An Intro to Lab Grown Diamonds
If you pay attention to jewellery trends then you are sure to have heard about Lab Grown diamonds by now. Or maybe you've just been browsing the web and all of a sudden you've seen this new term pop up a few times. What might surprise you is that Lab Grown Diamonds have been around for about 70 years! In recent years the process has become refined to produce high quality diamonds at incredible prices.
How are lab grown diamonds created?
There are two processes for creating lab grown diamonds; CVD & HPHT
1. HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature)
This is the original lab grown diamond method where a sliver of diamond/diamond seed is placed together with pure carbon and exposed to extremely high temperature & heat. The carbon melts and begins to grow the diamond seed into a larger diamond.
2. CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition)
CVD is the more modern process in the lab grown diamond world. Slivers of an existing diamond are placed into a purified vacuum chamber and then a hydrocarbon gas is carefully added. Then a high power microwave energy is used to break down the atomic bonds of the gas, separating the carbon atoms from the hydrogen atoms. This leads to free carbon rains falling down on the diamond plate which slowly grows vertically, atom by atom.
A CVD Lab Grown diamond being formed inside a vaccum chamber. Image Credit- GreenRocks
What happens after the diamond is formed?
Like mined diamonds, after the process of growing the diamond you are left with a rough diamond, which doesn't look very impressive to the regular person. At this stage it goes to the traditional diamond cutting process where a skilled cutter will cut facets onto the diamond, shape & polish it until it an exceptional gem quality shape is achieved.
A rough diamond being cut. Image Credit- GreenRocks
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds?
Yes, they are real diamonds, the only difference is where they are formed. They are graded the same as a mined diamond and you can get lab grown diamonds certified by the GIA & IGI.
Be careful though, there are a few places out there which will advertise synthetic diamonds and try to convince you that these are the same as diamonds. More often than not a synthetic diamond is a cubic zirconia or moissanite, which is not a real diamond like a lab grown. To be sure of what you're buying you should try to purchase a diamond with a certificate.
Are all Lab Grown Diamonds perfect?
Like mined diamonds lab grown diamonds form in all colours & clarities. It's not possible to create a flawless, D colour diamond in the lab, nature still plays some part in the formation of the diamond. However, you should watch out for treated Lab Grown diamonds, some producers will heat treat their lower quality diamonds after they have been formed to improve their colour. Generally an untreated diamond will always be more sought after & treasured than a treated diamond.
Why choose a Lab Grown Diamond?
The first reason to choose a lab grown diamond is that there is absolutely no difference between a mined diamond & a lab grown diamond. They are both chemically identical, have the same optical properties & strength. Now that you know that they are the same the next thing to consider is the price!
An oval-cut 1.20ct lab grown solitaire available to view at Diana O'Mahony Jewellers, Cork.
Lab grown diamonds tend to be half the price of mined diamonds and generally for a better quality stone with higher colour & clarity. If you are looking for a large diamond for your engagement ring or other jewellery and a mined diamond of that size is beyond your budget, then a Lab Grown diamond is the perfect choice. There is absolutely no difference other than the price of the diamond!
There are also environmental factors for choosing a lab grown diamond. As the process does not involve any mining it means that no earth is disturbed in it's creation. These days we are all striving to have as little affect on the planet as possible and lab grown diamonds could be the sustainable future of the jewellery industry.
History repeats itself
We might think this disrupter to the market is completely new to the jewellery world, however, what you may not realise is that we've seen something very similar at the beginning of the 1900s with pearls. When Kokichi Mikimoto developed his cultured pearl process in turned the natural pearl industry on it's head.
By farming oysters and implanting them, you no longer needed to risk the lives of divers to find pearls in oysters on the ocean floor. He spent decades defending the pearls created by his process of cultured pearls vs advocates of naturally formed pearls. He had created the same high quality gem by aiding natures process in a controlled environment. These days it is widely accepted that a nice high quality pearl necklace has to be cultured pearls! It seems the same thing may now be happening with the diamond industry.
Like natural pearls there will always be a place for mined diamonds, however, going forward it's hard to think that we may continue mining to the same extent when a lab can create the exact same treasured diamond.