Lab Grown Diamonds

The Truth About Laboratory-Grown Diamonds

As laboratory-grown diamonds become more abundant, boasting superior quality and a wider array of colors, they are increasingly enticing consumers with their appealing price ranges. Given this trend, it’s no surprise that laboratory-grown diamonds are gaining prominence in the market. But what exactly are they, and how do they differ from natural diamonds?

What Are Laboratory-Grown Diamonds?

Synthetically produced, or lab grown diamonds possess nearly identical chemical, optical, and physical attributes along with crystal structure when compared to natural diamonds. Comprising tightly-bound carbon atoms, they exhibit similar light responsiveness and hardness levels. The primary contrast between lab-grown and naturally occurring diamonds lies in their origins. To illustrate, consider lab-grown diamonds akin to ice sourced from your refrigerator, while natural diamonds resemble ice originating from a glacier. Despite their shared elemental composition, their formation narratives and respective ages markedly differ.

Natural diamonds took shape millions to billions of years ago within the Earth’s mantle before being forcefully propelled to the surface by kimberlite and lamproite volcanic eruptions, often encapsulating intriguing inclusions within them. Lab-grown diamonds visually mirror natural counterparts and typically necessitate scrutiny by specialized laboratories employing advanced instrumentation for accurate identification.

image courtesey of gia.edu

The Beauty of Laboratory Made Diamonds

Laboratory-Grown Diamond Timeline

  • 1950s: Union Carbide pioneers Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) diamonds in 1952, followed by others utilizing the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method shortly thereafter. Initially serving industrial applications like telecommunications, laser optics, and abrasives.

  • 1970s: General Electric researchers achieve breakthroughs in producing gem-quality laboratory-grown diamonds, notable for their clarity and size suitable for jewelry. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) presents the initial scientific exploration of laboratory-grown diamonds in 1971.

  • Mid-1980s: Manufacturers achieve commercial-scale production of gem-quality laboratory-grown diamond crystals. Initially, these synthesized diamonds tend to be small and exhibit yellowish or brownish hues, but their quality progressively improves over subsequent decades.

  • 2000s: The chemical-vapor deposition (CVD) method emerges for creating gem-quality diamonds, boasting lower pressure and temperature requirements compared to HPHT.

  • Mid-2010s: Colorless laboratory-grown diamonds enter the jewelry market in substantial quantities. Both HPHT and CVD methods maintain popularity in the production of laboratory-grown diamonds.

How are laboratory-grown diamonds made?

There are two main processes used to create laboratory-grown diamonds:

  1. High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT)

    This technique involves the creation of laboratory-grown diamonds under high-pressure, high-temperature conditions akin to the natural diamond formation process within the Earth. HPHT diamond synthesis occurs under pressures ranging from 5 to 6 GPa (equivalent to the pressure exerted by a commercial jet airplane delicately balanced on the tip of a person’s finger) and temperatures ranging from 1300 to 1600°C.

    Diamonds of lower quality, whether natural or laboratory-grown, may undergo the HPHT procedure to enhance their color. Aside from rendering diamonds more colorless, this method can also induce color changes, resulting in pink, blue, or yellow hues. Diamonds subjected to this process are termed as “treated” diamonds, a fact disclosed in GIA reports.

  2. Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
    Utilizing this method, scientists can cultivate laboratory-grown diamonds at moderate temperatures ranging from 700°C to 1300°C and lower pressures. Within a vacuum chamber, carbon-containing gas is introduced and subsequently deposits onto a diamond seed, ultimately solidifying into a laboratory-grown diamond. The final size of the diamond is contingent upon the duration allotted for growth.

How are Laboratory-Grown diamonds identified?

At laboratories like GIA, scientists and graders used sophisticated instruments to analyze diamond strain patterns, trace element composition, inclusions, fluorescence, phosphorescence and more in order to separate laboratory-grown diamonds from natural. These factors are different due to the vastly different formation conditions of laboratory-grown and natural diamonds. To help help us to separate natural and laboratory-grown diamonds, we utilize the convenient desktop instruments that are able to distinguish natural diamonds from laboratory-grown diamonds, diamond simulants and some treated diamonds in under two seconds.