What are Synthetic or Lab Grown Diamonds?
Artificial or synthetic diamonds are (almost) impossible to distinguish from natural diamonds. They are just as beautiful, hard and brilliant as natural diamonds. The only thing they do not have in common with natural diamonds is the production process.
How are diamonds made?
The creation of real - or natural - diamonds is a natural process. Carbon compresses under high pressure and heats up. This happens around 150 to 200 km deep below the surface of the earth. The carbon atoms accumulate over time under pressure and create an octahedron (double pyramid shape). This was also the first shape diamonds were cut into. This process takes millions of years.
How are synthetic diamonds made?
The process to make synthetic diamonds is different. Synthetic diamonds consist of the same rough material but have a much shorter time to grow. Roughly, there are two methods to create synthetic diamonds. The first is the HPHT method. This stands for 'High-Pressure High Temperature'. The second method is the CVD method; this means "Chemical Vapor Deposition".
The HPTH method to make artificial diamonds
The HPHT is to create diamonds and to transform poorly colored diamonds into beautifully colored or colorless diamonds. The diamonds heat up to a temperature above 1400 °C. After that, it's time to pressurize the diamonds in three different ways. This is done by a band press, a cubic press, and a so-called split-spheres method. To make diamonds, you need to mill carbonaceous metal in such a way that only the carbon remains. The pure carbon gets attached to a small natural diamond. Then carbon grows around the small diamond. This so-called "donor diamond" is like a seed. It forms the basis for the new diamond. To improve a diamond, the diamond only needs pressure. In such cases, there's no need for carbon. Only pressure and temperature reform the stone.
The CVD method to make synthetic diamonds
This method allows a diamond to grow by evaporating a mixture of hydrocarbon gases under pressure. This occurs on a surface where carbon remains so the diamond grows within a relatively short period of time. The gases usually consist of methane and hydrogen in a ratio of 1:99. They deposit on the surface at a temperature of 800 °C. This method is nowadays the simplest and cheapest to perform.
Buy a natural or synthetic diamond?
It is safe to say that artificial diamonds have gained popularity over the last years. This is not that strange as these stones are sometimes cheaper than natural diamonds, and can also be purer. The natural "flaws" of Mother Nature’s diamonds are not in synthetic man-made diamonds. Since synthetic diamonds differ from natural ones, the diamond cutter has to engrave ‘man-made diamond’ into the stone. Also in the diamond certificate, you can find whether your diamond is natural or synthetic.
It may seem nice to buy synthetic diamond jewelry. But one of the most important aspects of a diamond lacks in artificial ones: the authenticity. A diamond’s value partly comes from knowing that the little rock traveled for millions of years to eventually be worn by you. No lab-grown diamond, created in merely hours, can beat that.
A diamond from Mother Nature
A diamond is a work of art from Mother Nature. Because of the way the diamond industry handled its resources decades ago, it got a bad reputation when it comes to the environment. The movie Blood Diamonds is an example of it. But today the diamond industry is one of the most nature-conscious industries in the world. The Kimberley Process and years of progress made us into the flourishing industry I am proud to be a part of. It is sad that the synthetic industry uses the past as a selling point for their products. Maybe even more relevant is that a real diamond keeps its value. It is something that you can pass on to future generations. A real diamond lasts forever. A synthetic diamond with regards to value- is meaningless.