Man-made diamonds are a more common topic of discussion at the jewelry counter these days because they are being used more frequently in jewelry. Compared to mined diamonds, lab-created diamonds have superior brilliance, purity, and origin. Retail man-made or lab-grown diamonds came into unprecedented focus over the last few years.
Lab-grown diamonds look identical to a natural diamond. They have the same properties as natural diamonds, the only difference is that they are grown in a lab, whereas natural diamonds are formed in the earth. Synthetic diamonds are alternatives to natural and lab grown diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are identical to diamonds found in the earth in every way. Both share the same qualities and characteristics such as:
- Chemical Composition: C
- Crystalline Structure: Cubic
- Refractive Index: 2.42
- Dispersion: 0.044
- Hardness (MOHS): 10
- Density: 3.52
Lab-created diamonds are graded and certified using the same process as mined diamonds. Diamonds are sent to a gem lab that specializes in grading diamonds. The majority of these labs grade using the 4c’s (cut, clarity, color, and carat — more on those later), however, a select few use their own criteria. Nearly all diamonds, organic and lab-created alike, have inclusions that affect their clarity. Every certified diamond gets assigned a clarity grade.
Man-made diamonds are produced in one of two main ways, Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) manufacturing.
CVD Diamonds: Similar to 3D-printing, where carbon is layered on top of a genuine diamond “seed” in a vacuum chamber. This is a popular form of diamond creation for colorless diamonds and can consistently produce type-II A diamonds. The CVD process has a few advantages over the HPHT process. High pressures are not needed, and temperatures, while high, do not need to be anywhere near as high as with HPHT. Also, CVD diamonds can be grown over larger areas by starting with a larger diamond seed plate.
HPHT Diamonds: When using the HPHT process, pure carbon and a tiny piece of diamond referred to as a starter seed, are placed in a high pressure, high temperature chamber. It uses pressure of more than 1.5 million pounds per square inch and temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius in a machine to transform carbon into diamonds. As the carbon is heated, it melts around the starter seed and a diamond is created. At this time, the HPHT process makes it possible to create much larger diamonds than the CVD process.
Science has made it possible to have beautiful wholesale gemstones for jewelry at a fraction of the price of natural diamonds. Lab created diamonds display the same physical, chemical, and optical characteristics as natural diamonds, along with the same fire, scintillation, and sparkle. Since no mining is necessary to produce these gemstones, they are an especially environmentally friendly choice.