Will diamond markets be revolutionized? Probably not, say experts, although there is a chance that the announcement of a meteor-impacted cache of “trillions of carats” of industrial diamonds in Russia could provide new scientific applications.
The Christian Science Monitor reported Monday that Russia said it has been sitting for decades on what it calls a massive deposit of diamonds caused by an asteroid hit—enough to supply global markets for the next three millennia. While the diamonds are supposed to be industrial, rather than jewelry grade, the find is remarkable, particularly since it was discovered in the 1970s.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the cost of mining industrial diamonds is usually prohibitive and they are considered more a byproduct of mining for jewelry-grade stones. Not only that, most industrial-grade stones are created in laboratories at a far lower cost.
So the possibility of mining operations beginning, even for such a massive deposit of stones, could be remote, unless another claim of the Russians is true—that these diamonds are double the hardness of naturally formed stones.
The diamond deposit is located beneath the Popigia Astroblem, a 35-million-year-old, 62-mile-diameter asteroid crater in eastern Siberia. At the time of its discovery, not only were the Soviets already manufacturing industrial-grade stones via a process in which they’d invested heavily, they also had a very profitable diamond operation at Mirny, in Yakutia. Rather than fixing something that wasn’t broken, they decided to sit on the discovery.
Now, however, the existence of the deposit has been revealed, and scientists from the Novosibirsk Institute of Geology and Mineralogy talked about the supposedly unique character of the diamonds, saying that such "impact diamonds" could "overturn" global diamond markets.
Nikolai Pokhilenko, director of the institute, said in the report, "The resources of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure, are by a factor of ten bigger than the world's all known reserves. We are speaking about trillions of carats. By comparison, present-day known reserves in Yakutia are estimated at one billion carats."
Pokhilenko added, "The value of impact diamonds is added by their unusual abrasive features and large grain size. This expands significantly the scope of their industrial use and makes them more valuable for industrial purposes."
But lovers of and investors in the sparkly faceted variety of gemstone should be able to rest easy. Jewelry-quality stones are not supposed to be among the meteor-formed diamonds at Popigai, so people will still have to find those stones the hard way.