses and craftsmen because I'm generally a big fan, particularly of fine craftwork in jewelry. But the guy I went to wasn't a craftsmen, just a small local jeweler's shop. I expected a bit more care and attention to detail, because that's generally what I get when I use small local services. Alas, not in this instance, which is what made it noteworthy. And we did end up taking it back to the place where Future Spouse bought the ring; they fixed it, free of charge. (We're talking a simple rhodium plating, here, nothing major...)

5. LabLemming, I'm going to nose around a bit more on the carbonado front and see if I can't come up with a suitable "spin" to make the Kagi paper more palatable to the media -- it would tie in nicely with a post-in-progress detailing a similar ongoing problem with coverage of graphene and metamaterials research. You might get an email if I get stuck on a technical point, though. :)

One of the Japanese multianvil labs has been doing some great high-pressure diamond composite stuff- they've hit 70GPa in a multianvil, which as far as I know is the current record for that type of vessel. For those experiments, they actually use a large volume, lower pressure run in WC to synthsize their diamond parts for the super high pressure stuff. Crazy, but after one of them gave a talk here, our high pressure tech said to me, "That must be, like, our entire annual budget for just one run".

As for the Garai paper, just consider the following exerpts:
Section 3.2 Nitrogen-related bands
"... The peak at 1102 cm-1 (9.07 m) is relatively wide (FWHM = 103.6 cm-1) and asymmetric with a shoulder, indicative of two peaks. Spectral analyses show peaks at 1100 cm-1 (9.09 m) and 1128 cm-1 (8.86 m) that reproduce the observed spectra. The 1128 cm-1 is attributed to substitutional nitrogen."

So: peak stripping reveals the N peak at 1128 cm-1 (within error of the textbook value)

Section 4 Conclusions
"The strongest absorption band at 1102 cm-1 (9.04 m) is most likely due to substitutional nitrogen in hydrogenated diamond"

Astronomers may be different, but in geology is considered bad manners to switch your peak attibutions halfway through a paper.

After reading this, I beginning to think that Superman wouldn't be able to squeeze a lump of coal into a diamond, unless he also used his heat vision at a couple of thousand degrees Kelvin. Man, is Lois going to be pissed!

With diamond coloring, the actual defects responcible for the color that are induced synthetically are different to the ones found in nature, but they can be combined to appear similar to the eye. This is just like pictures on a computer screen- if you were to take the spectra of a computer image of an orange, it would look nothing like the spectra of sunlight reflecting off of an actual orange. But to the human eye they look fairly similar.

A few decades ago, when the Argyle diamond mine went into production, they realized that they had a huge supply of yellowish-brownish diamonds- the color was caused by defect induced by plastic deformation, as the diamonds there come from hotter, deeper mantle than the diamonds in most mines.

For years, the diamond people sent these stones to labs, asking them to find ways of decolorizing the stones in undetectable ways. These efforts were expensive, and fruitless. Eventually, they gave up on the research program, and hired a marketting consultatnt. The consultant branded the mud colored diamonds as "champagne" diamonds, a rare, unique, and distinctively Australian variety. See their fancy words for "mud-colored" here:

(As yet, there is no "acceptable" term for the practice of converting the carbonized remains of loved ones into "memorial diamonds," a la the LifeGem Company.)

Well they did say she was a 'real' diamond in life

Sorry to hear about the first jeweller. Dentists like to charge even more than jewellers, but their work is usually just as shoddy (close-up) a long shot from the smooth or polished finished one would expect for the prices they charge. One just cannot get the labour, or find the craftmanship you'd expect from a real 'artisan' or jeweler nowdays

Very interesting! It actually made sense to me (because you're awesome, Jennifer)! As an art historian and anthropologist, when I think of diamonds and precious metals, I definitely don't think of their chemical composition. First thing that comes to mind is that the diamond industry is a horrible, horrible entity that costs human lives. And this definitely is not to make anyone feel bad about wearing or owning diamonds because they really are quite pretty and especially if we receive one from someone we love, we appreciate and cherish the gift--it's one of the most prominent cultural symbols of love in our society. However, our cultural practice of diamond engagement rings is built on exploitation and slavery, it fuels civil wars, funds illegal weapons trades. And Cecil Rhodes, who founded deBeers Diamond, was a real bastard--he was pretty much one of the biggest supporters of instituting apartheid in South Africa. So, I hate deBeers, and I Damian not allowed to get me an engagement ring when we got married. That was my tiny little protest against The Man. ;-)

Partly due to the diamond industry's marketing pressure and partly due to cusrtoms from my original locale, the engagement rings me and my wife wear are plain gold bands (yep, identical design, one for her, one for me), at the lowest grade I'd consider for skin-contact gold jewellery, 18K (co-incidentally, the lowest grade of gold that can be vended as "gold" in Sweden).

I must agree that diamonds are pretty, though.

I've always just assumed it was better to buy manufactured gemstones rather than genuine ones, since I thought that it was less likely to fund a horrible industry, and I could never tell the difference. Could someone tell me if this is true, or is the money still supporting the same companies? I've never checked to see if my assumptions are correct.

Horrible is a relative term, when applied to industry, economics, and politics. Debswana was one of the first companies in Africa to offer retroviral treatment as part of the employee health plan. Buying synthetic diamonds won't help narrow the income gap between rich and poor countries. But if only 1% of the diamond value actually gets to those countries, neither will buying natural stones.

Manual trackback.
Calculations constraining the source of carbon in Life Gems can be found here:

So, you were adamant that your adamant be handled with integrity! Yes, it seems more difficult these days to find good workmanship with shoes, jewelry, etc.; one has to find a person who considers it almost an art form.

I like the literary quotes in Wikipedia in reference to "adamant":

Though I think the Wiktionary entry does the word a little more justice:

I'll have you know, too, that after that discussion about diamond anvils last Fall, especially SteveT's experienced input, I looked up Google images of them:

I can see how they would be nerve-wrackingly fun.

Also, I hope we get to see a pretty picture of you and the ring on your finger...with Future Spouse, of course. :-)

"The small diamonds in my ring"


Ouch? Why ouch? Surely you don't mistake me for some shallow creature who thinks the size of the diamond(s) is the true and final arbiter of how much her betrothed loves her! The ring is lovely, and more importantly, it's the one my fiance picked out on a whim when he decided to propose. No other ring would carry the same meaning and hence would be of lesser value, regardless of the size of the stone(s). Okay, the wedding ring will be that meaningful... but that's just going to be a simple band...

"Surely you don't mistake me for some shallow creature who thinks the size of the diamond(s) is the true and final arbiter of how much her betrothed loves her! "

Of course not. But I don't think any guy particularly wants to hear the diamonds described as 'small', whether they are or not, especially when the word is kinda superfluous in context.

Clearly, they're not 'small', they're 'just right'.

I grew up with a mom who had inherited a huge diamond from her parents. She wore it everday because my parent could not afford to insure it. Also it was the sentimental value and not replaceable anyways.

I worked in a jewelry store in High school and to this day I love big rocks. Now they facinate me more even from a geological standpoint. My husband and I could and should not afford a big rock so I have a personally designed wedding ring with my grandpa's gold and my grandmom's baguettes. It is priceless to me.

The real reason I am commenting is to thank you for thee link to Life Gems. Hey if I can't have a big rock, I can be made into one. How wonderful and cool. Solves my burial problems!!!

Thank you for bringing up this important matter,i think any guy particularly wants to hear the diamonds. keep posting!

by: rhianne

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