The New Trend: Lab-Grown Diamonds

The New Trend: Lab-Grown Diamonds

by Mary Grace Tacderas

What gem is dubbed as a woman’s best friend? Correct! A diamond! The dream of wearing a diamond ring remains to be a dream for most women due to the high cost of purchasing one. Its elegance is unparalleled that women have this mystic look when we see one. Thanks to lab-grown diamonds, women have a higher chance of owning and wearing what can be called a diamond on their finger. So shall we change the answer to lab-grown diamonds instead?

The cubic zirconia was the most affordable alternative for us regular people to have, in place of a diamond. However, it seems, lab-grown diamonds are getting more popular these days. The sales and clamor for natural diamonds have declined due to factors like the booming of online jewelry shops, recession, and consumers having a “woke” mind on the environmental and social implications of purchasing mined diamonds. It claims to be the more ethical version of mined diamonds that has a tainted history popular to almost everyone interested in buying a diamond.

However, what is a laboratory-grown diamonds, and is this considered real? Why should you consider purchasing one? What are the advantages and disadvantages of cultured diamonds? These and more as we learn more about this new and trending type of diamond.

Natural Diamonds

We cannot speak of lab-grown diamonds without learning frost about natural diamonds. Scientist says that diamonds are formed through a combination of extreme pressure and temperature. Some evidence shows that the impact of meteorites landing on Earth is the reason how these gems are formed. Diamond traces are seen on locations where a meteorite has landed, although these are not of gem quality. The diamonds that we see on jewelry are considered gen quality and rare.

 

By Hustvedt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Regular diamonds are not considered rare, these are the ones you would not want to wear on your finger, but they are still diamonds. Instead, these are used in industries using their hardness and thermal conductivity. Diamonds are used primarily for cutting and grinding, while diamond powders are utilized as abrasives. Powered diamonds or detonation Nanodiamonds are made using the detonation. This is done by detonating TNT in a vacuumed container, 0.5mm diamonds are created. 

Diamonds comes for the depths of Earth pushed upwards by volcanic eruptions. Mined diamonds do not look like what we see on pieces of jewelry. Rough diamonds undergo the cutting process before it becomes a gem. The first stage if analyzing the rough stone. Its hardness, structure, inclusions, and the method to use in cutting. This step is crucial for a wring move or decision that may lead to a damaged diamond. The next stage is polishing, which is also time-consuming. When visible flaws are seen, the diamond is subjected to re-polishing, crack filling, or is encrusted strategically to mask its inclusions.

laboratory-grown Diamonds

Laboratory grown or man made diamonds are still considered real diamonds. The only difference is that it came from a laboratory origin instead of from deep under the Earth. In 2018, the FTC or the Federal Trade Commission recognized lab-created diamonds as genuine.

Types

Stimulants

These are what are generally called fake diamonds for not having the same physical and chemical components as of naturally mined diamonds. It category roots from its use, which is to stimulate only the appearance of a mined diamond.

These can be easily spotted by a gemologist and are classed as the cheaper replicas of a diamond. These are subdivided into three types.

  1. Moissanite

 

Chemically made of Silicon carbide, Moissanite was discovered French scientist in 1893 in a crater made when a meteorite landed on Earth. He initially thought that it was a diamond, but upon further study, he discovered that it was made up of silicon carbide. In later years, a lab-created Moissanite gem was made due to the rarity of the gemstone. These were replicated using thermal decomposition.

  1. Cubic zirconia

 

By Gregory Phillips - English Wikipedia, original upload 18 January 2004 by Hadal en:Image:CZ brilliant.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0

These may replicate the appearance of a diamond but when scrutinized chemically, it is entirely different from a natural diamond. Fabricated from zirconium dioxide. Made by liquefying zirconium oxide and magnesium or calcium at a temperature of four thousand nine hundred and eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Initially constructed in the year 1976, CZ or cubic zirconia is a colorless sparkling gem and the most affordable among the stimulants. Note that water can affect and damage cubic zirconia, so if you are wearing one, it is advisable to take them off. 

Cultured

Cultured diamonds are also called synthetic diamonds by some claims to have existed since 1879.

  1. HPHT (High-Pressure High Temperature)

Initially produced with a yellowish hue due to its nitrogen content buts recent releases have been perfected that its color and clarity are now comparable to a natural diamond. These are also fabricated in various colors such as pink, green and blue with the addition of boron or subjection to ionizing radiation.

The first-ever recognized synthesized diamond dated back in 1946 with the collaboration of General Electronics and Norton and Carborundum companies. They subjected carbon to an extreme temperature of 4,430 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it was later proven that they used a genuine diamond as seed.

In 1954, Tracy Hall was able to create a synthetic diamond with the use of a belt press that can produce up to 1 million, five hundred thousand psi while being subjected to three thousand six hundred and thirty degrees Fahrenheit. The process includes dissolving graphite with smelted nickel, iron, or cobalt that accelerates the conversion of carbon to diamond. This experiment resulted in a 0.15mm sized diamond, which was too small and imperfect, only worthy as an abrasive. Still, this is a success.

Gem grade cultured diamonds were synthesized by the year 1970 still by GE. These have a yellow to brownish tinge due to its nitrogen content. To perfectly replicate a natural diamond, Nitrogen was later replaced with aluminum or platinum, which resulted in a colorless product. However, these still showed yellow fluorescence under the x-ray. To obtain a blue gem, boron was added.

HPHT is also used to enhance the appearance of a cheaper and low-quality diamonds, enhance its appearance, and create a larger sized stone by subjecting it to high-pressure, high-temperature process. This process is only applied to a diamond with premium clarity such as the VVS1, VVS2, VS2, and flawless grades.

  1. CVD ( Chemical Vapor Deposition)

 

By Steve Jurvetson - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/156830367/

Commonly used due to it’s less complicated process. CVD is made using a diamond seed crystal in a sealed chamber. It is then exposed to a sub-atmospheric pressure, exposing it to a mixture of gasses that resulted in the layering or deposition of carbons, growing the seed crystal.

Started in the 1950s, the use of thermal decomposition of hydrocarbons caused by a temperature of 800 degrees centigrade in an inert environment was used to grow diamonds. This was later called CVD. In 2013, report that CVD melees were used in pieces of jewelry. Investigations were made, but the identification of CVD melees was not established during this time.

Identification

Cultured lab-grown diamonds are said to be hard to differentiate from naturally mined stones, and only an expert gemologist can identify them. Since cultured diamonds are replicated with the use of gasses that are assumed to have naturally created the stone, it is tricky for a gemologist to identify them. It all boils down to the Nitrogen content of the rock and fluorescence. Can you see the difficulty? Natural diamonds contain traces of Nitrogen while a lab-grown does not. Of course, only those who are certified, years of experience under their belt, and knowledge can identify based on fluorescence. Diamonds are also laser inscribed by the grading laboratory. It was submitted together with a certificate. It is essential to check these identifiers to protect shoppers from fraud during purchase and repairs, for there were cases when a stone was mistakenly exchanged with another.

Advantages

  1. More affordable

It is innate for us mortals to consider the price of almost everything we purchase. Unless you are one of the elites, we want to save as much as we can when possible. This is why vendors are able to lure us to purchase something that is considered non-essentials using discounts. Anyway, for now, lab-grown diamonds are valued to give and take half the price of a naturally procured stone. That is a catch.

  1. Same appearance

What do we want most about diamonds? Is it its hardness, its chemical composition, or its magnificent appearance that would make anyone look grand and wealthy in an instant? I am one of most women who would go for a diamond not because it is a rare gem, but because of the way it looks. Lab-grown diamonds make it possible for middle-classes to wear something luxurious looking like a diamond. Best of all, unless you tell your friends, they would never know that it is lab-created based on its appearance.

Disadvantages

  1. Unestablished monetary value

Being newly introduced to the jewelry world. Cultured diamonds are valued less than natural diamonds. For some, it is still called synthetic or fake diamonds. Therefore, until the time comes that more people embrace lab-grown diamonds, its value is shaky and cannot be considered as a good investment.

  1. Availability

In theory, anything manmade is much more sustainable and available than its mined counterpart is. Since it only takes a few days or months to replicate, manufacturers would be able to supply the demand of the customers. However, being too available is not always right. Anything deemed familiar loses its value, making them easily replaceable, and the urge to have them disappears. See how natural diamonds are being marketed as a rare and its value shots up just like that.

  1. Reputation

Jewelry shop uses Lab-grown diamonds or cultured diamonds, which has a very nice ring to it in order to replace what used to be called synthetic diamonds. Let’s face it, anything called synthetic is commonly associated with the word fake, faux, or imitation that gives a bad reputation.

Comparison to natural diamonds

Appearance:

A high-quality lab-grown diamond has the same exact build like that of a mined diamond. Some inclusion like clouds, feathers, and pinpoints are present in lab-grown diamonds. However, distinct inclusions can be observed. Minute metallic and flux like inclusions can be observed with lab-grown diamonds that are not present in a minded stone.

Price

Lab-created diamonds cost less but are not cheap. What made then more affordable is the fact that it is being grown in a laboratory rather than mined from various countries where we have to consider the cost of labor, certification, transportation, intermediaries, and others. So basically, the extended supply chain is partly blamed with the added value.

Value

Lab-grown diamonds have not yet established their value in the jewelry industry. The reason maybe is that some still consider them as fake or imitation. We all know that any imitation is not valued in the same context as its genuine counterpart. This is seen even with grading laboratories. Some are said to not fairly grade lab-grown diamonds. Still, cultured diamonds are getting more popular than it has already affected the sales of natural stones.

On the other hand, mined diamonds have established their place in the jewelry industry. It is and would always be considered as a precious stone unless something drastic happens that will depreciate its value.

Availability

Mining for jewelry grade natural diamonds is like a hit or miss thing. Imagine how much damage Earth has been subjected to before a diamond is found. The difficulty of locating one is the main factor in why natural diamonds are very costly, and the rarer it gets, the higher amount it will fetch I the long run.

Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, is manmade. It does not take a billion years to replicate that in a few months, scientists or manufacturers can grow them.

Environmental consequence

 

By Stepanovas (Stapanov Alexander). Timestamp at the bottom right was removed by Michiel Sikma in 2006. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

It is all over the news and the internet how mining damages our environment. Mining causes soil erosion, water contamination, and many more. All living creatures are affected directly or indirectly. Holes on Earth left behind by mining companies, blood diamonds, and the conspiracy theory that these precious stones are being manipulated by large mining companies to increase their value have never died down. With that said, for the mining company’s behalf, they do provide jobs. Jobs are jobs no matter what they do. It puts food on the table. However hazardous it may be, for some, it is still better than dying of hunger, particularly when they have children to feed. At present, mining companies are mandated to help rehabilitate the portion of the land affected by their company. Blood or illegally mined diamonds are also stopped due to more strict regulation and certification.

Let us go to laboratory-grown diamonds. These stones are said to require a tremendous amount of power to replicate, thus releasing 3x greater than the mines. It seems smaller compared to how a mine affects the environment. However, can you just imagine when more manufacturers begin growing their own diamonds on a larger scale? If the mining industry provides more jobs, lab-created diamonds depends on technology and machines more than humans. Yes, the company may need the help of professionals but not the mass workers. 

Certification

GIA

GIA or the Gemological Institute of America have expressed the difficulty in identifying lab-created from natural diamonds. In an article published by on their website, that they have acquired 16 pieces of CVD diamonds and cut them to circular-cut ranging from 0.24 to 0.86 carat before assessment. They found three pieces having colors ranging from F-G. The larger ones resulted in grades ranging from I-J.

To further analyze lab-created diamonds, the batch was subjected to a battery of tests including spectral analysis and checking for graining patterns seen on natural diamonds. However, cultured diamonds have evolved, replicating or removing this telltale sign making it harder for a gemologist to tell of its origin. It is with the use of photoluminescence and UV fluorescence that finally led them to detect lab-created diamonds. For some, GIA is not the preferred certification establishment when it comes to grading cultured diamonds because they only provide a range, which was deemed insufficient. 

AGS

 

By American Gem Society - American Gem Society

American Gen society is the preferred company to grade lab-created diamonds. They are considered a reputable laboratory that offers actual color and clarity grading for cultured diamonds. This makes the certificate issued more reliable, being able to accurately establish the gem’s quality.

IGI

International Gemological Institute is considered a laboratory of choice for natural diamonds but is recommended for lab-grown diamonds. They provide a thorough grading for color and clarity, giving a more precise evaluation of the said gem.

Comparison to Cubic Zirconia

Brilliance

Cubic zirconia gives off more sparkles but with less reflection. Natural diamonds reflect white light, while CZ also reflects a rainbow-colored reflection comparable to a Moissanite. The rainbow color is a result of excessive light dispersion that a diamond cannot create.

Hardness

Cubic zirconia is softer than a diamond with a hardness of 8.5 based on the Mohs scale. Its softness means that it will develop visible scratches or cloudiness over time.

Inclusions

Flawless diamonds are generally rare. Cubic zirconia is just too perfect in appearance that it does not contain any inclusion commonly seen on natural diamonds.

Color

Much like a Moissanite, even though cubic zirconia is labeled as colorless, it still emits an orange tinge.

Value

Cubic zirconia crystals are offered at a very affordable price. For this reason alone, we can understand and deduce that CZ has no resell value at all. It is mostly used in fashion and statement pieces of jewelry to add brilliance and sparkle. Another reason may come from its synthetic origin, availability, and physical properties. 

Comparison to Moissanite

 

By Mujeresliebres at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Brilliance

Moissanite is famous for its fire or the way it sparkles (brilliance). It gives off rainbow flashed of colors like an elegant disco ball.

Hardness

Compared to natural diamonds, these are a tad softer, around 0.75 less than a diamond’s hardness using the Mohs scale. These are explicitly fabricated for jewelry use, such as engagement and wedding rings. 

Color

Although this is labeled as a colorless stimulant, some yellow and grayish tint can be observed when exposed to light.

Price

These are more pricey than cubic zirconia and much more affordable than a natural diamond.

Grading

These are graded based on their color, unlike natural and cultured diamonds that are graded using the 4C’s.

The acceptance of laboratory-grown diamonds is still up in the air. Some even prefer diamonds from natural origin, while some are not specific on where it comes from for as long as it is looks and feels like a diamond. Some people, meaning the old or original elites, would never touch a cultured diamond and deem it as a counterfeit. It is all about the value and not the aesthetics. However, for the hip and practical millennials, the thought of purchasing something that has a much more affordable counterpart is just not realistic. Why buy something that has an entirely similar-looking counterpart? Times are hard, and we can use our hard-earned money on something else. 

Marketing plays a massive role in keeping and growing their business alive. Natural diamonds depend on the rarity of mined diamonds, making them more precious than ever. Lab-grown diamond creators and sellers rely on how these cultured stones are much more affordable and environmentally friendly compared to mining. Overall, it boils down to your personal; preference and what you value.

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