LAB GROWN DIAMONDS
What are lab grown diamonds?
The main thing that distinguishes a diamond that is lab-grown from a mined diamond is its origin. Lab-grown diamonds – also known as cultivated, man-made or lab-created diamonds – are increasingly popular.
According to the Bain 2022 Diamond Report, “The [lab-grown diamond] segment saw continued demand growth and price decreases relative to mined diamonds [...].” This is primarily driven by younger consumers who consider environmental, ethical and price-related factors when buying engagement and wedding rings. For this reason, CARAT* LONDON’s lab-grown diamond engagement rings are also our most popular lab-grown diamond product category.
Are lab grown diamonds real diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are physically, chemically and optically identical to mined diamonds. That is why leading independent diamond certification and assurance institutes, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and International Gemological Institute (IGI), also issue certificates for lab-grown diamonds. The International Gemological Institute states that "Laboratory Grown diamonds, also referred to as "man-made”, "created" or "synthetic" diamonds, are diamonds grown in a laboratory, as opposed to mined diamonds, which are mined directly from the Earth." (IGI).
At CARAT LONDON*, we provide a certificate of authenticity with every purchase of a GENTLE DIAMONDS lab-grown diamond that exceeds 0.3 carats in size.
Why lab grown diamonds?
You may wonder why you should consider a diamond grown above ground over one extracted from a mine.
There are three reasons why lab-grown diamonds are the better choice:
1. Physically, there is no difference. Lab-grown diamonds are the real deal.
2. Lab-made diamonds are more affordable than mined diamonds – so not only will you get identical quality but you will also generally pay a lot less.
3. There is nothing 'natural' about mining.
Diamond mining has furthered economic disparities, caused great environmental destruction and contributed to armed conflicts and wars in West Africa. You may recall the 2006 movie "Blood Diamond" starring Leonardo DiCaprio; the movie revolves around fictional characters but is based on events during the Sierra Leone Civil War, which lasted for eleven years.
How Exactly are Lab-Created Diamonds Grown?
Lab-created diamonds are, in fact, physically no different than mined diamonds. Yet the latter is mined from the Earth and the former is engineered by humans. Let’s dive into how both are created.
Mined diamonds are all formed from carbon exposed to extreme heat (most likely exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius) and tremendous pressures of more than 720,000 pounds per square inch. These conditions prevail at around 90 miles beneath the surface level. Tectonic movement and volcanic activity transported diamonds closer to the Earth's surface, where they can be mined.
With that explanation of how mined diamonds are formed, we can compare the process of creating laboratory-grown diamonds. GENTLE DIAMONDS’ method of creating pure and more sustainable lab-grown diamonds is far more efficient. We employ two ways to grow our diamonds: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).
The High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) process describes a scientific procedure in which a diamond seed is placed into a cylindrical confinement chamber that is surrounded by a heating apparatus. The cube is then subjected to extreme pressures of up to 70,000 atmospheres and a temperature of around 1280 degrees Celsius. Under these conditions, the diamond seed grows into the desired size. This heat and pressure treatment is permanent and can be calibrated to achieve the desired level of clarity and colouring. HPHT mimics the conditions under which mined diamonds mature, and as a result, the diamonds engineered via this method are chemically and physically identical to mined diamonds.
The term "Chemical vapour deposition” (CVD) or "Carbon Vapour Deposition" is used to describe the process of transforming carbon-rich gas that is in a vapour phase into a solid state material. When using CVD to grow diamonds, a thin slice of diamond (the seed) is inserted into a sealed container and subjected to high temperatures (800-1,000 degrees Celsius). This seed is then exposed to a carbon-rich gas mixture.
Due to the extreme heat, the gases turn into a plasma-like state and become ionised. This procedure breaks down the molecular bonds of the gases and leads to carbon build-up. The carbon forms an atomic bond with the seed, and as a result, the seed diamond grows layer by layer until it achieves the desired size. It’s easier to imagine if you think of how snowflakes fall on a garden table in a snowstorm.
Why are GENTLE DIAMONDS lab-grown diamonds less expensive than most mined diamonds?
Lab-created diamonds have the same molecular and atomic makeup as the mined kind, yet they are typically less expensive than mined diamonds. GENTLE DIAMONDS cost 50 to 80% less than jewellery made from mined diamonds of comparable size, clarity and colour.
However, our lab-created diamonds are certainly not "cheap". The capital investment required and the complex manufacturing process make growing man-made diamonds a costly endeavour. In addition, the costs for cutting, polishing, inspecting, and certifying lab-grown diamonds match those of mined diamonds, as these processes are identical.
So how is it that lab-created diamonds are still less expensive than mined ones? The main answer to this question is the much shorter supply chain. Due diligence expert Kroll estimates, "From diamond mine to customer, each stone passes through thousands of hands and crosses countless borders before reaching the consumer." This often results in economic imbalances, and also, every time a mined diamond passes hands, costs increase. The University of Bath points out that in the case of Sierra Leone, "Diamonds are clearly linked to [the country's] underdevelopment". Not only are GENTLE DIAMONDS 100% conflict-free and the more ethical choice, but they also pass through a less lengthy supply chain and are thus more affordable.
Are GENTLE DIAMONDS lab-made diamonds more sustainable?
Lab-grown diamonds are not harvested from mines, so the ethical and environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds cannot be compared to that of mined diamonds. Whilst the Kimberley Process (KP) has reduced the flow of mined conflict diamonds, opting for a lab-grown diamond eliminates the risk of purchasing a stone of questionable origin altogether.
Indeed, GENTLE DIAMONDS lab-grown diamonds have a smaller environmental footprint than mined diamonds and are 100% conflict-free. According to Frost & Sullivan, "growing diamonds cause[s] significantly less environmental impact as compared to mining diamonds. There are several aspects of environmental impact such as air pollution, water usage, energy usage, etc."
Our mission for 20 years has been to help the world transition to more sustainable gemstones – and we hope you will join us on this journey by choosing lab-grown diamonds and gemstones, a vote for a more sustainable future.