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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/271

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ARTIFICIAL DIAMONDS.

Surely, therefore, the helplessness of the human infant can no longer be regarded as an exceptional phenomenon, and all conclusions based upon it by rhetoricians may be safely dismissed to dream-land, whence they came.—Journal of Science.

 

ARTIFICIAL DIAMONDS.

THE world of science and the world of fashion are so far removed from each other that they are seldom stirred by the same event, but the production of artificial diamonds has lately startled both these distant realms.

Mr. Hannay, of Glasgow, has recently exhibited before the Royal Society certain crystals which are no accidental productions, but direct results of a process conceived for a definite end. These have been examined by analysts like Professors Maskelyne, Roscoe, and Dewar, and declared to exhibit all the physical and chemical properties of true diamonds.

Mr. Hannay's gems are very small; but whether he will hereafter succeed in producing large stones, and what effect success of this kind would have on the value of the diamond, we do not propose to inquire. This is a question which concerns the world of fashion alone; the world of science is interested in asking by what means the crystallization of carbon has at length been accomplished.

Every one is acquainted with the various forms of the substance called carbon. It constitutes a large proportion of all animal and vegetable structures, and we know it best in an impure condition as coke or charcoal; but it occurs crystallized, and in a state of purity, in two very different forms, viz., diamond and plumbago, or black-lead.

Those bodies which resist all attempts of the chemist to resolve them into simpler forms of matter are called elements, and among the vast number of substances composing our earth some sixty-four, which are for the most part metals, are simple bodies; of these carbon is one.

Almost every substance which is capable of existing in the solid state assumes, under favorable conditions, a distinct geometrical figure. This power which bodies possess of taking on definite forms is called crystallization, and its most beautiful examples are found among natural minerals, the results of exceedingly slow changes occurring in the substance within the earth. Artificial crystals may be obtained from solutions, by fusion, and in the passage of bodies from the gaseous to the solid condition. Thus crystals of common salt are formed by the evaporation of brine; many metals, as iron and bismuth, crystallize on cooling after being melted; and the vapors of some substances, like iodine, for example, deposit crystals in the act of condensation.