Diamonds are a crystalline form of carbon that ranks among the hardest natural minerals ever known. However most people associate the word diamond with the finished product, namely the round brilliant cut which is the most famous cut used for diamonds. But the question remains: If you were to put a natural diamond and one created in a lab side by side, would you know which one is which? You certainly wouldn’t. They are virtually identical diamonds with the same chemical and physical composition. But there are some differences between them. Let’s look at them together and consider their advantages and disadvantages.
The origins and properties of natural diamonds
Natural diamonds are a very rare form of carbon that formed over a period of several million years under specific conditions where the temperature exceeded 2 400 °F and the pressure is over 77 tons per square centimeter, which corresponds to a depth of 60 to 120 miles below the Earth’s surface. But the exact time each diamond was formed cannot be determined. Some of them may have formed in a few days, some in a few weeks and others in millions of years. It all depends on any changes in temperature and pressure which may have interrupted their formation. However the absolute majority of diamonds found in mines were actually formed inside the Earth’s mantle, where the conditions are ideal for their formation. They were then brought to the Earth’s surface by seismic events, such as a strong volcanic eruption or an earthquake. The rarity of diamonds is compounded by the difficulty of how they are mined and their limited quantity. The demand for diamonds is therefore constantly increasing and so is their price, but the conditions in which diamonds are mined are a highly controversial issue. Due to the use of heavy machinery, diamond mining destroys the environment and, in some mines, there is also child labor, poor safety and the workers are paid very little. In addition, in Third World countries the profits from mined diamonds are also sometimes associated with financial support for civil wars and terrorism.
The origins and characteristics of laboratory diamonds
Lab grown diamonds have started a revolution in the diamond industry. They are laboratory or man-made diamonds that have the same visual, chemical and physical properties as mined diamonds.
Diamonds grown in a lab are created using two methods, both of which simulate the same process that occurs in nature. In the CVD (chemical vapor deposition) method, a small germ crystal is placed in a sealed chamber and a combination of carbon and hydrogen-rich gasses are then heated at high temperatures and broken down into their individual atomic components. Under intense heat and pressure, the carbon atoms then attach to the surface of the aforementioned germ crystal, forming a layer of pure crystalline diamond. This process is repeated several times, layer by layer, until a full diamond is formed. Another, but older method is the High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) method. This process is faster but the quality of the diamonds is lower.
Are lab-grown diamonds a better choice?
Lab grown diamonds have some advantages over mined diamonds. Not only are they cheaper (on average by 20-30%), but they also have a significantly lower environmental footprint, a very important consideration for some people who are environmentally minded.
Lab grown diamonds are therefore rightly considered an ethical alternative with sustainable practices when compared to mined diamonds. If you want to buy a diamond which has perfect clarity at a good price, a lab grown diamond is the ideal solution for you. The only downside, however, is the fact that people tend to expect that such diamonds will hold the same or even higher value than genuine diamonds over the long term. So, if you are thinking about where to invest your money for the long term, lab grown diamonds are probably not a good choice for you.