MANUFACTURED diamonds have become “as pure and nearly as big as the finest specimens hauled out of the ground,” Ulrich Boser reports in Smithsonian magazine (smithsonianmag.com). This has profound implications for a number of industries, but producers of “natural diamonds,” the magazine reports, “are less enthusiastic.”
To visit the headquarters of Apollo Diamond, Mr. Boser had to meet his ride at a fast-food restaurant outside Boston that he was not allowed to name in his article. Apollo “is about as secretive as a Soviet-era spy agency,” he wrote. “Its address isn’t published.” he added. “The public relations staff wouldn’t give me directions. Instead, an Apollo representative picks me up at this exurban strip mall and drives me in her black luxury car whose make I am not allowed to name along roads that I am not allowed to describe as twisty, not that they necessarily were.”
The security is understandable. Bryant Linares, Apollo’s chief executive, told Mr. Boser that a man had approached him from behind at a conference a few years ago and warned him that, as Mr. Boser put it, “someone from a natural diamond company just might put a bullet in his head.”
The problem for the producers is that even though diamonds are not all that rare, people believe they are, so their price is substantially inflated.
Once people realize that manufactured diamonds are indistinguishable from the real thing, he said, that could change.
But it is their very ordinariness that could make either natural or manufactured diamonds highly valuable to industry. Diamonds “have the potential to dramatically change technology, perhaps becoming as significant as steel or silicon in electronics and computing,” Mr. Boser writes.
That might make them less appealing for engagement rings. But for those who believe that there is something about the beauty of diamonds that gives them appeal, the factory-made stones could fit the bill.
Mr. Boser said he took a sample from Apollo to Virgil Ghita, a jeweler in downtown Boston, who peered at the stone through his loupe.
“He lowers the loupe and looks at me for a moment,” Mr. Boser writes. “Then he studies the stone again, pursing his brow. He sighs. ‘There’s no way to tell that it’s lab-created,’ ” he said.
OIL SPECULATION Are speculators to blame for the spike in oil prices? The question has been under debate for months. Andrew Leonard writes at Salon’s How the World Works blog that the answer is yes and no (salon.com).
Speculators are surely behind short-term moves in oil prices, both up and down. “But,” Mr. Leonard writes, “behind that backdrop of speculative froth” the real numbers “aren’t encouraging.”
Demand is falling in the United States and Europe, but rising elsewhere, particularly in China and India. And although supplies are rising, that is only because of OPEC. Non-OPEC production is actually down.
What is unknown, Mr. Leonard writes, is how much power OPEC can wield. It could be that OPEC is “facing the same cold realities of depleting resources that the non-OPEC world is slamming into.”
If so, regulating the speculators might not help in the long run.
HEALTHY SMOKES “We asked sports champions,” declared a magazine ad for Camel cigarettes in 1935. Camels, the sports champions responded, not only give you energy, but also “healthy nerves,” as the Olympic swimmer Stubby Kruger put it. “I smoke a great deal,” he said, “and Camels don’t ever ruffle my nerves.”