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Desert Diary


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There's always a fascination with rarity. Much of the Chihuahuan Desert was invaded by seekers of the rare silver and gold. Although gold has many attractive features, such as its malleability, beauty, and resistance to chemicals, much of its value always has been in its limited supply. If streets were truly paved with gold, a few cents per pound would surely do!

That in many cases it is indeed the rarity rather than beauty is clearly shown by diamonds. It's not that there isn't beauty to diamonds, for obviously there is. However, slowly over the years, the secrets of manufacturing diamonds have revealed themselves. At first, only minute gems, then industrial-grade diamonds so useful in industry for grinding and polishing. Now, however, gem-quality stones are being manufactured. Diamonds so beautiful that it's only with specialized equipment and techniques that natural and synthetic diamonds can be told apart. Equally beautiful? Sure. But manufactured "fancy-colored" diamonds sell for 20 to 25% of the price of natural "fancy-colored" diamonds. Synthetic gems aren't fakes—but try to tell THAT to your beloved!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.