The Blackest Black, a Disappearing Diamond and The Redemption of Vanity

20/09/2019 15:54

In a remarkable constellation of art and science, artist Diemut Strebe, in collaboration with MIT scientist Brian Wardle, has used the blackest black ever created to make a 16.78-carat yellow diamond completely “disappear.” The project is called "The Redemption of Vanity", and the super-black diamond currently sits on view in an unlikely, but very fitting venue: the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

“The Redemption of Vanity” presents a 16.78 carat naturaI yellow diamond (Fancy Vivid Yellow SI1, Radiant shape, value $2.000.000), the most brilliant material on earth, coated with carbon nanotubes (or CNTs), microscopic filaments of carbon that capture at least 99.995% of any incoming light, making it the blackest material in existence. The effect of applying the CNTs to the diamond makes the normally sparkling gem appear to disappear. “The project explores material and immaterial value attached to objects and concepts in reference to luxury, society and to art," says Strebe. "We are presenting the literal devaluation of a diamond, which is highly symbolic and of high economic value. It presents a challenge to art market mechanisms on the one hand, while expressing at the same time questions of the value of art in a broader way. In this sense it manifests an inquiry into the significance of the value of objects of art and the art market.” 

“Strebe’s art-science collaboration caused us to look at the optical properties of our new CNT growth, and we discovered that these particular CNTs are blacker than all other reported materials by an order of magnitude across the visible spectrum”, says Wardle. The diamond, supplied by jeweler L.J. West, sits in a glass vitrine inside the NYSE’s elaborate Federalist-style boardroom. The patented carbon nanotube technology (CNT) was developed by Professor Wardle and his necstlab lab at MIT. 

Super-dark carbon nanotube materials are of interest for optical equipment and aerospace applications. The diamond will be on exhibit at the New York Stock Exchange until Nov. 25. "The New York Stock Exchange, a center of financial and technological innovation for 227 years, is the perfect venue to display Diemut Strebe and Professor Brian Wardle’s collaboration," said John Tuttle, NYSE Group Vice Chairman & Chief Commercial Officer. "Their work brings together cutting-edge nanotube technology and a natural diamond, which is a symbol of both value and longevity."