If you had more diamonds than the rest of the world combined hiding under an asteroid crater, would you tell anyone? Russia was happy to keep that knowledge a secret until now, finally revealing plans to begin tapping into a reserve containing trillions of carats worth of diamonds.
It's a treasure trove of unprecedented scope, secrecy and value.
First reported by the Christian Science Monitor, the crater, which rests in the upper reaches of Siberia, was left by an asteroid that crashed into Earth 35 million years ago, creating an impact zone that's 100km in diameter. In the intervening eons, it's believed to have spawned enough diamonds to power the global market for the next 3000 years. By context, the next biggest Russian reserve at the Yakutia mines is believed to have one billion carats -- several orders of magnitude less than this current haul.
What makes these diamonds especially valuable to prospective buyers is the fact that they're impact diamonds, or diamonds formed as a result of an asteroid or meteor crashing into the carbon-based compound graphite. According to IDEX, these are diamonds that can never be used as jewels, but rather are extremely valuable for their industrial applications. For starters, Russian officials claim these newly revealed diamonds, known as impactite, are twice as hard as normal diamonds, while others value these diamonds for their grain size and abrasive cuts.
So why reveal the secret now, after all these years? When the discovery was first made decades ago, Russian already had other diamond mines which were yielding abundant amounts of the coveted mineral. And because the diamond industry was heavily regulated back then, there was little financial motivation to announce a discovery that has the power to heavily influence the market for these things. But now, with the diamond industry starting to show signs of life after bottoming out in 2009, and the increased use of diamonds in the technological world, Russia seems to think its a good time to start mining these valuable little things (or at least start thinking about mining them).
But the true effect will take time to be felt, according to a quote given to the Russian publication ITAR-TASS by an expert in the field:
Deputy Director of the Yakutnipromalmaz Institute Gennady Nikitin warns: "The Popigai diamonds can overturn everything, and is not clear what will happen to prices in the market."
So how will this impact us normal people? Probably not much at all. Since these jewels will never be converted to gems, the price of that wedding ring you plan to give or receive will never be affected by this Russian stockpile. But should there be a global shortage in the future, Russia will be in a unique position of controlling the entire industrial diamond industry. Given the increased use of lasers in technological innovations, and the quest to attain nuclear fusion (both of which rely on industrial diamonds), the demand for this rock won't be diminishing anytime soon. [Christian Science Monitor]