Diamonds are one of the oldest and most valuable minerals on the planet. The diamond mining and trading market is in great demand… But many people simply cannot afford natural gemstones. Thanks to this, the so-called industry was born. laboratory diamonds – and Popular Mechanics magazine told everything you need to know about artificial stones.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
Diamonds are made of carbon: an element that is part of a huge variety of chemical compounds. In fact, it is one of the key factors of life on Earth; the entire field of organic chemistry is devoted to the study of carbon. And humanity has been using this element for thousands of years: coal, graphite and diamonds have unique properties that are noticeable even to the naked eye.
In the wild, diamonds are formed under enormous pressure over extremely long periods of time. However, modern technology allows scientists to simulate this process. Currently, two different methods are used to grow diamonds: chemical vapor deposition and HPTP – high pressure, high temperature. Both methods involve a diamond seed: a small shard of an element that is placed in a specific environment that stimulates growth by storing additional carbon. The seed can be a particle of both a natural and a laboratory diamond: theoretically, this means that all laboratory diamonds can to some extent be called natural.
HTHP is an older method and is more similar to the process of natural diamond formation. It is even used to bring out or neutralize the color of natural diamonds to increase value. The seed is placed in a heated chamber under high pressure, after which carbon and other molten elements are introduced into the chamber – fuel for the chemical reaction. Stones grown through HTHP grow in size by about a millimeter per day, reaching a carat in less than a month.
How do laboratory diamonds differ from natural ones?
The main difference between mine-mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds is the method used to shape them. Natural diamonds appeared billions of years ago and came to the surface of the Earth thanks to kimberlite volcanic eruptions. Every natural diamond is unique to one degree or another. Laboratory stones are much younger: their age is a maximum of 70 years, and most of them were grown in factories in the past 10 years.
Shades of laboratory diamonds
As research in this area yields new results, lab-grown diamonds may soon develop shades that cannot be found in nature. At the same time, there are colors of natural diamonds that cannot be recreated in the laboratory – at least for now. Colored stones appear due to the presence of various elements: the principle is approximately the same as when noble gases glow in special tubes. Of course, under high pressure, the shades of natural diamonds can be slightly changed, but they cannot be completely changed.
Can laboratory diamonds be called real?
There is no right answer to this question – it all depends on what you want to get. Lab-grown diamonds are 100% real in the sense that their quality is largely comparable to natural diamonds. They shine, they reflect light, and they are also one of the hardest materials on the planet. They can be passed down from generation to generation and made into excellent jewelry.
However, natural diamonds are distinguished by their rarity. Each of them was formed during a very specific period of history a billion (if not more) years ago, and the stones appeared due to a combination of circumstances that cannot be repeated. In addition, the supply of natural diamonds is limited – even if humanity has not yet found every single source.