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A gem of a mistake.

In 1955, General Electric Co. scientists reported two processes for synthesizing diamonds. But the shining example from their first effort, a tiny stone that has held a place of honor for 38 years at GE's research center in Schenectady, N.Y, just fell off its pedestal.

New measurements of the infrared absorption spectrum of that diamond reveal it is a natural gem. Its spectrum has "features in it that are only found in natural diamond - that gave it away," says Peter J. Codella, a physical chemist at General Electric who did the analysis. He and five of the GE researchers who did the original research describe their new findings in a letter in the Sept. 2 NATURE.

Somehow, and they still don't know how, a fragment of a natural diamond seed "got into the experiment inadvertently," they report.

Their mistake proved serendipitous. When they tried to repeat the experiment using the same apparatus, they found they didn't have enough pressure to synthesize a diamond. But their one apparent success "provided the impetus to experiment with the system at higher pressures," which was all they needed to actually make synthetic diamonds.
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Title Annotation:original synthetic diamond was actually a natural diamond
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 2, 1993
Words:190
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