Lab grown diamonds are, as they say, “diamonds that are grown in a lab,” although they are more like huge, massive factories with huge metal vats in them and lots of pipes coming out from them than actual ‘laboratories’.
In this article, I look at the processes involved in manufacturing lab-grown diamonds and discuss why they aren’t a magical “green and ethical solution” and also why they will never match the beauty and clarity of natural diamonds that are millions of years in the making.
Lab Grown Diamonds – How they are made
There are two ways that these diamonds are grown one is called the HPHT process (high pressure, high temperature), and the other way is by CVD or chemical vapour deposition.
Now I am not going to go into the details about how each process works as you can read all about it yourself if you are interested in the manufacturing, but basically, both ways require constant energy 24/7, and it is like running huge microwave heat generators all day and night in order to grow each diamond …how much energy does this all take ….well nobody knows exactly as it is not all very clear and there are not enough regulated and analysed energy reports in order to know exactly how much energy is used or wasted in making these diamonds.
Some companies will claim to use ‘very little energy’, but they won’t or can’t show effectively what they have used, so I am not convinced by any of them. The bottom line is that most of these companies are out to make money and a profit, and I am not sure how many really want to ‘save the planet’!
The Environmental Impact of lab grown diamonds
I cannot say if they are any better or use any less energy than, say, mining for a natural diamond when we don’t have clear statistics to judge them against …, and I don’t think we will ever have in the future.
I believe that it takes about 250 kilowatt-hours of electricity to grow a one-carat diamond, so that is about the same amount of electricity that could power the average US household for 9 full days… so that seems like a lot of electricity to me in order to make one lab diamond! So, I really don’t see what is so” ethical’ about that?
Approximately 10 million of these diamonds were grown last year alone, and production is only going to increase year on year, so that’s an awful lot of electricity that has to be generated somewhere and somehow …right?
Lab diamonds vs. “Real” diamonds – What are the differences?
We have been told that ‘lab grown diamonds’ are the ‘same ‘as natural diamonds in every way, but unfortunately, as a gemmologist, I don’t think they are and don’t know how they could be? They may have the same hardness and colour as a ‘natural’ diamond, but personally, I cannot see how they can have the same atomic structure as a natural diamond that has taken thousands of years to grow and form in the ground compared to something that has grown in a vat in one week, and I am not the only person who thinks like that.
I recently put this question about the atoms to one of the biggest lab grown diamond companies in the world and this was their reply to me …. “This is an excellent question. Although the rate of formation is slower for a natural diamond compared to a lab grown one , the process deep below the earth’s surface does not take millions of years . The growth of the diamond itself only takes months (not sure I agree with that )to several years to form and then millions of years to slowly make its way to the surface . Through the use of chemistry we are able to speed up this process in a lab so that our engineers can achieve the same results in weeks”. Well I then asked them a number of times ….what was the chemistry or chemicals that was used to speed up the process …..but no one would reply to me ! So how is something you have to use a lot of chemistry and chemicals on the same as something that is grown in nature I ask myself ?
Now we have been told that they are invincible, like a natural diamond, but I am sorry to say that they have not been out long enough for ANYONE to say that they will last the same length of time as a ‘natural diamond ‘so if you are planning on buying one I would bear this in mind …..we don’t know how long they will last ….no one knows how long they will last … the way atoms are formed together has a major bearing on how long they will actually last and we just don’t know at this point.
The value of lab grown diamonds
Now, as so many lab-grown diamonds are being grown every year, the price of these diamonds is going to drop dramatically, and they will become worthless in the near future as more and more factories open up in China and India and pour them out by the millions so they will never hold their value.
Lab created diamonds VS Mined
As regards being ‘ethical’…I really don’t see anything ‘ethical’ about taking jobs away from miners who rely on mining to make a living in many poor areas of the world. Some areas of the world have nothing else going on in them apart from mining, and with the introduction of the Kimberley Process many years ago, the diamond industry has ‘cleaned up its act ‘and is a much fairer industry now with stringent rules and obligations to its workers. Of course, there will always be the few ‘blood diamonds ‘as conflict carries on in some parts of the world but growing ‘Lab diamonds’ is not the answer to that.
The problem now is that the whole of the jeweller industry is going to become very murky with lab diamonds being sold as ‘natural ‘diamonds and false certificates being issued here, there and everywhere, making buying diamonds ‘a bit of a nightmare’. I have already had customers into me with items to be valued that they thought were ‘natural diamonds ‘but turned out to be ‘lab grown ‘diamonds worth a fraction of what they had paid for them, and this is only the start of it …so you need to be very careful about where you buy your diamonds.
So, I guess by now, you have gathered that I do not like ‘lab grown’ diamonds and think that they are going to be a scourge to the jeweller industry. They are NOT the same as a beautiful piece of black carbon that has turned into this magical white light over thousands of years of natural pressure and care by mother nature deep in the grounds below us ……no comparison, so I wish that this all comes out someday.
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