Review: The Diamond Maker by HG Wells
At Michael Gabriels we try to stay up to date in our industry with what has happened, is happening, or going to happen. That means reading a lot of literature, which is sometimes rather scientific and academic, or dry and straightforward business copy. But occasionally, it's rather juicy!
Recently we came across a short story written over a hundred years ago by HG Wells on the then dream of lab-grown diamonds. The aptly titled “The Diamond Maker,” tells the story of a weary and tired businessman who, while trying to calm a nervous mind and a slight headache, encounters a man who claims to have made diamonds. This story is really an ingenious metaphor about the dangers and benefits of following through on dreams, but its relevance to us in the trade can't be understated. You can read the story here, on Americanliterature.com.
Without spoiling it, we thought we’d clue you into a few items we found interesting in this story.
- HG Wells, with his usual poetry-in-prose, textured detail, and sly humor, relates to the reader the tragically passionate dream of alchemists for thousands of years, and scientists since the 18th-century discovery that diamonds are made of carbon. The crucial element to understanding how to reproduce those rarified stones would not exist for years to come, and so at the time Wells was writing, it was considered, literally, a pipe-dream. (and that’s also a wink, wink to those who read the story ;)
- Wells mentions the experiments of Henri Moisson, but erroneously believes that the material produced by Moisson was diamond; Moisson actually synthesized silicon carbide, now called Moissonite in his honor.
- He rightly points out the folly of buying a stone from a stranger in poor lighting without any real verification of its authenticity.
- Wells’ character erroneously claims that diamonds are carbon crystals where the carbon has been thrown “out of combination.” When HG Wells wrote this story, the knowledge that diamonds are carbon crystals in a tetrahedral atomic structure was not yet discovered. That discovery was made by a father and son team of scientists named Braggs, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their application of x-ray technology to view crystal structures.
- While Wells may have related this as a joke, he does accurately predict that diamonds will be created using explosives; to reproduce the naturally volatile origin of some diamonds created in asteroid impacts. However, the diamond material produced in this method, called detonation nanodiamond, is essentially diamond dust, and not the kinds of large crystals that the character claims to have eventually produced.