Shock wave synthesis of diamond was an unexpected result of experiments designed to explore the effects of shock waves on a variety of materials. The initial announcement in 1959 was controversial; shock synthesis of diamond had been shown to be unlikely, on the basis of kinetic arguments. Jamieson confirmed the identification and suggested a diffusionless mechanism, c-axis compression of rhombohedral graphite. Subsequent work has provided strong evidence that shock wave synthesis of cubic diamond is a conventional thermally activated nucleation and growth process. Thermal inhomogeneities provide the requisite high temperatures; quenching via thermal equilibration is implicit in the process. Shock synthesis of adamantine BN phases appears to be quasi-martensitic; a martensitic mechanism may partially account for the Lonsdaleite (hexagonal diamond) observed in some meteorites and in some artificial shock products. Diamond is also formed as a detonation product in oxygen-deficient explosives. The polycrystalline product of shock synthesis is similar to natural carbonado. The association of carbonado with an ancient giant impact crater is noted.