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Shock rock: Machine uncovers honking 1,111-carat diamond

A specialized sorting machine that uses X-ray technology sniffs out one of the largest diamonds ever discovered.

This huge diamond is a handful.

Lucara Diamond

It doesn't take a geologist to be impressed by a honker of a diamond recently uncovered by mining company Lucara. The gemstone clocks in at 1,111 carats and would fill up your hand if you held it in your palm. It would have been enough to make Elizabeth Taylor gasp.

The stone came from the Karowe Mine in Botswana. Lucara calls it "the world's second largest gem-quality diamond ever recovered and the largest ever to be recovered through a modern processing facility."

The 1,111-carat diamond is classified as a "IIa," which means it has almost no impurities. For a size comparison, the blue Hope Diamond, a gem famous for supposedly being cursed, comes in at around 45.5 carats.

The gadget that made the find is called the Large Diamond Recovery XRT machine. "XRT" stands for "X-ray transmission." According to a statement from Tomra, a manufacturer of sorting machines, the Karowe diamond mine is the first to use the XRT technology to recover the gemstones. The specialized devices are designed to sort out valuable stones from the waste rock.

Unsorted material is fed into the XRT machine. A sensor system inspects it as it goes through, separating out the wheat from the chaff by looking for properties of the diamonds that differ from the host rock.

"The sensors recognize the target material on the basis of typical characteristics such as color, atomic density, transparency or conductivity," Tomra noted. Similar sorting systems can also be used for gold, limestone and coal.

Lucara announced the diamond's discovery on Wednesday and quickly followed it up Thursday with news of the discovery of two more very large diamonds, including an 813-carat stone. At this rate, the XRT machine will be worth its weight in diamonds in no time.

Now we just need a catchy name for the massive gemstone. How about the X-raygeous Diamond?