A Brief History of Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-Grown Diamonds: What Are They?

Lab-grown diamonds, sometimes referred to as synthetic diamonds, are produced, or “synthesised,” in labs, as the name suggests. You must comprehend the formation of natural diamonds before you can comprehend this method.

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Up to 150 miles below the surface of the Earth, carbon is squeezed at extraordinarily high temperatures and pressures to make natural diamonds. Under the same circumstances, but in a lab setting, scientists compress carbon at high temperatures and pressures until it crystallizes using a number of techniques to create synthetic diamonds.

The First Diamonds Grown in a Lab

In 1797, scientists discovered that diamonds are made entirely of carbon. The competition to produce the first synthetic diamond was sparked by this. Many made attempts to replicate the lab conditions required for diamond creation during the 19th century. Despite several reports of success, scientists were unable to repeat these trials.

In 1954, GE created the first synthetic diamonds that were scientifically verified as part of a project known as “Project Superpressure.” World War II delayed the progress on this project, which had started in the 1940s. Scientists have been experimenting with different techniques, pressures, and temperatures for years to create diamonds from carbon. They exposed tiny seed crystals to pressures of 100,000 atm and temperatures of 1,600º C (2,912º F) using a high-pressure belt press. To hasten the conversion of graphite to diamond, they dissolved graphite—an additional mineral composed entirely of carbon—in metals such as iron, nickel, and cobalt using this apparatus.

The scientists thought their experiment had succeeded when the resultant substance shattered their cutting instruments. Diamonds are known for their ability to scratch and break metal instruments, with a Mohs hardness of 10. Later on, they admitted that they had really created diamonds. This finding was credited to a group of scientists that included Howard Tracy Hall and Herbert Strong.

The First Lab-Made, Gem-Quality Diamonds

The GE diamonds that were created using this method were far too tiny to be used as gems. Rather, they were put to industrial use. However, this finding made it possible for GE to produce crystals of gem grade in 1971. In their method, a graphite seed was placed in the center of a tube then heated and compressed until it developed into a diamond.

The cost of producing these stones at such high temperatures and pressures was too great to make them commercially competitive with natural diamonds, despite being an amazing discovery. Moreover, these initial man-made diamonds of gem quality were frequently yellow and had a large number of imperfections. By the color and clarity requirements for white or colorless diamonds, such stones would not be awarded high grades.

Studies showed that the yellow hue of the jewels was due to an overabundance of nitrogen. Colorless diamonds are produced by making a few further changes. Scientists in the US, Russia, and China were able to produce lab-created diamonds that might surpass real diamonds in carat (size), color, and clarity in a matter of decades through their study. These jewels entered the diamond market gradually.

Contemporary Techniques

The technology that GE originally invented is known as high pressure/high temperature (HPHT). This process replicates the subterranean conditions that produce diamonds. Replicating such circumstances, however, is costly and difficult. (In 1999, GE created an HPHT treatment to enhance white diamond hue).

Chemical vapor deposition is the method used today to create the majority of lab-grown diamonds (CVD). With this process, a diamond seed is heated in a chamber by carbon gas, which causes the carbon to adhere to the seed and develop into a bigger diamond. Large, gem-quality diamonds may be produced thanks to CVD, which also allows scientists more control over the characteristics of lab-grown diamonds. Additionally, CVD may occur at lower temperatures and pressures, which significantly reduces the process’ cost.

In the 1950s, the first CVD patent was granted. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that scientists improved the procedure to the point where gem-quality diamonds could be produced. Due to the fact that this technology could only handle one seed at a time, it took much longer to become economically viable. This was probably hundreds of dollars per stone, so it was really expensive.

Still, the price of the technology has decreased. Industry analysts have stated that the cost per stone to make a lab-grown diamond in 2008 was $4,000. Since several seed diamonds may undergo CVD at once, the price per stone is currently between $200 and $300, and it is decreasing annually. (The precise figure is said to be a trade secret and is not known).

Modifying the Diamond Sector

The annual demand for lab-grown diamonds rises significantly. Synthetic diamonds are an attractive substitute for mined diamonds because they are 30–40% less expensive than real diamonds and because consumers are becoming more concerned about ethical diamond sourcing.

Lab-grown diamonds are ethically sourced and have amazing looks at a lesser cost. The diamond industry is feeling the effects of this. To keep up with this growing demand, even the biggest diamond mining business in the world, De Beers, launched a brand of lab-grown diamonds called Lightbox.

Synthetic diamonds are particularly attractive to younger consumers, and not simply because they are less expensive. These customers are more conscious of the potential moral and environmental issues associated with diamond mining.

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