Lab Grown Diamonds

 

What are Lab Grown Diamonds?

A mined diamond is formed inside the earth's crust. It takes over a billion years, immense pressure and high temperature for the diamond to form. With application of advanced science and technology, it has become possible to highly accelerate this process and recreate the same geological circumstances in a laboratory above the earth. This has given birth to Lab Grown Diamonds.

How are Lab Grown Diamonds made?

There are two methods to grow diamonds in a laboratory -

CVD

Chemical Vapour Desposition (CVD) is a process used to create gem quality diamonds, optics and semi conductors. A diamond substrate is placed inside a chamber, this chamber is then infused with carbon rich gases (like methane) and heated. The gas is heated until the carbon atoms are seperated from the gas. These carbon atoms then fall onto the substrate (this process is called carbon rain) & build up layers over layers resulting in growth of rough lab grown diamond. The entire process takes between 5-10 weeks to grow gem grade Type ⅡA diamonds.

Modified versions of CVD are being used nowadays. The process differs in ways with which chemical reactions are initiated. Following are the modified CVD methods.

  • Plasma enhanced CVD (PE CVD)
  • Low pressure CVD (LP CVD)
  • Microwave Plasma CVD (MP CVD)
  • Ultrahigh Vaccum CVD (UHV CVD)

HPHT

High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) is a method which replicates the environment found beneath the earth's crust. In this process, "Growth cell" is placed in the HPHT chamber. This growth cell consists of the seed, refined graphite and a catalyst mixture of metals and powders. Consistent temperature of 1200-1300 degree celsius and more than 50,000 atmospheres of pressure is applied in the chamber. This leads the catalyst to melt which in turn causes the graphite to dissolve. This mixture is then allowed to cool which takes several days & allows carbon atoms to build upon the seed. The entire process has to be incredibly controlled to produce gem quality diamonds. Fluctuations in the process might stop the growth or create heavy inclusions in the diamond.

Following are some of the tools that are used to create high pressure and temperature in the chambers

  • Belt Press - It is the founding technology for growing diamonds. Two anvils are used to create pressure. It is generally used to produce industrial diamonds and powders.
  • Cubic Press - This is bulky in size and uses six anvils to create the necessary pressure. This is also used for industrial purposes.
  • Bars Press - This one is most effective for gem quality diamonds. It uses inner and outer anvils to apply hydraulic pressure to the growth cell.

Brief Overview of the Manufacturing Process

 

How are Lab Grown Diamonds different from Earth Mined Diamonds ?

Since the lab grown diamonds go through the same conditions like the mined diamonds, they are totally comparable to earth mined diamonds. Lab grown diamonds display exactly the same Physical, Chemical & Optical characteristics like Earth Mined Diamonds. The only difference is that the Lab grown diamonds are engineered in a laboratory above the earth.

Mined VS Grown

Chemical Composition Crystalline Structure Refractive Index Dispersion Hardness Density
Diamonds
Lab Created C Cublic 2.42 0.044 10 3.52
Mined C Cublic 2.42 0.044 10 3.52
Simulants
CZ ZrO2 Cublic 2.20 0.066 8.25 5.70
MOISSANITE SIC HEXAGONAL 2.65 0.104 9.25 3.21
WHITE SAPPHIRE AI2O3 HEXAGONAL 1.77 0.018 9 3.97

How long have Lab Grown Diamonds been around?

The first commercially successful Lab grown diamond was created by Tracy Hall at General Electric in Dec 1954. This led to the rise of man-made industrial quality diamonds that were mainly dominated by GE Superabrasives & De Beers Industrial Diamonds. Since then Man made diamonds are used in wide array of industries such as Medical, Water treatment, Optics, Power transmission, Semi conductors etc. Only in recent years gem quality diamonds have been invented that could be used in making jewelry.

What are the benefits of opting for a Lab grown Diamond ?

  • Eco friendly

    -Lab made diamonds are created in a controlled environment in a laboratory above the earth. No eco systems are disturbed as there is no mining. On the other hand,mined diamonds have almost 7 times the impact on the eco sytem than lab made diamonds since, it causes land digging, soil erosion, relocation of people around a diamond rich mine, usage of oil & fuel, etc. Let us look at the chart below to compare eco sustainability of mined diamonds & lab made diamonds.

Land Excavated

Carbon Emission

png1

0.00091 hectares / carat


1000s of acres of soil is moved while mining diamonds.
png2

0.00000071 hectares / carat


No soil movement
dull

57000 grams/carat


High air pollution
pure

0.0028 grams/carat


Negligible air pollution

Water Usage

Lost time Injury Rate

highwater

480 Litres (0.48 m3)/carat


100s of litres of water used
lowwater

70 litres (0.07 m3)/carat


Water usage is lower by factor of 7
people_2

8 days/100 employees per year


High risk work environment
people_1

0 days/100 employees per year


High employee safety standards
  • Conflict free & Ethical

    -Since these diamonds are made in a laboratory they are guaranteed conflict free and ethical. With lab made diamonds one can be sure that the money has not been used to fuel rebels & wars. With mined diamonds one cannot guarantee it.
  • Value for money

    -One of the biggest advantage of lab made diamonds is that it makes luxury affordable for all. She either goes home with a bigger diamond or saving quite a few thousand dollars.

What are the different terms that are used to describe lab grown diamonds ?

  • Above Earth diamonds
  • Cultured diamonds
  • Lab created diamonds
  • Man made diamonds
  • Lab made diamonds

As per the guidelines of FTC it is incorrect to call Lab grown diamonds Synthetic/Fake/Simulant.

 

How does one identify if a diamond is a Lab grown diamond?

Lab grown diamonds have same Physical, Chemical & Optical characteristics as mined diamonds. It is impossible even for a seasoned diamond dealer or a jeweler to say with the naked eye if a diamond is lab made or mined. Only with the help of advanced machinary, one can determine the origin of a diamond. Gemological laboratories can do the job as well.

Some misconceptions about Mined and Grown Diamonds

Misconception #1: Lab grown diamonds will flood the market
The lab grown diamond industry barely accounts for 2-3 % of the mined diamond industry (as per data in 2017). Production facilities to grow rough lab grown diamonds require scientific know how and millions of dollars to function apart from a very heavy capital expenditure. To build growing facilities to increase even 1 percent of current mined diamond supply, it would require another tens of million dollars yearly to function and billions for the machinary. It will take many years before lab grown diamonds are anything but a small portion of the market.
Misconception #2: Lab grown diamond industry exists only to make gemstones.
The main reason for this industry is not to grow gem quality diamonds but make diamonds for application in Industrial, Optic, Health Care, Scientific, Computational & Medical fields. Gem quality diamonds for jewelry accounts for the smallest portion in this.
Misconception #3: All lab grown diamonds are colorless and flawless.
Diamonds in a laboratory are grown by replicating the geological process found under the earth's crust. Same type of inclusions that are found in mined diamonds can also occur here. If the diamond crystal grows too fast, there can be cracks (feathers) in the diamond. Hastening or excessive slowing down of process or even a minuscle defect in the growth process may yield slighlty included and coloured diamonds.
Misconception #4: Lab grown diamonds are cheap to manufacture.
Lab made diamonds require high level of technical and scientific know how. Regular technology upgradation and maintenance of machinery is another big challenge. This cost may not be as high as one may find in mined diamonds but it is definitely not cheap. Also, cutting and polishing costs that go into a lab grown diamond is exactly the same as for mined diamonds regardless of its origin.
Misconception #5: Mined diamonds are worn because they are natural.
It is important that we understand why we wear diamonds. Diamonds are a symbol of love and eternity. Most people wear diamonds because of it's sparkle, brilliance & beauty. Not because they are natural. Why don't we wear a lot of other natural & everlasting materials ? Only because they are not as beautiful as diamonds!!