One of the biggest trends in jewelry these days is lab created diamonds. With origins in the 1950s, this product was only used for industrial purposes up until the last decade. Then, as now, you needed a natural diamond seed to grow something larger. Now, you can get high quality specimens in larger sizes for jewelry. With that in mind, how do lab created diamonds compare with their similar natural counterparts? Do lab diamonds deliver in terms of environmental or social responsibility? Are they a great investment? Let’s take a look.
Origins of Lab Diamonds
It is well known by geologists that natural diamonds are the result of carbon getting compressed at high temperatures and pressure in Earth’s crust. For scientists to make an artificial version, they need to replicate the natural formation process closely enough that the resulting product has the same basic properties as diamonds. That means that it must be essentially pure carbon crystal with a hardness of 10. This has been achieved in two different ways: High Temperature, High Pressure (HTHP) manufacturing, and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) manufacturing.
HTHP is the older method, and it has been in use since the 1950’s. Here, carbon atoms are pressed into crystals under high temperature conditions. Over time, the carbon crystallizes around a tiny seed of natural diamond. When the desired size is reached, technicians remove the crystals and let them cool down.
More recently, the CVD method has allowed for the manufacture of larger diamonds that can be used in jewelry. With Chemical Vapor Deposition, a high carbon gas like methane is super-heated to form plasma. This releases the carbon, which then crystallizes around a tiny diamond seed that gets removed later. Over a few weeks to months, the diamond grows large enough to cut for jewelry.