In recent years the jewellery industry has been embracing one of its most significant technological advances in modern times. The creation of synthetic, or lab-grown diamonds.
While scientists have been ‘growing’ diamonds in labs for several decades, these stones were primarily used for industrial purposes. Now however, labs can create diamonds that are large enough and of high enough quality to be used in jewellery. As a result there has been a surge in demand for these gemstones.
Lab-grown diamond rings are hugely popular among couples who are environmentally and socially conscious. They are also an attractive option for those who want bling on a budget. They are generally about 30 per cent cheaper than mined diamonds.
Natural diamonds are formed after millions of years of heat and high pressure below the surface of the earth. However, these conditions determine the size and colour of the stone. Modern technology can now recreate these conditions using processes called High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD).
HPHT diamonds are made using a specially-designed machine that creates high pressure and temperature. A small diamond seed – a tiny fragment of an existing diamond – is placed into the machine and exposed to temperatures of about 1,500 degrees Celsius. Pressure of approximately 1.5 million pounds per square inch is applied, just like diamonds deep in the ground.
The CVD process uses a thin slice of diamond seed, which is placed in a sealed chamber. This is heated to around 800 degrees Celsius and exposed to carbon-rich gases. The carbon begins to adhere to the diamond seed and crystallises.
Despite the lower price point, lab-grown diamonds are in no way inferior to mined diamonds. Thise mined diamonds are also referred to as natural diamonds. Synthetic diamonds are simply more cost effective because the producers can cut out lengthy supply chains. Also, there are no mining costs, so there is no need to compromise on style and sparkle if you opt for this sustainable alternative.
Diamonds created in a lab are virtually identical to mined diamonds in both appearance and structure. They have almost identical internal structure and hardness/durability as natural diamonds. The manner in which the stones reflect light is also exactly the same.
Also known as ethical diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are certified by the same system and standards as mined diamonds. As a result, they are individually graded according to the four Cs – carat, cut, clarity and colour, just like natural diamonds.
The only difference between mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds is their origins. One comes from deep in the earth, while the other is ‘grown’ in a lab by recreating the same processes. These being extreme pressure and heat, the same as natural diamonds are exposed to in the ground.
Diamond mining companies have made significant inroads in becoming more environmentally and socially conscious in the last two decades. However, growing a diamond in a lab still has a lot less impact on the planet.
A massive 250 tonnes of earth must be extracted to mine a single one carat rough diamond. Deforestation can also occur, destroying ecosystems in the area surrounding a mine. Mining companies in some countries have to adhere to strict environmental standards, but other countries do not have any regulations in place.
Another issue of great concern for customers purchasing diamond jewellery is blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds. These are diamonds that have been mined in war zones to fund armies and rebel militias fighting civil wars.
Thanks to the formation of the Kimberley Process in 2003, the majority of conflict diamonds have been eliminated from the jewellery market. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on its member countries to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade.
However the system has been criticised for failing to address the often poor working conditions of mine workers. Other issues like child labour and health and safety still exist. Lab-grown diamonds mean that the buyer can be 100 per cent certain that no staff were forced to work in inhumane conditions. Also, confidence that the cost was not used to fund violence in any way.
While the ethical and money-saving advantages of lab-grown diamonds are substantial, it’s fair to say that they don’t appeal to everyone. Some couples love the history behind mined diamonds and the fact that every stone is one of a kind. Natural diamonds are forged by the power of nature over millions of years.
When compared to synthetic diamonds that can be mass-produced in the sterile environment of a lab in just a few weeks, it does seem like the more romantic option. There are also still many misconceptions about lab-grown diamonds, as they are relatively new to the jewellery market. The majority of people probably haven’t heard much about them. Many couples may be concerned that friends and family will think they have bought an artificial, cheap diamond.
Whatever your views on synthetic diamonds, they are definitely here to stay. As a result, they are likely to become more ubiquitous in the future. This is because a growing number of retailers are deciding to offer their customers this cost-effective and sustainable option.
If a lab grown diamond engagement ring may be of interest, we here at Bespoke Diamonds offer these diamonds. Almost all rings on our website are available with man made or lab grown diamonds. We have a large range of loose lab grown diamonds in our Dublin showroom. Contact us to discuss and view the options.
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