In terms of sheer quixoticism, the quest for kitchen diamonds ranks mighty high. Scores of swindlers, loons, and fabulists have long claimed to know the secret of manufacturing a girl’s best friend, using little more than lumps of charcoal and common ovens. (Peanut butter figures heavily in our favorite tongue-in-cheek recipe.) As with most alchemical dreams, there’s a substantial grain of truth here—industrial-grade diamonds can be created with controlled explosions, and synthetic diamonds can be cooked up in certain laboratories. But anyone looking to mint money with their microwave is obviously bound for eventual disappointment.
Yet we’re still fascinated by the doggedness of those who hold onto the dream, such as a Staten Islander who opted for an unusual cover story during World War I:
Three detective-lade automobiles made their way to 51 Van Duse Street at 1 o’clock in the morning and the detectives surrounded the building, though one of the windows of which a light could be seen. A man was seen inside bending over a gas furnace and pouring some dark fluid into the melting pot. The detectives…rushed in and confronted the man who stood with arms bared and disheveled hair, over the furnace.
“Now tell us what you are doing,” demanded Eagan as the others kept a close watch.
“Making bombs,” the man replied in a stage whisper, without looking up., “The mercury-cyanide kind—ship ’em off to Germany by way of New Jersey—they use ’em in the trenches.”
His visitors did not hurry cautiously out when the man said this, and he looked up in surprise. Inspector Eagan told him who he was and was about to place the man under arrest when he burst into a laugh.
“Why, I though you were just some of the curious neighbors and that’s the way I scared them all away,” he said. I’m making diamonds. Have almost completed a process that will make me rich and had to keep the process secret by scaring people away.”
The crestfallen detectives…found several chunks of iron containing white bubbles, which the inventor said would be diamonds when the process was perfected.
We wonder at what point the “bombmaker” realized that those bubbles were a dead end?