With the advent of lab grown diamonds, there are a lot of questions and misconceptions surrounding their viability as an alternative for naturally mined diamonds. Read our essential guide on lab created diamonds to learn more about what they are, how they’re grown, and the benefits to choosing a cultured diamond. We hope you will be able to use the information below to make an informed decision the next time you are shopping for a diamond.
Lab created diamonds, also known as lab grown or man made diamonds, are diamonds that are manufactured in a carefully controlled laboratory environment.
Absolutely! Not only are lab created diamonds made from the same material as natural diamonds, they have the same physical and chemical makeup, too. Lab created diamonds are composed of the same crystal lattice structure as mined diamonds, which just means that their atoms are arranged in the exact same pattern. Also referred to as synthetic diamonds, this term can be a bit misleading since we often associate “synthetic” with “fake.” However, it’s impossible to tell the difference between manufactured diamonds and mined diamonds without very specialized laboratory equipment.
If you’re looking for diamond wedding bands, you’re likely already familiar with the 4 Cs: cut, color, carat, and clarity. Man made diamonds are graded and certified according to the 4 Cs just like mined diamonds and are sent to the same independent gem labs. A gemologist would be able to identify a diamond simulant such as cubic zirconia or moissanite from a mile away, but lab grown diamonds are treated the same as mined diamonds and adhere to the same grading process.
There are two methods commonly used to grow a diamond: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).
An HPHT diamond begins as a small diamond seed. That’s right, these diamonds are grown from seeds! Instead of planting them in the ground, the HPHT method uses one of three manufacturing processes: a belt press, cubic press, or split-sphere press. The seed is placed in an environment that mimics the conditions found deep within the Earth, exposing them to extreme temperatures and high pressure that in turn creates a beautiful diamond.
The HPHT method has actually been around for many years and was first used by General Electric in 1954. Unfortunately, the energy consumption and specialized equipment needed to produce diamonds in this way are extremely costly and this process does not easily yield the desirable white diamonds preferred in jewelry making.
CVD produced diamonds also begin with a seed, but follow a slightly different process. The diamond seed is placed in a chamber and heated to between 800 and 1000 degrees Celsius. A carbon-rich gas such as methane is introduced to the chamber and the carbon atoms begin to separate due to the high heat. From there, the carbon atoms begin to accumulate on the diamond seed and the diamond starts to grow.
A fully-formed, CVD grown diamond is typically complete within 6 to 10 weeks. A lab diamond has the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as a mined diamond. At Omi Gold, all of our “above ground diamond” rings are set with CVD produced diamonds.
With lab created diamonds, there’s no need to worry about what conditions your diamond ring was mined under. Although ethical standards of industrial diamond mining have improved greatly since the Kimberley Process was established in 2003, about 20% of the world’s diamonds are still mined by artisanal, small-scale miners who often mine by hand, are not unionized, and work in inhumane conditions. Meanwhile, the likelihood of personal injury while creating a lab grown diamond is virtually zero. In fact, no injuries involving lab grown diamonds have been reported.
The Kimberley Process also has its drawbacks. While it was enacted to keep conflict diamonds from entering the legal diamond trade, it does not take into account human rights abuses or environmental degradation. Lab diamonds are guaranteed conflict-free. Imagine white lab coats and sterile surfaces rather than underground laborers in the Russian Arctic.
The environmental impacts of traditional diamond mining can be (and have been) devastating to the global communities found to be hotspots for the world’s most sought-after gem. In order to mine diamonds on a large scale, mining companies displace hectares upon hectares of earth, divert rivers, and emit carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Additionally, a one carat diamond consumes an average of 128 gallons per water, while a lab grown diamond uses just 18.
Due to a lack of environmental safeguards put in place in countries like Sierra Leone, Angola, and even Canada, some communities are experiencing lasting damage to their local ecosystems from un- and under-regulated open pit and underground mining. The large displacement of earth creates a huge ripple effect starting from damaged topsoil and reaching all the way to the migration patterns of birds. With no topsoil, plants can’t grow and wildlife can’t eat thus leaving an essentially dead ecosystem.
A big question surrounding lab grown diamonds is about the price tag. Any diamond is an investment, but lab created diamonds tend to come in at about 20% to 30% less than a mined diamond. Cutting out much of the supply chain drastically reduces the cost of a cultured diamond. Though the process of cutting, polishing, and grading a diamond is the same no matter where the diamond originates, eliminating the mining step and reducing the number of hands a diamond touches means that a lab grown diamond is more affordable for the consumer and a great value.
Choosing a diamond is extremely personal and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. More often than not, a diamond will become a part of your family for generations to come. Whether you choose a “natural” diamond or a man made diamond, doing your research is an essential part of making any big purchase. Imagine you were buying a car. What features are most important to you? Perhaps you’re looking for a flashy sports car that will zip through the neighborhood and give you a lot of street cred. Or maybe you want something with a high safety rating and cargo space for the whole family.
Whatever it is you’re looking for, you can only make the decision that is best for you based on your individual priorities. Omi Gold prioritizes ethically-sourced and recycled materials with a personalized touch, which is why you’ll only find lab created diamonds and recycled gold wedding bands in our collections. Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions on lab grown diamonds or need help choosing the best diamond engagement ring for you.