Diamonds Made Out Of Air

Diamonds are girls best friend for many good reasons. But, indeed, the environmental impact of traditional diamonds is not the best. Wait, traditional diamonds? Yes, in the last decade two companies have started to produce diamonds out of air. 

As diamonds are the most expensive jewels in the world, the entrepreneurial urge to find them is enormous. A great effort has to be made to find the hardest earth material. The rough diamonds, which are thousands of years old, always lie hundreds of metres below the earth’s surface and must either be brought to the light of day by mining in mines and drilling, or they are brought to the earth’s surface by underground rivers, volcanoes and tectonic plate shifts in rivers. 

The last is the case in Sierra Leone, where children and adults dig diamonds in the so-called Diamond Rivers for a wage of 1-3per day. The sale value of the rough diamonds was and still is used to finance civil wars. In the past, this led to the term “blood diamonds”. After all, the mining, the exploitation of workers and the trade in the valuable stones led to bloody wars. Terms like child labour or the expulsion of indigenous peoples also play a major role. According to David McLeavitt, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are directly affected by diamond mining

© Aether Diamonds

Admittedly, in the diamond mines of this world, such as in Siberia, workers are not necessarily exploited and no civil wars are financed with the money earned. However, the environmental impact of these huge mines is enormous. Diamond mining displaces about 143 billion tonnes of earth every year. The machinery required burns fossil fuels, which pumps CO2 into the atmosphere, while water sources are also polluted. Pulling just one carat of diamond out of the ground demands workers to move close to 100 square feet of soil, resulting in nearly 6,000 pounds of waste material and up to a ton of released carbon dioxide. 

90% of people living in cities are breathing in polluted air everyday. Green City solutions is tackling the issue of air pollution with their IOT Technology.

Their main product is the ‘city tree’ which is a bio tech filter that can improve the quality of air around it.

The mosses in the tree are able to bind toxins from the environment. Meanwhile the sensors collect information in real time about the status of the city tree. This data is displayed on a dashboard to identify how it’s improving the environment around it and how it can be better maintained.

Imagine having several trees like this all around the city you live in! It would not only make the air cleaner, but also add a touch of nature to our surroundings, making us feel happier and calmer.

Both options to extract diamonds are bad for a sustainable and peaceful world. Especially in the context of globally increased CO2 emissions but this is exactly where two companies come in.

© Aether Diamonds

Aether and Skydiamond both have a similar approach to producing diamonds from air. To be specific, not from air exactly, but from the CO2 preserved in it.

To understand how the process works, it is necessary to clarify what diamonds are made of in the first place. Traditional diamonds were formed hundreds of metres below the earth’s surface. For thousands of years, carbon particles have been pressed together at immensely high pressure and extreme temperatures. This is how diamonds are formed. So these precious jewels consist only of carbon in their pure form. 

And new diamonds? It is true that the first laboratory diamonds have been produced in 1941. However, these did not achieve the optical purity of traditional diamonds and were therefore only used industrially. In addition, they were not very sustainable in the manufacturing process due to an immense energy input. 

This has changed thanks to a new type of diamond production. Therefore atmospheric collectors pull carbon dioxide, CO2, from the sky and into specialized filters. The captured CO2 then is synthesized into a usable hydrocarbon, which is perfect for growing diamonds. The hydrocarbon raw materials are placed into reactors that create the perfect environment for growth. All of this sounds like it needs lots of energy. And it does, but both companies, Aether and Skydiamond, use 100% renewable energy from wind, water or the sun to be fully sustainable. 

Diamonds weight is counted in carat and one carat is 0,2 grams. So for a 10 carat diamond, you need 2 grams of Carbon. Indeed, the creation of a diamond this size needs to pulls about 20 metric tons of CO2 out of air, which is what an average person produces per year. But with chemical processes and filtering the pure carbon out of the air you need this amount of CO2 – and to be honest. There is way too much CO2 in the air at the moment. 

The amount of CO2 in a carat of diamond is relatively small, but the carbon avoided by not mining the earth is significant. Regarding to the imperial college in London each carat of traditionally mined diamonds has a footprint of over 100kg CO2 and over 500kg of greenhouse gases in total. To compare that to a new diamond made of air, a one carat diamond (from the brand Skydiamond) has a footprint of minus 4g CO2. And in the end, creating such a diamond takes only a few weeks in total. 

The prices of the new diamonds are also more attractive compared to the previous pieces, while maintaining their high-quality standard. Even though it is a machine-produced product, the effort and technology involved is very elaborate and still requires exact precision work. Just as with traditional jewels in the diamond houses in, for example, Antwerp – the international diamond city. A diamond ring that would normally cost between thirteen and fifteen thousand euros now costs barely half that, at 7000 euros (Aether diamond ring). Sure, that is still a lot of money, but we are still talking about diamonds. 

But are these diamonds as good and clear and beautiful as traditional ones? To answer these questions, we have to have a look at the 4 pillars of diamond quality. Diamonds are measured by 4 “C “s. Carat. Colour – the shade of colour. Depending on the inclusion of certain chemical substances, diamonds may have a shimmering colour. Cut – the precision of the cut. Clarity – the purity of the diamond. And in this respect, the new, environmentally friendly diamonds are in no way inferior to the traditional ones. 

By Maximilian Immer

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