January 8, 2008 2:50 PM Subscribe
posted by Araucaria (55 comments total)
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The Hope Diamond glows red
when exposed to ultraviolet light. In itself, this is an interesting way to determine the provenance of a particular gem.
But when the same story is reported by the Associated Press
, it acquires an interesting subtext: natural diamonds are "real", while man-made diamonds are "artificial". The AP reporter has absorbed a half-century of diamond cartel marketing campaigns.
What makes a laboratory-produced gem less valuable than a natural gem? Artificial rubies, emeralds and sapphires have been around for years, and Moissanite
(gem-quality silicon carbide) has many of the same desirable qualities as diamonds — with even higher refraction. Large high-quality artificial yellow diamonds have been available
at relatively low cost for half a decade.
So why does the popular image of a diamond persist as sentimental, desirable and valuable? How do the undesirable side-effects of the diamond trade
differ from the undesirable side-effects of the demand for elephant ivory? Discuss.