by Amber Zhai
Diamonds, which are formed over the course of millennia in the Earth’s mantle in the perfect conditions of temperature and pressure, have long captivated people’s hearts and imaginations. The popularity of diamonds has steadily risen since the 19th century, and they have always retained both financial and sentimental value for their possessors.
So, can laboratory-grown diamonds compare to the real thing?
For all practical purposes, yes. The man-made diamond is virtually indistinguishable from the natural diamond—they have the same chemical composition, crystal structure, and optical properties. In fact, even the most veteran diamond dealer wouldn’t be able to tell them apart without special equipment.
The current leader in the laboratory-grown diamond industry, Gemesis, uses two processes predominant in man-made diamond production: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT). In both processes, carbon atoms are layered on top of an initial diamond “seed,” allowing scientists to streamline the natural geological process from billions of years to mere months. Growing diamonds in a lab is actually beneficial to the environment and gets rid of the “blood diamonds” stigma that has been attached to the traditionally mined stones.
Man-Made Diamonds in the Market
However, considering the sentimentalism that has always been associated with the diamond market, the thought of an engagement ring produced in a lab can seem pretty unromantic to some consumers. Diamonds are also marketed for their rarity, and for some, part of the diamond’s allure lies in its long, drawn-out cultivation in the Earth.
Still, there is a growing demand for man-made diamonds in the market, especially in the semiconductor industry. According to the International Diamond Council, flawless, clean, synthetic diamonds play a key role in industrial applications such as mining, construction, and electronics. Also, other consumers might care less about sentimentalism in the face of the fact that lab-grown diamonds usually retail for about 20 to 30 percent less than mined diamonds.
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