Lab-Grown Diamonds

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Lab-grown diamonds — also known as lab-created, man-made, or synthetic diamonds — are created using highly advanced technological processes within strictly controlled laboratory conditions. These conditions mimic the environment under which natural diamonds form in the mantle beneath the earth's crust.

In recent years awareness of ethical concerns regarding the humanitarian and ecological issues surrounding the mining of diamonds coupled with the high cost of mined natural diamonds has increased the popularity of lab-grown diamonds.

If you’re curious about lab-grown diamonds, we have created this guide to help you find all of the information you need about this ethical alternative to natural diamonds.

A lab-grown diamond is essentially a diamond. These lab-created gemstones are unique in that they are pure carbon diamonds displaying identical optical, physical, and chemical characteristics to natural diamonds. The only difference is that these diamonds are not formed through natural processes but are instead created in a laboratory environment.

Suppose you purchase your lab-grown diamond from a legitimate source. In that case, there is really no difference between a naturally occurring diamond and one cultivated in a laboratory apart from the origin. Many people incorrectly assume lab-grown diamonds are “fake” diamonds. In fact, in terms of structure, they are the same as natural mined diamonds.

What Exactly Are Lab-Grown Diamonds and Are They Real Diamonds
HPHT equipments for gem-quality synthetic or laboratory-grown diamonds

Two methods were developed to create diamonds within laboratory conditions. HPHT, which stands for high-pressure, high-temperature, and CVD, which refers to chemical vapor deposition. In both processes, a diamond crystal or plate is used as a seed to initiate the growth of the lab-grown diamond.

The HPHT most closely replicates the natural process of diamond growth that occurs within the earth.

Three manufacturing processes make HPHT lab-grown diamonds. These are the cubic press, the belt press, and the split sphere press. Each of these is the vehicle that creates the intensely high temperature and pressure that facilitates diamond growth.

To begin the process, a small diamond seed is placed within a growth chamber located inside a press into a carbon source such as diamond powder or graphite. It is exposed to very high heat and intense pressure, which causes the carbon source to melt into molten metal. The carbon atoms then pass through the metal and crystallize to form a diamond around the diamond seed. The next part of the process is to allow cooling, after which the lab-grown diamond can be transformed by cutting, polishing, and shaping into its desired form.

HOW LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS ARE MADE INFOGRAPHIC 

How are lab grown diamonds made infographic

The Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) technique is a more recently developed method of creating lab-made diamonds from a hydrocarbon gas mixture.

A thin slice of diamond seed is first placed into a sealed chamber heated to approximately 800 degrees Celsius. A carbon-rich gas (generally methane) and other gases are then released into the chamber. These gases are ionized into plasma, which breaks the molecular bonds within them, using lasers, microwaves or alternative techniques. Pure carbon then sticks to the diamond seed, which slowly builds up to form a lab-grown diamond crystal.

As with HPHT, crystallization of the diamond occurs anywhere between several weeks and months, and it is the time left for growth that determines the thickness of the lab-created diamond. The number of crystals produced depends on the number of seed plates and the size of the chamber. They often have a rough edge of black graphite and display a brown coloration that can be removed by heat treatment before the faceting of the synthetic diamond.

While both kinds of precious stones are created by the same primary process and have the same fundamental structure, lab-created diamonds differ from natural stones. The main observable difference between lab-created diamonds and natural mined diamonds is in the clarity of the stones. The process of HPHT is said to produce diamonds that are far more robust and hard-wearing than natural diamonds. But to the naked eye, they are essentially the same.

How Do Lab-Created Diamonds Differ from Natural Diamonds
IGI Lab Grown Diamond certificate

With the increase in the production of synthetic diamonds for use in jewelry, there has been a vast improvement in the color and clarity of lab-created diamonds — and an increase in carat weight. Gemologists and jewelers admit that with the improvement in the quality of lab-grown diamonds, it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between these lab-produced gemstones and their natural counterparts as their chemical and physical properties are similar.

However, for the past 30 years, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) laboratory has extensively analyzed and studied synthetic diamonds to enable them to tell them apart from natural diamonds. The GIA reports that they have only seen a small number of lab-grown diamonds submitted unknowingly for their official grading reports.

 

This GIA lists many of the distinctive visual features of the two kinds of synthetic diamonds:

  • HPHT Synthetic CVD Synthetic
  • Uneven color distribution/ even color distribution
  • Graining patterns/ no graining patterns
  • Unusual fluorescence colors
  • Fluorescence color patterns
  • Occasional phosphorescence
  • Metallic flux inclusions/ occasional dark pinpoint inclusions
  • No strain patterns/ banded strain patterns
  • Possible inscription on girdle.

These visual features identified by the GIA are based upon the characteristics displayed by a number of these lab-grown diamonds. However, it is worth bearing in mind that — like natural diamonds — not all lab-created diamonds will display all of these features. Therefore identifying a synthetic diamond should be based on the diamond evidencing as many specified features as possible.

Synthetic diamonds made by CVD have different gemological properties than HPHT lab-created diamond material.

Lab-grown colored diamonds created using the HPHT process very often exhibit uneven coloration. This is because impurities like nitrogen or boron are incorporated into the synthetic diamond during formation. Natural diamonds occasionally show some color zoning, but this is not in the geometric pattern shown by HPHT lab-created diamonds. Color zoning in colored HPHT lab-grown diamonds relates to the different crystal faces resulting in patterns different from natural diamonds. In contrast, CVD-created synthetic diamonds typically exhibit relatively even coloration and banded strain patterns, and they are of high clarity with few, if any, slight dark carbon inclusions.

In HPHT lab-created diamonds, one can often see the inclusion of solidified flux metal. This manifests as black and opaque in transmitted light but displays an almost metallic luster in reflected light. This is caused by the flux metal alloy used to grow the lab-grown diamond containing nickel, cobalt, and iron. In fact, you can pick up synthetic diamonds with a high proportion of metallic inclusions with a magnet. Lab-grown diamonds created by CVD form differently; therefore, they do not have metallic inclusions. Some natural diamonds contain dark inclusions of graphite or another mineral, but these inclusions do not have a metallic luster.

If a natural diamond is examined between two polarizing filters placed at a 90-degree angle, it will often display a bright cross-hatched or mosaic pattern of interference or “strain” colors. This occurs because of the stresses placed upon the natural diamond while it was forming in the earth’s mantle or during its eruption to the surface. As lab-grown diamonds form in a controlled environment with no fluctuations in pressure or changes in stress levels, they exhibit no strain or weak-banded strain patterns.

The GIA has identified the major issue in the differentiation of tiny diamonds, or melee, which can include both natural and lab-created synthetic diamonds. To assist the jewelry trade in overcoming this issue, the GIA has developed an automated instrument that enables the testing of minute diamonds. As part of their ongoing research program on lab-grown diamonds, they have recently also set up a CVD growth facility where they can produce their own synthetic diamonds for study.

The best way for a consumer to find out whether a diamond is natural or lab-created is to always request a certificate upon purchasing the gemstone. You should not buy diamonds that are not accompanied by such a document. Diamond certificates (see below) issued by the GIA or IGI will indicate if the stone is a lab-grown or a natural diamond.

 

Lab Grown Diamond FAQs

WHEN WERE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS DEVELOPED?

The first evidence of scientists creating synthetic diamonds goes as far back as the late 1800s to the 1920s; however, these first creations were analyzed but not confirmed. Finally, in the 1940s, American, Swedish, and Russian scientists began to formally grow lab-created diamonds using the processes of HPHT and CVD.

Around 1953, the first reported tiny crystals of synthetic diamonds were documented. Production of larger manufactured diamonds for jewelry making and industrial purposes began in the mid-1990s.

WHAT COLORS ARE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS AVAILABLE IN?

For those who appreciate colored gemstones, lab-created diamonds made by the HPHT process are generally yellow, orangey-yellow, or brownish-yellow. Almost all are type IIb — rare in natural diamonds. Blue lab-created diamonds form by adding boron into the growth process. Pink and red lab-grown diamonds are less common and can be produced by subjecting the crystal post-growth to heat treatment processes involving heating and radiation. Colorless HPHT synthetic diamonds are challenging to create as nitrogen needs to be excluded from the growth process, so modifications to the growth conditions and equipment are required.

CVD synthetic diamonds are usually grayish or brownish. Adding a small amount of boron or nitrogen into the chamber will create yellow, pink-orange, or blue diamonds. Colorless crystals are easier to produce with this method, but they require a longer time to grow. Many CVD lab-created colorless diamonds available are believed to have been originally brown crystals decolorized by HPHT annealing. CVD synthetic diamonds are most commonly type IIa.

Fancy colored lab-created diamonds sell at comparatively reasonable prices compared to their natural fancy colored diamond counterparts.

ARE LAB-CREATED DIAMONDS THE SAME AS SIMULATED DIAMONDS?

There is undoubtedly some confusion between lab-grown and simulated diamonds, but the simple answer is no, they are not the same. Simulated diamonds do not have the same physical properties as natural diamonds, but lab-grown diamonds have the same material properties and elements as natural diamonds. They just originate from the laboratory as opposed to the earth.

Lab-created diamonds are lab-grown gems consisting of actual carbon atoms arranged in the characteristic diamond crystal structure found in natural diamonds. Diamond simulants, such as cubic zirconia and moissanite, are diamond look-alikes. They resemble the appearance and properties of natural diamonds but have different chemical structures. They are not genuine carbon crystals; they merely imitate the appearance of a diamond.

A diamond simulant may be artificial, natural, or a combination. While their material properties are vastly different from natural or lab-grown diamonds, simulants have specific characteristics that lend themselves to imitation. By visual inspection, trained Gemologists can primarily distinguish natural and synthetic diamonds from diamond simulants.

ARE THE PROPERTIES OF LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS SIMILAR TO THOSE OF NATURAL DIAMONDS?

The properties of lab-grown diamonds are dependent upon the manufacturing process. Some lab-created diamonds have properties such as hardness, thermal conductivity, and electron mobility that are enhanced compared to those of many naturally formed diamonds. For this reason, synthetic diamonds are widely used in industrial processes such as in heat sinks, cutting and polishing tools, and abrasives.

Electronic applications of lab-grown diamonds are in development, and synthetic diamond detectors of ultraviolet (UV) light or high-energy particles are used at high-energy research facilities. Combining thermal and chemical stability, low thermal expansion, and high optical transparency in a wide spectral range, synthetic diamonds are quickly becoming the most popular material for optical windows in high-power CO2 lasers and gyrotrons. It is estimated that 98% of industrial-grade diamonds are now lab-grown.

ARE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS EXPENSIVE?

A lab-grown diamond is approximately 50%-70% cheaper than a naturally mined diamond of equivalent clarity, cut, color, and size.

While lab-created diamonds are becoming popular with those who have concerns regarding the ethical credentials of some aspects of diamond mining or are on a budget, for many, this price differential is not a great enough incentive to choose them over natural diamonds. This is particularly true for those purchasing an item of diamond jewelry as an investment.

ARE THERE ANY ADVANTAGES TO CHOOSING LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS?

If price is a factor in your choice of a gemstone, then one of the most significant advantages to buying a lab-grown diamond is that it is a less expensive option. In addition, lab-grown diamonds do not usually exhibit large and visible inclusions. Therefore, if it appeals that you can purchase a flawless, or nearly flawless lab-grown diamond at a lower price than for a flawless natural diamond, a lab-created gem is for you.

CAN I WEAR A LAB-GROWN DIAMOND AS MY ENGAGEMENT RING?

If you are ethically driven and are looking to combine quality, style, and price with your desire to protect the environment, then the option of a lab-grown engagement ring as a centerpiece is a great choice. Plus, you will not be sacrificing the look of what is possibly the most important piece of jewelry you will ever wear with a diamond engagement ring.

WHERE CAN I BUY THE BEST QUALITY LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS?

If you have now decided to buy the best quality lab-grown diamond, you would be well advised to buy your lab-created gem from a legitimate and respected diamond retailer. At Rêve Diamonds, we will provide you with certification that your choice of lab-grown diamond has been grown in the laboratory, exhibiting exactly the same composition as natural mined diamonds. Book your appointment today.

Lab Grown Man Made Diamond For Sale in New York US

Picture: Lab grown man made diamond for sale in New York US © Reve Diamonds

Amazing experience from start to finish. The private consultation provided by Ashley was truly unique and amazingly helpful. Communication from start to finish was constant and the end result was a beautiful ring that my fiance is going to love. So excited that we picked Reve and would recommend to anyone looking for a ring in NYC!!” Ben H

★★★★★

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