What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds & Why Are They Becoming Popular?
Years of meticulous marketing campaigns have led us to believe that diamonds are the ultimate symbol of love. Be it weddings, birthdays, or anniversaries, you can make any special occasion even more memorable with a piece of diamond jewelry.
It isn’t surprising that diamonds are one of the most sought-after gemstones on this planet. Colored diamonds, including black, pink, and yellow diamonds, have also risen to the forefront for people who are tired of the same clear and transparent diamond jewelry.
Nevertheless, in recent years, there have been widespread speculations and debates about the adverse ecological and humanitarian impact of diamond mining. This, in turn, has prompted conscious consumers to look for alternatives.
It isn’t surprising that nearly 70% of today’s millennials would prefer buying lab-grown diamonds over their naturally mined counterparts. Apart from jewelry, lab-grown diamonds are also used in industrial machinery and medical equipment.
But what exactly are lab-grown or man-made diamonds? Is their quality at par with diamonds that are mined from the earth’s core? Are they more eco-friendly as well? These questions must be racing through your mind right now.
In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the world of lab-grown diamonds and find out whether they’re worth the hype. Let’s get started.
What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Even though lab-grown diamonds have been around for a while, they grabbed the limelight in 2019 when Meghan Markle flaunted a pair of earrings made with these diamonds in one of her public appearances.
Also known as synthetic diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are just what they sound like. They’re artificial diamonds manufactured inside a laboratory by simulating the intense pressure and heat of the earth’s core.
A lab-grown diamond is made by subjecting a “seed” from another diamond to extreme heat and pressure in a controlled environment. It’s got all the attributes and qualities of natural diamonds, except that it doesn’t have to be mined from deep inside the earth.
Typically, synthetic diamonds are made using two techniques, namely:
- High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) System
- Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
An HPHT system involves putting the diamond seed inside a chamber with pure graphite carbon and exposing it to a temperature of 1500°C and pressure of 1.5 million pounds per square inch.
On the other hand, CVD involves placing the seed in a sealed chamber that’s been filled with a carbon-rich gas. The temperature inside the chamber is raised to 800°C, which causes carbon from the gas to adhere to the seed, eventually forming a diamond.
In recent years, there have been massive improvements in the technology used for manufacturing synthetic diamonds. This, in turn, has facilitated the large-scale production of affordable and readily available diamonds.
In fact, it roughly costs $300 to $500 per carat to manufacture lab-grown diamonds using the CVD technique. This is understandable considering that the process doesn’t demand extensive manpower and equipment involved in traditional diamond mining.
Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Good for the Environment?
Proponents of naturally-mined diamonds, including the Diamond Producers Association, argue that the carbon footprint of synthetic diamond production is significantly higher than that of mining. The former is also supposed to generate three times more greenhouse gases.
It is, however, worth noting that the DPA is associated with established diamond miners, such as De Beers and Rio Tinto. More objective studies have found that mining diamonds from the earth requires twice the amount of energy needed for lab-grown diamonds.
This, in turn, means diamond mining exhausts tremendous amounts of fossil fuels and results in higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, it results in other environmental problems, such as deforestation and acid mine drainage. This, in turn, takes a toll on the terrestrial and marine ecosystem of the area where the mine is situated.
While more concrete scientific studies are necessary for precisely determining the carbon footprint of lab-grown diamonds, it can be agreed that they’re more environmentally-friendly.
Diamond mines aren’t just notorious for their catastrophic environmental impact. They’re also known to employ labor in underdeveloped nations at below-par wages. Also, diamond mining is often associated with other social issues, such as child labor.
Not to mention, the laborers have to work under unsafe and, sometimes, unhygienic conditions inside the mind, putting their health and wellbeing at stake.
Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, don’t require laborers to work in hot, humid, and dangerous environments. Instead, scientists and technicians work in modern laboratories with sophisticated equipment to manufacture these diamonds.
Other Benefits of Synthetic Diamonds
Apart from the ecological and social benefits, lab-grown diamonds are also more affordable than mined diamonds. This is because their production takes just a few days as opposed to the billions of years required for natural formation of diamonds.
Also, the controlled environment of a lab ensures that the diamonds are free from impurities. This, in turn, makes man-made diamonds clearer, brighter, and of superior quality. They’re also more durable than mined diamonds.
Have you ever tried purchasing any jewelry made with lab-grown diamonds? Share your experience in the comments section below.