[calm music] - [Narrator] From 100 miles beneath the surface of the earth comes a treasure so beautiful, so powerful, nothing compares to its brilliance.
Look into its dazzling crystal and you will see ambition and wealth, love and sacrifice.
You will gaze deep into the past and catch a glimpse of the future.
[intense music] Look into a diamond and it's hard to look away.
- Every stone is a story, yes.
Every stone tells a story.
Diamonds are, they're messengers from deep within the earth.
- Five, four, three, two, one.
[intense music] [exploding] - It's not only for the money, it's like a drug, you have to have it.
- This is insane!
- And we love the fantasy.
There is a love for fantasy within diamonds.
It's just natures urge.
This is nature's most beautiful urge.
- There's a romance about the diamond that you just, you can't deny, it's there.
There's something special about the nature of diamonds that you just can't walk away from.
No other stone has it.
[charming music] [intense music] - [Announcer] This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
[light music] - [Narrator] It is a crystal of fire, a flame of ice.
Within its many facets lies a story of profound transformation, of endless time and enormous energy.
A diamond is the hardest and among the oldest and most beautiful creations in nature.
It is a glittering window into the full suite of human history.
It embodies wealth and prestige, hope and desire.
We are drawn to its light, drawn to its power.
- [Man] What does a grain of time look like?
What exists now and forever, yet was conceived thousands of millions of years ago, before life itself began?
Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored to present the De Beers Millennium Star.
[light music] - The De Beers Millennium Star was found in the democratic republic of Congo, formally known as Zaire.
It was 777 carats in the rough.
So, it was an extraordinary diamond to find, as you can imagine.
It was brought to the De Beers buying offices in Zaire by a diamond miner and it was instantly recognized as a spectacular diamond, even in its rough state.
The rough diamond itself was beautifully clear and as soon as it was seen, the team realized that they had a spectacular find on their hands.
- [Narrator] At 203 carats, this is the largest flawless diamond in the world.
[light music] Its extraordinary perfection is priceless.
But what makes any diamond valuable?
- Diamonds are a miracle of nature.
Now, by rights, they shouldn't exist at all.
You see, carbon in its natural state occurs as graphite like found in pencil lead or as coal.
However, every school child knows that when Superman takes a lump of coal and squeezes it with super strength, it turns into the magic of a diamond.
How's that possible?
In the earth's crust, if you were to heat up graphite, squeeze it with enormous temperatures, then the bonding angle can change and all of a sudden, you have the fantastic arrangement called diamonds.
Diamonds shouldn't exist.
They are an accident of nature.
[upbeat opera music] - [Narrator] This accident of nature holds an unrivaled place in society.
Large diamonds are so rare and so prized, they have become the emblem of the elite.
[light music] In the elegant halls of Christie's Galleries in New York City, an auction of fabulous jewels is about to begin.
Its centerpiece, a dazzling 26 carat diamond once owned by Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge.
[light music] The auction will decide the diamonds worth, but it will no doubt remain in its familiar social set, a world of great wealth and complete discretion.
[light music] The jewels are being quietly examined.
Their quality and much of their value is determined by four key characteristics, the number of carats, their clarity, color and cut.
Carats measure size while clarity and cut reflect a diamond's hold on light.
Diamonds are so dense that light must slow to less than half speed as it travels through them.
Completely transparent, they are able to catch light and keep it for a fleeting, magic moment.
And then, there is color.
A surprise and something of a mystery.
- Diamonds can be found all colors of the rainbow.
People always think of diamonds as being white.
But you can find them in blues and pinks and yellows, greens, purples, browns, orange, so many different colors.
If it's a yellow diamond, it's nitrogen.
If it's a blue diamond, it's boron.
Trace elements that creep their way into the stone.
What I find particularly interesting about the pink diamond, in a day where we know everything there is to know about everything, we're actually not quite certain what colors a diamond pink, which I think only adds to the mystery and the imagination and the beauty of it.
[light music] - [Narrator] And it's undeniable that diamonds stir deep emotions.
- Diamonds evoke beauty, sentimentality, romance, passion.
In today's culture, a diamond is given when one gets engaged.
A diamond is forever.
So, to quote a famous saying.
And one hopes that love and passion and eternity and integrity and loyalty are forever as well.
I mean, it's really nature at its finest and one can say, "Oh, it's just a rock."
But it is rare and it's beautiful and it evokes passion and when you walk through a room in the evening and the light is hitting the diamond in a certain way, the whole, the person glows and the whole room seems to glow.
[light music] - The Rockefeller Dodge diamond is a 26 carat, pear-shaped diamond that's certainly one of the most beautiful diamonds that I've handled for a long, long time.
It was bought for a Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge and in 1907 when she married Hartley Dodge.
Certainly, her trademark stone was the 26 carat pear-shaped diamond that we're offering today.
- [Auctioneer] At $500,000.
520,000 for you.
- [Narrator] Attending the auction is jewelry designer, Christopher Walling.
He knows just how powerful diamonds can be.
For many of Walling's clients, money is no object.
Diamonds have qualities they will pay almost anything to possess.
One million dollars.
For one million dollars and-- sold to you for one million dollars.
[light opera music] - [Narrator] In his Fifth Avenue studio, Walling fashions diamonds into works of art.
- [Walling] I wanted to be an archeologist.
At a certain point, I realized that I was very unlikely to dig up Dutton Commons tomb in Cape Cod.
So it was if I wanted the excitement of the treasure, then I'd better make it myself.
As far as a diamond being forever, that's an advertising slogan.
Diamonds are mesmerizing.
- [Narrator] For inspiration, Walling turns to the great jewelry houses where the best is always on display.
- Here we are at the crossroads of luxury, Fifth Avenue and 56th Street in New York where behind me is Tiffany, BVLGARI, Van Cleef, and Bergdorf Goodman where we have my own jewelry.
We're here to go into Harry Winston and to see one of the world's most famous diamonds, the 40 carat Dresden Green diamond before it goes to the Smithsonian Museum to be displayed jointly with the Hope Diamond.
[people chattering] - [Narrator] The great diamonds, the Hope, the Tiffany, the British Crown jewels, are extraordinary in size or color or in their colorful histories.
- The Dresden Green diamond is the single most famous green diamond in the world, as well as being the largest green diamond in the world.
It's been part of a hat pin of the kings of Saxony for the last 250 years.
It's in the top 10 diamonds of the world.
[light music] - [Narrator] It's a diamond from another age, another kingdom, but kingdoms pass away.
The diamond, however, remains.
Its story's still unfolding.
[upbeat cheery music] Walling is drawn to such stones and their place in history.
He often visits Fred Leighton on Madison Avenue, who specializes in these pieces with a past.
[upbeat music] - Oh money, money, money, money.
It's not, 24,500, that's not bad.
That's very good.
- Then you make me an offer I can't refuse.
[laughing] - [Woman] Bye darling.
- Every stone is a story, yes.
Every stone tells a story.
Ya know, if you wanna get rid of an ex-husband, you sell the diamond.
[laughs] That's one way.
And we do buy a lot of diamonds from people who inherit them or people who divorce.
Ya know, diamonds just, you can just keep re-circling them or re-using them, recycling them.
They just hold up all the time.
This is a French bracelet that was made out of old diamonds, perhaps from a crown.
Tiaras, are they really out of favor?
Sometimes it's out of the budget.
I mean, this one is $125,000.
Not everybody could swing for that one.
- I see that you have a jewel here from the French crown jewels.
- We got the best one.
It has 300 carats of diamonds.
They are green, pale green diamonds from Brazil.
With the sale of the crown jewels, it turned over to Cartier.
They bought it and they sold it to Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt and we have a photograph that shows Mrs. Vanderbilt wearing this.
Underneath that, a big diamond fringe necklace and above that, at her neck, a three-pendant Cartier necklace and a small tiara.
I guess that was pretty jazzy.
This is a million dollars.
One million dollars.
- [Man] And who would buy it?
- If you can tell me, if you can tell me, we'll have a good one going.
- [Walling] Sonja Henie, the great skater, had one of the most famous jewelry collections that was ever put together.
- It's incredible.
- We just bought a bracelet, ring, and earrings from her and we just sold it to one of our Arab princesses.
It's funny, you never can tell where these things wind up.
This one, I love.
It's a fancy blue-green.
And it costs $750,000.
It's a lot of money for a little diamond, but it's rare and beautiful and if you could afford to have one, why not?
I think if a woman walks into a room with a beautiful necklace or a beautiful ring or something spectacular, people are in awe and wow, there's also money behind that.
Ya know, there's power there.
There's power in diamonds.
[ominous music] - The secret of a diamond lies in the carbon bond.
Carbon is one of the most plentiful substances known to science.
We find carbon in plants, animals, in our bodies, carbon everywhere.
And yet, diamonds are some of the rarest, most beautiful of all substances.
What's the link?
The link is the extremely rare environmental conditions that take ordinary carbon, coal for example, and turn it into diamonds.
We're talking about deep inside the earth's crust.
We have the pressures, the temperatures, sufficient to distort the bonding angles of the carbon atom.
It takes millions of tons of rock.
It takes pressure and temperature.
In some sense, it takes the entire planet earth to turn coal into diamonds.
[intense music] - [Narrator] Diamonds are not forged in the earth's crust where most other rocks are made.
They come from much deeper, from 100 miles in the earth's interior.
And occasionally, in bursts of intense violence, this buried treasure rockets to the surface carried by special high speed volcanoes.
[light music] To geologist Larry Taylor at the University of Tennessee, diamonds are a treasure trove, but not because of their beauty.
- This is the only hard samples we have of the deep interior of the earth.
The diamonds are telling us something.
They're telling us a story.
So it's understanding the story that's being told by these minerals which is at the key to all understanding of our knowledge of the earth.
We consider ourselves to be geologic detectives.
We're trying to recreate the crime after the fact.
We look at the diamonds and we try to figure out exactly how they form, where they formed, why they formed.
- [Narrator] But the diamonds themselves reveal very little.
Even their age has been a source of scientific controversy.
Most rocks and minerals can be dated because they contain certain radioactive atoms.
As these atoms decay, they reveal their age.
But diamonds never decay.
Their chemistry is so stable, their internal bond so tight, nothing inside the diamond changes.
A diamond never grows old.
- I have a sign here that says a diamond is nothing more than a chunk of coal that made food under pressure.
- [Narrator] Inside a diamond, the bonds between atoms of carbon are the strongest known.
This makes diamonds not only the world's hardest substance, but four times harder than the next hardest material.
Like amber encasing an insect, diamonds sometimes capture bits of surrounding minerals.
Geologists call these fragments inclusions.
- The inclusion occurs inside the diamond.
Everything around the diamond has changed its complete integrity.
It's changed everything about it, its chemistry.
But the little inclusion inside has remained pristine and virginal to this day and this is the little piece of material that we're looking for.
- [Narrator] Using high resolution x-ray tomography, a technique similar to a CAT scan, Taylor and his team create a three-dimensional map of the volcanic rock, the diamonds, and the inclusions inside.
They may contain garnets or sulfide minerals and other substances that can only be formed at hundreds of thousands of atmospheres.
Analyzing these minerals reveals one of diamonds astonishing secrets.
- As best we can tell, the inclusions that are inside a diamond date the diamond at being approximately somewhere between two and three billion years old.
- [Narrator] At three billion years old, diamonds are among the earth's oldest creations.
They are time capsules carrying information and mystery.
To Taylor, a diamond's true value is in what it can tell us about the distant past and the inner workings of the planet.
[light music] But for many of us, diamonds celebrate the most meaningful occasions in life.
An engagement, an anniversary, an open pledge of love.
And a good place to hunt for that kind of treasure is here on 47th Street.
New York's diamond district.
Much of the diamond world relocated here in the 1940s after World War II.
[light saxophone] Today, four billion dollars pass through the street each year, 90 percent of all the diamonds sold in America.
Christopher Walling comes to 47th Street to buy the raw materials for his designs.
As an insider, he knows that most of this business goes on behind closed doors in the thousands of workshops above the street.
- Here, this is like a radiant, classical radiant diamond cut.
But here, we're making-- - [Narrator] Ara Arslanian founded the CORA Diamond Company when he was 25 years old.
Today, he's one of the streets major players.
Color diamonds are his trademark.
- From every thousand stones, I get the royal blue stone.
- Every thousand?
I'm happy if it was, I would be happy if it was every thousand stones.
More than 1,000 stones, we have one blue.
- [Narrator] In CORA's back rooms, diamond cutters and polishers finish rough diamonds into sparkling gems.
In New York, jewelry making reflects a European heritage where in Amsterdam and Antwerp, it was long the trade of Hasidic Jews.
The basic techniques of diamond cutting haven't changed since the 16th century.
It begins with studying stone and the way it handles light.
Only a diamond is hard enough to cut another diamond.
So, two stones, a primary and a secondary, are used to shape each other.
[machine whirring] Even the grinding wheels are encrusted with the fine diamond grit needed to polish the surface of a facet.
But in the end, engineering gives way to art.
The shape and the cut must maximize the amount of light the diamond reflects and the amount of profit from each rough stone.
These crafts, like the stones themselves, are closely guarded.
Even today, diamonds are a business that stays within families.
Deals are done with a handshake.
- A few goodies.
[laughing] - Oh no, my God!
- [Narrator] CORA is known in the trade for works of art.
It's the place to come for something truly spectacular.
- And this is, this is something more elaborate.
This is like a very big 70-carater.
- Where's Tammy?
Maybe she can wear it for the cameras.
- [Tammy] Yes?
- For any date has a name, it's Tammy.
[laughing] - [Narrator] This 70 carat, D-flawless diamond, is one of the few large diamonds that make their way into the market each year.
- Like that a little bit.
Look Christopher, look at how beautiful it is.
- [Christopher] It does, it looks fantastic.
This is why we come to you.
You're the guy.
- [Man] Tell me about this diamond, what it would sell for.
- With a necklace, it should go to seven million dollars.
I'll make a little discount for you.
- We're going now.
We've gotta go now.
[laughing] - [Ara] 6.9.
[laughing] - That's not a bad discount.
- [Ara] Like this one?
- [Narrator] For someone like Ara who travels the world to find these treasures, the chase is almost as exciting as the reward.
- Yeah, it's like somebody calls us from whatever the diamond came.
It was, say it was in South Africa.
So, you take the plane immediately and you just go over there and you look at the diamond and you make an offer and if you're lucky enough, they'll say yes!
And if not, somebody else comes and there's an offer.
The other person gives an offer and you have to, sometimes, you have to fight to get the stone.
Because a big stone like that, a lot of people want it.
- [Christopher] What rough shape would you say it was?
Was it round?
- It was like a block.
- We call it a block.
Long piece of a diamond, like white, beautiful white, long piece of a diamond.
It was extraordinary piece.
It's a very desirable thing.
It's a mint also.
You get crazy, for diamond dealers, it's a 210 carat diamond and they, you lose your head.
You just go and you just want to get that piece.
It's not only for the money.
It's like a drug, you have to have it.
[ominous music] - [Narrator] Tracking diamonds takes time, money, and expertise.
This is big game hunting on a grand scale.
And to be successful, you must know your quarry, especially where it likes to hide.
Diamonds like rugged, remote places, ancient landscapes worn and hard.
Northwestern Australia is just such country, hot, dry, and utterly without comfort.
[intense music] A diamond hunter is one part geologist, one part entrepreneur, one part pioneer.
[intense music] Back in the 1970s, Warren Atkinson of the Rio Tinto Mining Consortium, began exploring a vast region called The Kimberly.
Diamonds had been found scattered throughout the region since the gold rush days of the late 1800s.
But no diamond pipe, nothing that could support a mine.
Yet there had to be a source out here somewhere.
For years, Warren and his team had been searching for traces of ancient volcanic mountains.
But little mud mountains began to attract their attention.
- We've known before that we'd found indicated minerals on termite mounds.
So I thought I'd just have a look at one to see if there was a diamond.
We weren't really expecting it.
Sure enough, there was a small diamond about the size of these little pebbles, about the load for an average termite, under Australian industrial conditions.
You can see the size of these small pebbles that are about a millimeter to two millimeters across.
That was about the size of the diamond.
- [Narrator] Although termites had been mining for thousands of years, they couldn't point the way to the source, the diamond pipe.
- This should do.
- [Narrator] To find that, Atkinson had to locate the neck of the old volcano that had brought the diamonds to the surface in the first place.
You might think a volcano hard to misplace, but this landscape is so old that almost all traces of ancient events have inevitably worn away.
For it was more than a billion years ago that a great eruption shattered this quiet plane.
Up through a chain of faults, volcanic magma forced its way to the surface in a series of cataclysmic explosions.
Diamonds were spewed out all across the landscape.
When it was over, time stepped in wearing down the mountain, hiding the remains of the volcano.
[intense music] Most of the diamonds washed away down ever-shifting streams.
And it was in these stream beds that Atkinson and his teams concentrated their search.
They hoped to find the one that would lead to the source of the diamonds.
The trail ran hot and cold for years, with only elusive and frustrating glimpses of the prize.
Meanwhile, they worried that someone else would find the diamonds first.
- You can only keep things secret for so long.
We felt that in an isolated area like this, if we could sort of limit the amount of competitor activity, we really wanted like to risk of access if we could.
For example, we hired virtually every helicopter that was available in the Kimberly at the time.
We did the same with all the nearby hire cabs because access to places like this is more or less limited to four wheeled drives.
And again, without a decent map, people didn't really know where to go.
- [Narrator] The search went on for nearly a decade.
Sample after sample after sample.
- When we first found diamonds at Argyle the thing that impressed us most was the sheer quantity of them.
In other places, one or two diamonds might appear out of a sample.
Argyle was producing 10 or 20 diamonds to a sample.
This gives me some sort of idea of what we're sampling.
- [Narrator] What they had discovered was Argyle, the largest diamond mine in the world.
[intense music] The mine rises like a pyramid, the final throne of a king.
Its terraces evoke a Mayan temple, a symbol of power and prestige.
And the resemblance is more than superficial.
For almost 20 years, Argyle has produced a third of the world's supply of diamonds, between 35 and 40 million carats a year.
[funky upbeat music] - Diamond mining is a business.
It's not romantic.
It's a hot place, it's sweaty people who work very hard here with little romance.
[upbeat music] - [Narrator] Bill Hutton is a senior metallurgist for Argyle.
He oversees the moving of a mountain to obtain the tiny treasures within.
- Five, four, three, two, one.
[intense music] [mountain exploding] - Argyle is mining 60 million tons of material a year.
50 million of that is internal waste in the mine that they have to move just to expose the 10 million tons of ore that we're going to process in the plant.
So, that in itself is a massive operation.
From that, we will produce five tons of diamonds.
That's still a huge number of diamonds but, in comparison, with 10 million tons that you start with, not very much at all.
It's almost like looking for a needle in a haystack.
[upbeat music] - [Narrator] Rock rains down truck load after truck load.
240 tons at a time.
The ratio of haystack to needle, two million to one.
The rock, in a sense, is both friend and foe.
It's the obstacle to the treasure, the dragon that needs slaying, yet without it, there would be no treasure here at all.
- This is an actual ore body.
These are diamonds right here.
- [Narrator] And Argyle was to hold one more spectacular surprise.
Turning up every once in a million are diamonds of the most extraordinary color, a bright, bold, beautiful pink.
The pinks of Argyle have stunned the diamond world.
Nothing like them has been found anywhere else.
The color itself is a mystery.
No one knows what creates these exquisite hues.
But one thing has become very clear.
They're something new that diamond collectors simply have to have.
In an undisclosed hotel in midtown Manhattan, jewelry designer and dealer, Alan Friedman, is preparing for battle.
Alan has been invited for the first time to Argyle's annual tender to bid on the finest pink diamonds the mine has produced this year.
These are diamonds that never reach the open market.
Diamonds only a privileged few will ever see.
- Welcome along.
Good to see you again.
- [Narrator] Alan is a third generation jeweler.
In Beverly Hills, he creates original pieces for exclusive retail stores.
- We have got some fantastic stones here to show you.
As you know, you know a lot about pink diamonds, but you might like to just have a quick look to start with before we settle down to a very serious look at the stones.
- [Alan] Phenomenal collection.
- [Narrator] 51 stones have been selected from the 30 million carats mined this year.
- Two carat.
Just while you're on that side, perhaps, lot 44 is a very special stone which is a one carat, 73 rating.
- [Narrator] The stones are not large, but don't be fooled.
- Deep purplish pink.
- [Narrator] Their colors are so unusual, these are some of the most valuable diamonds in the world.
- Another one that we've got here.
- [Narrator] Every collection has its masterpiece.
In this case, a once-in-a-lifetime gem.
- [Man] This is the one that's featured in the catalog which is a 73 point emerald, but it's a fancy red diamond and as you know, Alan, there's been less than a handful ever graded, which makes it extraordinarily rare and a real collector's piece.
- Probably the most collectable stone in the last decade.
- [Man] It's certainly in that sort of league.
- It's very red.
- [Narrator] Alan is here not just to look.
He's here to buy.
But the stones have no set price tag.
Alan must decide what he is willing to bid.
He can bid on an individual stone, a handful of them, or go for the entire collection.
- Which one is that?
We're going to-- - [Narrator] His bid is kept strictly confidential.
- Include these in the bid.
One, two, three, four, five.
- [Narrator] At the end of the tender, Argyle decides who gets the diamonds.
- This is a collection that could take 100 years to build.
Just absolutely fantastic.
- [Narrator] Each piece is breathtakingly beautiful.
Each one is unique.
The question is, what is each one worth?
- This is nature's art.
This is nature's most beautiful art.
This is, this is the essence, I mean, this is diamonds that their, at their rarest form, their most incredible beauty.
These are the diamonds that people look at in awe.
- [Narrator] Alan is used to handling fine diamonds but even he has fallen under the red diamond's spell.
- Well, it's exciting to be holding probably one of the rarest diamonds available in the entire world today.
This is a true collectable diamond.
It's as rare a gemstone that there is on earth.
- [Narrator] The only fancy red diamond to ever auction at Christie's fetched a million dollars a carat.
Alan is feeling the pressure.
- [Man] And you wanna own one of them.
- [Alan] I'd love to own this one.
- [Narrator] For two days, Alan studies the stones trying to reach a final decision.
- That's a pretty stone.
- Which one is that?
- That's my max.
Otherwise, it doesn't make sense.
We're talking a lot of money.
So, we'll see what happens.
[light music] - [Narrator] Back at Argyle, the search for more pinks goes on.
The giant conveyors and crushers are on the job 24 hours a day.
But amidst all the rock and the dust and the machines, there's not a diamond in sight.
They're still buried treasure.
[violin music] - [Worker] You wouldn't even think that there's diamonds in there.
It just looks like it's road basin or just more of rocks.
[upbeat music] - [Man] You like diamonds?
- Uh, I like to look at em.
I don't like to buy em.
They're supposed to be a girl's best friend, aren't they?
[laughing] I think I like beer cans more than diamonds.
- [Narrator] Most of the diamonds here are industrial and the mine has made an economic decision to crush rock to a certain size.
Argyle may be the world's largest diamond mine, but it will never produce the world's largest diamond.
- The majority of what you see on the surface at Argyle is crushing and screening plant.
We don't want to crush a diamond, so we're very careful with our initial crushing processes to keep the rocks bigger than 15 millimeters, not to crush smaller than that because that's the biggest diamond that we can expect to extract.
- [Narrator] As the rock is reduced, the treasure begins to appear.
- We're getting towards the last, final stage in the process at Argyle.
As you can see, this is our stockpile.
Now crush it down to a certain size, which is ready to be separated.
It'll then be x-rayed and that's where they'll get the diamonds out.
They say it's about for every thousand rocks, there's one diamond.
So, there's a hell of a lot of rocks here.
But there's thousands of diamonds still here as well.
- [Narrator] As diamonds begin to emerge, security gets tighter.
Fewer and fewer workers are allowed into evermore restricted areas.
- As we go around much of the plant, you'll never see a diamond.
It's still a very secretive item.
80 percent of the people who work here would say that they've never actually seen a diamond.
So it's just a reality of the security that we have here at Argyle.
If you don't need to get your hands on diamonds, you can't get your hands on diamonds.
- [Narrator] Security is so paramount that Argyle's patented x-ray process, which locates the diamonds hidden in the rocks, is strictly off limits to cameras.
- When you're working in a heavy medium separation area, that's when you do start seeing the final results.
You can actually see why we are here.
Honestly, you don't really pay much attention to it.
But every now and then, you think, "Jeez, there's a lot of sparklies hanging around."
As you can see there, there's a couple of little bits of diamond there in the ore. - [Narrator] The diamonds now leave the mine behind and head 1300 miles south to Perth, the diamond capital of Australia.
Every week, hundreds of plastic tubs carry thousands of carats worth millions of dollars.
One by one, the stones are graded for size, color, and quality.
As at the mine, much of the work is automated.
But machines can only take the process so far.
Ultimately, it's what the human eye sees in a diamond that counts.
Gavin Begbie has been handling diamonds for 25 years.
It takes an expert to evaluate the raw material.
He's the front line for ID-ing a special find when it's still uncut and unpolished.
- I don't think you're ever prepared for some of the special stones that come along.
It's the big stones that really surprise you.
It just takes your breath away.
- [Narrator] Gavin is grading the pinks.
Only a handful will be fine enough to reserve for the tender.
- Tender goods are extremely rare.
If you think of a years production of say, 40 million carats, to take your 40 or 50 most intense colors, largest stones, or best quality, you're looking for an absolute needle in a haystack.
This stone here is one of the larger stones we found just recently, it's seven carats 35.
Quality is very nice and the color is that beautiful bubblegum, bubblegum pink.
I'm sure it's a good contender for the tender this year.
[light music] - [Narrator] Far from the rock from which they emerged, the diamonds finally reveal themselves.
When they do, it's all but impossible to resist them.
- There's a romance about a diamond that you just, you can't deny, it's there.
There's something special about the nature of diamonds that you just can't walk away from.
No other stone has it.
The other stones are translucent.
You can see through them.
With a diamond, you can't.
There's something in there that reflects back at you, maybe something that you see within yourself.
I don't know, but it's just something that you don't get from another stone.
[light music] - [Narrator] Perhaps that's why they can also break your heart.
Alan Friedman waited six weeks for the results of the Argyle tender, but Alan didn't win a single stone.
[light music] 13 other bidders were successful in claiming the pinks.
Their bids were never revealed.
And as for the stunning red diamond, it's now part of a fabulous broach that was sold in Hong Kong to a dealer from the Middle East.
[light music] For extravagant diamonds, it's an inevitable fate.
It seems they were made to adorn the privileged.
But that's not all that diamonds can do.
For diamonds have untapped capabilities and after three billion years, we're finally discovering what they are.
[light music] Inside this small chamber, pressure and temperature are on the rise in a miniature reproduction of the earth's mantle.
Here in this room, diamond is being made before our eyes.
Material scientist, Jim Davidson, of Vanderbilt University is turning carbon vapor into a diamond coating.
This coating doesn't sparkle or look remotely like a gem.
This is a new form of diamond designed to put its remarkable structure to work.
- Let's see.
This is a diamond film on a disc and it is diamond.
It's the same carbon form that comes out of the ground except we deposit it as a film and coated this entire substrate.
So, we can now take it and turn it into 100 sensors or we can turn it into a emitter array are all those kind of things that we can do with a diamond because it's a coating.
The diamond can do things that other materials can't.
There are so many ways that it is rugged, that it lasts, that it can perform at temperature and hostile environments.
It will be a major material in the future and for the future.
- [Narrator] An electron scanning microscope reveals the features of this new diamond landscape.
Diamond is a brilliant conductor of heat, but not of electricity.
This unique ability to be both a conductor and an insulator is extremely useful in the high tech world of electronics.
As a semi-conductor, manmade diamond is far superior to silicone.
It's supremely efficient at handling electrons.
- We didn't want just a flat surface of them and we wanted these diamond micro-tips that you can see here because we're gonna make a particular kind of device out of it.
This device is something we call emitter.
I'm gonna zoom in a little bit here.
The idea here is we get the electrons stacked up on the diamond's surface and then, if we get enough energy behind them, they will jump off of each of these tips kinda like a lightning rod in reverse.
We have the capability with these diamond micro-tip arrays to create a display, for example, or to make a very fast transistor or to make a very sensitive sensor.
This particular wafer has been patterned to create a pressure sensor for NASA.
This pressure sensor will be used by NASA to study aerodynamic conditions for the hypersonic aircraft development.
This is the vehicle that will go at Mach 15 and will let you fly from New York to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.
I still believe that the advancement of science and technology is tied into what is stuff made of.
That goes always back to the material and the material with the best properties is diamond.
[light music] - [Narrator] A new era is upon us ushered in by our own technological abilities.
And as we explore the full potential of this super substance, we find the unbreakable bonds that make diamond so strong and useful are exactly what make it so beautiful.
- Diamond is forever in the sense that it's part of our future.
Not only has it tantalized people from bygone eras, not only has it mesmerized us with its radiance and beauty, it also captures the imagination of scientists because we scientists look at diamonds as a new kind of material with better thermal, electrical, structural properties that we could never dream of before.
In other words, our future could be paved with diamonds.
[intense music] - [Narrator] On the eve of the millennium, just outside London, some $50 million worth of diamonds are about to celebrate the turning point between the past and the future.
The diamond empire of De Beers has chosen this moment to unveil some of its most dazzling jewels.
[people chattering] De Beers has invited eight of the worlds top jewelers to create a special piece.
Eight extravagant expressions of the power of diamonds at the dawning of a new age.
[upbeat music] The party begins backstage.
The fabulous diamonds, the lucky models who will wear them, and stunning creations by Versace all come together for the first time.
[upbeat music] - Diamonds and fashion.
I mean, they're synonymous, they're together.
- [Narrator] It's going to be a glittering night.
The arriving guests are who's who of glamor and celebrity.
But it's nature's most extraordinary substance that's the star tonight.
Wrapped in diamonds, every woman feels like a princess.
And every man a prince.
[upbeat music] Some 5,000 carats will be worn tonight.
- This is insane!
[upbeat music] - We love the fantasy.
There is a lot of fantasy within diamonds.
[cameras clicking] [light music] - [Narrator] As always, the diamonds share their beauty and their brilliance.
But in the new millennium, they'll have the chance to do so much more.
For as we enter the future, we are discovering that diamonds potential exceeds all the promise of the past.
[light music] Miracle or accident of nature, diamond is a rock for all ages.
Its brilliant facets reflect extraordinary powers.
The power of nature to transform.
The power of science to use.
And the power of the human heart to find meaning.
[light music] Deep in its perfect crystal, diamond will keep these powers safe forever.
[light music] - [Announcer] This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.