9 Things We Learned About Lab-Grown Diamonds

Image courtesy of Pure Grown

Sellers of synthetic diamonds don’t like when you use that word, but that is what they are: the stones are 100% real diamonds, but are created from carbon, heat, and pressure in a lab instead of deep underground. Now labs all over the world are growing their own diamonds, which could be excellent for lovers of shiny objects, and a potential disaster for the diamond industry.

We learned all of this from a great feature on the site Racked, which talks about the past, present, and future of lab-grown diamonds.

  1. The first human-made diamonds for sale were made by General Electric in the late 1950s. They made them the same way that nature does: by putting carbon under extreme heat and pressure. It’s just the heat was added in the lab, and the pressure came from a hydraulic press.
  2. For decades, lab-grown diamonds were brown and only used for industrial purposes. That’s not a bad thing, and is pretty great if you’re in the drill bit or saw blade business: it’s easier to create diamonds with the right size for what you plan to use it for than to wait around for diamond mine scraps in the right size.
  3. Yellow synthetic diamonds and pink-dyed diamonds hit the market in the middle of the last decade, but weren’t really a hit. Sure, they were inexpensive and chemically speaking they were diamonds, but people want clear diamonds.
  4. Clear lab-grown diamonds were finally perfected at the beginning of this decade, with a very high quality (IIa) colorless stone produced in 2012.
  5. The current method that one lab, IIa Industries, uses to create stones is an advanced version of a process created by scientists for Union Carbide. That company never marketed or patented their lab-created diamonds. Called CVD, or chemical vapor deposition, the process uses carbon gas in a heated chamber building crystals on a diamond seed.
  6. Jewelry shoppers pay up to 40% less for lab-grown stones, and don’t have to worry about the environmental effects of mining, the exploitation of miners, or their stone being smuggled out of a conflict zone.
  7. A California company called Diamond Foundry says that they’ve cut the time needed to grow a diamond down to only two weeks. Other companies take six to ten weeks. Investors include Silicon Valley bigwigs, and Blood Diamond star Leonardo DiCaprio.
  8. Even De Beers, the company that had a near-monopoly on diamonds for most of the 20th century, now owns a synthetic diamond company, Element Six.
  9. Swarovski has a line of jewelry that uses lab-grown diamonds, but they’re marketing the brand, Diama, in stealth mode, not mentioning its connection to Swarovski or selling the brand in its own stores. They’re marketed to “fashion-aware, self-purchasing” women.

For more on lab-grown diamonds, including the scandal of natural and lab-grown stones mixed together, why the word “synthetic” is so controversial, and one industry insider’s war on the stones, check out the whole piece at Racked.

A Lab-Grown Diamond Is Forever [Racked]