A recent news article on BBC News indicates that

1,000 tonnes of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn

This is like science fact that screams it must be Science Fiction!

Assuming the science is true and there really are diamonds raining in 6,000km, to 30,000km range;

  • Could they be harvested?
  • Is the pressure too great?
  • Would the friction of diamonds on your recovery device wear it away before you get clear?
  • Would the gravity be so great that you could not bring enough fuel to reach escape velocity?
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    $\begingroup$ Ross (Nature, 1981) already speculated Uranus and Neptune would contain diamond, which inspired at least Arthur C. Clarke (who was kind enough to include the Nature reference) to extrapolate to Jupiter in his Odyssey science fiction series. Even if the composition and crystal nature of materials in the gas gaints may be science, speculations on harvesting it remain within the realm of science fiction. With current technology, the answer is a firm no, for at least all the reasons you mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ I think point 4 is really a major problem - "tyranny of rocket equation". The Jupiter gravity is so high it is more or less impossible to reach escape velocity with any significant cargo even largest currently known chemical rockets. $\endgroup$
    – Suma
    Apr 11, 2020 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


Could they be harvested? Sure.

Could they be harvested in an economically profitable way? Probably not, for all the reasons you listed.

There's a lot of unknowns to this question — while the chemistry they mention certainly makes sense, there's lots of stuff about the atmosphere we don't know. A harvesting ship would need to find exactly what altitudes the diamonds formed, but haven't yet been crushed into the core of the planet. Remember, it's not like there's millions of tons of diamonds just sitting on the surface, there's an altitude range where they're formed and haven't yet been destroyed. This range appears after a lightning storm, so you'd need to send your harvester underneath the graphite 'cloud' at the right time-frame to harvest.

Pressures high enough to turn graphite into diamond means that any ship would need to be ridiculously strong to not also be crushed.

If we could get to the point technologically where asteroid mining is feasible, there might be more opportunity to harvest materials from the gas-giants.

The other trick is if you were able to harvest them effectively and in large quantities, selling tons of diamonds would likely destabilize the market, and probably cause a price-crash. On the flip side, 'Saturn Diamonds' might become a huge status symbol and command a high-enough price to actually make such a venture worthwhile.

From what we know, carbon is a very common element in the universe — there might be entire planets that are carbon-dominant instead of silicon-dominant, meaning thick-swaths of the planet's crust could be solid diamond.

Given that we've been able to create lab-grown diamonds on an industrial scale for decades, even with huge leaps in space-exploration technology, it is still going to be much easier to synthesize diamond than it will be to harvest or mine them from off-earth sources.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a relevant source for that last statement? Seems like a pretty bold thing to claim and i know people, certainly me, might be interested in reading a bit more about it! $\endgroup$
    – user106
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ We've been making lab-grown diamonds for decades: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_diamond Odds are good that technology started in the 1950's is going to be cheaper than going a billion miles our of our way. $\endgroup$
    – john3103
    Oct 14, 2013 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ There are a lot of variable on price and quality but industrial diamonds can be had for a few dollars a pound. alibaba.com/showroom/rough-industrial-diamons.html $\endgroup$ Oct 14, 2013 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ I think bring diamond from Saturn and Jupiter will not cause the cost to crash because the cost of making such spacecraft would be more. So the cost should raise, Sorry if I am wrong . $\endgroup$
    – Hash
    Oct 15, 2013 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ I seriously wonder how one would go about building a ship that not only can withstand pressures that turn graphite to diamond, but maintain control and propulsion operational in these conditions. (never mind a hail of diamonds). $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 27, 2017 at 3:16

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