What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds, also referred to as man-made diamonds, engineered diamonds, or lab-created diamonds, are diamonds that are engineered in a controlled lab environment using technology. Lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical properties, pure carbon structure, brilliance, and hardness a natural diamond does; the only difference lies in their origin.
Like a natural diamond, lab-grown diamonds are evaluated with the 4 Cs: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Lab-grown diamonds can be manufactured in the same shapes as natural diamonds, which includes oval, cushion, emerald, princess, and round brilliant.
Unlike natural diamonds, formed in the Earth’s crust billions of years ago, lab-grown diamonds are not considered rare because they can be produced in limitless quantities in a matter of weeks. Since their quantities are not finite as with natural diamonds, it is uncertain in what way their value will remain over time.
History of Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds were first created by General Electric in 1953. Up until recent years, lab-grown diamonds could not be created in a quality suitable for jewelry. They were primarily used as abrasives or in industrial tools such as saws and drill bits because of a diamond’s superior hardness. During the past few years, refinements in the diamond manufacturing process have produced increasingly finer quality stones, suitable for use in jewelry.
How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?
First, let’s explore how natural diamonds are formed so you can have a better understanding as to how and why lab-grown diamonds are manufactured the way they are.
Natural diamonds are formed by three factors: heat, pressure, and time. Natural diamonds are grown deep underground, approximately 100 miles into Earth’s mantle crust. Diamonds are made of carbon; carbon molecules this deep into earth are exposed to high temperatures and extreme pressure, ultimately forcing carbon atoms to bind together and grow diamond crystals. Each one carat diamond represents billions of carbon atoms that bonded together to form a crystal formation. Arguably, the time factor is what makes a natural diamond so unique. The diamonds mined today and diamonds we have in our showcases grew in the Earth’s crust for many years – actually, billions of years. Did you know that diamonds are older than most stars in the sky?
Now that you know how natural diamonds are formed, let us explain how lab-grown diamonds are made.
Currently, there are two different technological ways to create lab-grown diamonds. The first is through HP/HT (High Pressure/High Temperature), which models how natural diamonds are formed in the earth. Lab-grown manufacturers place what’s called a diamond “seed,” which can be a miniscule fragment of a natural diamond or lab-grown diamond, into a device able to create hydraulic pressure, alongside metals like iron, nickel, and cobalt to interact and foster crystal growth. Under this intense pressure, the crystals develop into a lab-grown diamond. This complete process can take three to four weeks.
The second method to create a lab-grown diamond is through CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition). Like the HP/HT method, a starter “seed” is placed in a sealed apparatus that heats to intense temperatures. From there, the vacuum-sealed chamber is filled with hydrogen and a carbon-rich gas, typically methane. An energy source, like a microwave beam, will then break down the gas molecules, and carbon atoms disperse towards the cooler temperature of the starter seed. Crystals in a CVD are typically formed within two weeks.
Is a Lab-Grown Diamond Right for You?
To the human eye, laboratory-grown diamonds look identical to a natural diamond. Only specialized instruments can identify lab-grown diamonds. The question as to whether to purchase a synthetic diamond versus a natural diamond is a personal choice. To some, it might be important to own a diamond that was formed naturally billions of years ago and has stood the test of time. Others may wish to enjoy the beauty and brilliance of a man-made diamond at a reduced cost. Another factor to consider is that, throughout history, natural diamonds have appreciated in value, and this is expected to continue as they become scarcer. Lab-grown diamonds are expected to decline in value over time as the manufacturing process is refined.
Whichever you select, you want to choose a diamond or engagement ring from a jeweler you can trust. Day’s has professional jewelry consultants in all of our locations to help educate you and guide you through some of the most important purchases in your lifetime.
Can I Purchase a Lab-Grown Diamond from Day's Jewelers?
Yes, a selection of loose lab-grown diamonds are available for sale in all Day's stores. Please visit any of our eight store locations across Maine and New Hampshire to receive a free lab-grown diamond education presentation and to view our full selection of lab-grown diamond jewelry.