WHAT ARE LAB GROWN DIAMONDS?
Lab grown diamonds (also known as lab created diamonds, man made diamonds, engineered diamonds, and cultured diamonds) are grown in highly controlled laboratory environments using advanced technological processes that duplicate the conditions under which diamonds naturally develop when they form in the mantle, beneath the Earth’s crust. These lab created diamonds consist of actual carbon atoms arranged in the characteristic diamond crystal structure. Since they are made of the same material as natural diamonds, they exhibit the same optical and chemical properties.
A lab grown diamond has the exact same chemical, physical and optical features as a natural stone, just grown in a machine rather than the earth. Both are made of carbon and will test as a diamond...because they both are!
HOW ARE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS MADE?
Like earth-mined diamonds, lab created diamonds are made of carbon. Although they’re exactly the same optically, chemically and physically, they’re created very differently. While natural diamonds pulled from the earth are created over millions of years under intense heat and pressure, man made diamonds are grown fairly quickly in a lab from a single carbon seed. Using advanced technology—either CVD or High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)—the carbon seed slowly forms into a crystalline structure. No two diamonds turn out exactly the same, just as no two mined diamonds are the same. Each one differs immensely when graded on the 4C’s criteria: cut, color, clarity and carat. Simply put, lab grown diamonds are real diamonds.
There are a few methods used to create lab-grown diamonds. Typically, lab-grown diamonds start with a tiny lab diamond, like a seed. The seeds are placed in a chamber called a plasma reactor (in the case of CVD synthesis) or a large mechanical press (if manufactured by HPHT). Then, depending on the technology used, some combination of heat, pressure and a carbon source are used to make the crystals grow, layer by layer.
The CVD Method
CVD stands for chemical vapor deposition.Lab grown diamond seeds are loaded into a CVD reactor. Then, a mix of gasses containing carbon is added at a very low pressure. Microwave energy is used to heat the gases and generate a plasma. When the temperatures climb over several thousand degrees, the gas molecules break apart and carbon atoms bond to the seeds, growing them one layer at a time.
The HPHT Method
HPHT stands for high pressure high temperature.This method mimics the conditions under which diamonds naturally form. Large mechanical presses are used to apply extreme pressure and high temperature to carbon in the presence of a diamond seed. The seeds act as a template for a lattice of carbon to grow layer by layer over the course of a few days.
WHY CHOOSE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS?
There are several reasons why you might want to choose a lab-grown diamond for your engagement ring or next jewelry purchase. One of the strongest reasons is Lab Grown diamonds tend to be less expensive. Since there is no mining process, lab-grown diamonds are less expensive to produce even at higher graded qualities. That means that diamond distributors and retailers can sell Lab Grown diamonds for significantly less. Estimates show that many times you can purchase a Lab Grown diamond for up to 50% less or more than a minded diamond.
Lab Grown diamonds are ethically sourced. Buying a Lab Grown diamonds means that you can rest assured knowing you are not supporting unethical practices.
You may choose to buy a lab-grown diamond if you care about the environment, appreciate the latest advances in technology, or maybe a lab-grown diamond represents modern love to you.
WATER USAGE:A mined diamond consumes upwards of 126 gallons of water per carat, compared to the 18 gallons consumed by a carat of lab-grown diamonds. Mined diamonds also result in “constant discharge of wastewater and pollutants in surface water bodies,”according to a recent research study from Frost & Sullivan.
ENERGY USAGE:A mined diamond uses 538.5 million joules per carat, compared to the 250 million joules used by a carat of lab-grown diamonds.
CARBON EMISSIONS:A mined diamond produces upwards of 125 pounds of carbon per carat, compared to the 6 pounds of carbon emitted by a carat of lab-grown diamonds. That’s 4.8 percent of what mined diamonds produce.
SULPHUR OXIDE PRODUCTION:Mined diamonds produce upwards of 30 pounds of sulphur oxide, whereas a lab-created produces none at all.
The air emissions created by a single, one-carat mined diamond is 1.5 billion times higher than those produced by a lab-created diamond of the same carat weight.
LAND DISRUPTION:A mined diamond disturbs nearly 100 square feet of land per carat, compared to just 0.07 square feet of land distrubed by a carat of lab-created diamonds. Mining often strips the surrounding land and renders it unusable, even after diamond production has stopped. But according to Frost & Sullivan’s study, laboratories that produce lab-created diamonds “are often located in areas that have a negligible impact on the environment and have almost no impact on biodiversity in the area of operation.”
WASTE PRODUCTION:A mined diamond generates upwards of 5,798 pounds of mineral waste per carat, compared to only one pound produced by a carat of lab-created diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are also priced substantially lower than mined diamonds!
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAB GROWN DIAMONDS AND NATURAL DIAMONDS
While lab created diamonds and natural diamonds look exactly the same to the naked eye, there are certainly differences at the microscopic and molecular levels. These differences are hard to catch and usually require expensive equipment even for the most experienced gemologist.
Since they are grown differently, the types of inclusions they have are going to be different. HPHT diamonds mainly contain metal inclusions found in the growth solution. Fun Fact: lower clarity (SI2-I3) stones can be magnetic! CVD diamonds usually contain non-diamond carbon inclusions. Typically, it's hard for a trained gemologist to discern the different inclusion types though with just a microscope or loupe, especially in a higher clarity stone (VS2+).
Sometimes, when a diamond is exposed to UV light, after the source is taken away, it will glow a different color (usually blue or orange). This is called phosphorescence and it's actually really cool! Almost all HPHT grown diamonds will have some degree of phosphorescence and it is often used as a distinguishing feature between natural and lab stones. Some CVD stones will have it as well, especially if it was treated with HPHT for color, but it's less common. Currently, phosphorescence is not listed on the grading reports from GIA, IGI or GCAL.
Sometimes a lab grown diamond will have a blue tint to it. This is the result of trace amounts of the mineral boron (also what makes a blue diamond, blue) which is sometimes used in the growing chamber to remove excess nitrogen (what gives a diamond its yellow tint). It's very expensive and time-consuming to remove boron, so the growers will just leave it. The IGI will list 'faint blue' or 'blue nuance' (older reports) under the additional comments if there is a tint present in G or lower color graded diamonds. The GIA is currently not listing it on their reports.
If you are sensitive to color, you may be able to pick up on this slight blue tint. It's harder to see face up than from the side or bottom - which luckily is how the diamond is set in the ring. As you can see in the images, there is a slight difference when looking at the stones from the sides, but not as much from the top. Keep in mind, the blue tint is much less recognizable in person than it is in images because of the different backgrounds, lighting and cameras used.
HOW TO TELL IF A DIAMOND IS NATURAL OR LAB GROWN?
It’s nearly impossible for a consumer to tell the difference between natural and lab-created diamonds. In fact, even some jewelers can’t tell the difference without advanced testing.
The first is a Type IIa test, which identifies how pure the carbon is that makes up the diamond. There are four types of diamonds (Type Ia, Type Ib, Type IIa, or Type IIb), and Type IIa is the purest. Only 2% of natural diamonds are Type IIa, while almost all lab-grown diamonds are Type IIa. Therefore, if a diamond tests as Type IIa, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a lab-grown diamond. This test isn’t entirely conclusive, because some natural diamonds are Type IIa and some lab-grown diamonds aren’t, but it gives jewelers and consumers a pretty good idea.
The second test is a radiation test done by gem labs with specialized equipment. In this test, suspected lab-grown diamonds are subjected to tests that measure and record specific patterns of light absorbance across the visible and ultraviolet regions of the spectrum of light. Both HP/HT and CVD diamonds show specific patterns. Fluorescent colors and patterns can also indicate the difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds.
Because lab-grown diamonds are virtually indistinguishable from natural diamonds, some buyers might be concerned that they will be sold a lab-grown diamond that is labeled as a natural diamond, but this is almost never the case. Lab-created diamonds are responsibly disclosed as such and some even feature laser inscriptions on the diamond’s girdle, the outermost edge, that label them as lab-grown. Most diamonds from reputable jewelers are evaluated by the Gemological Institute of America and other independent gemological laboratories, and include a report to confirm whether they are natural or lab-grown.
Are lab grown diamonds real?
Created diamonds test as real because they're made of crystallized carbon, just as mined diamonds are. And just like minded diamonds, created diamonds are graded by independent gemological organizations on their cut, color, clarity and carat weight, also known as the 4C’s. Not all lab-grown diamonds are “perfect” . They will differ in color and quality, just as a mined diamond would. The process by which they are made differs from the natural one, but the result is chemically identical.Lab-grown diamonds are sometimes called “synthetic” diamonds. But that doesn’t mean they are fake. It just means they are manmade. They can be called “artificial diamonds,” “cultured diamonds,” or “cultivated diamonds.”
Is a Lab Grown Diamond Right for You?
Buying the perfect diamond for an engagement ring or piece of jewelry for someone you love is a personal process. Some buyers might not mind that their diamond is lab-grown, while others put great value on the natural diamond mining process. Either way, you want to find a diamond you love through a jeweler you can trust.
Diamond-making technology has made significant advances in the last few decades and today, buyers can find lab-grown diamonds that rival their natural counterparts at a lower price point. When deciding whether you should buy a natural diamond or a lab-created diamond, consider your own needs and preferences and consult a reputable jeweler like Tianyu gems for advice.
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