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lab grown diamonds

The difference between a natural diamond and a lab grown diamond

In the market today there are two types of of diamonds available, natural and lab grown. Each are classified as a diamond, however how they are created is very different. To the naked eye it is impossible to be able to tell the difference between the two, even to a trained eye the differences are very hard to see.

It takes specialised equipment for jewellers and gemologist to be able to identify a natural from a lab grown. Here we explore the different ways in which each type of diamond is created and how the new addition will change the face of the diamond market.

Natural diamond

A natural diamond is created by mother nature. When carbon atoms become trapped in the earths centre and are exposed to extreme temperatures and pressures over millions of years, it forms a rough diamond. It then requires extensive surveying, exploration, drilling and mining to be able to extract the rough cut diamonds from the earth for polishing and cutting.

Lab grown diamond

For lab grown diamonds there are two types, HPHT (high pressure high temperatures) and CVD, (chemical vapour deposition).

High pressure high temperatures

HPHT diamonds replicates the earths atmosphere in a chamber, a synthetic diamond seed is planted in a press and the chambers begins to heat to 1300 – 1600 degree celsius added with 870,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to the seed. This process then forces the carbon atoms to precipitate on the small diamond seed, where a diamond begins to form.

This process can take a matter of weeks to complete. Once completed, the rough diamond is then polished and cut into the faceted stones used in jewellery. The CVD process is slightly similar to that of HPHT.

diamond process HPHT

Image courtesy of GIA

 

Chemical vapor deposition

A CVD diamond is created in a chamber where it is filled with gas containing carbon and heated to 900 -1200C. Next a microwave beams are beamed into the chamber causing the carbon gas to precipitate, which creates a seed crystal. Every few days the seed crystal is removed from the chamber and the top layer of non-diamond carbon is taken off to encourage more growth.

Image courtesy of GIA

This process is repeated multiple times over 3 – 4 weeks of the growing cycle. Once it has reached is final stage, the rough lab grown diamond is removed from the chamber, then and taken to be polished and cut. This process can leave the diamonds with a brownish colour, however after being heat treated their colour changes to white.

Which is better?

The technology used to create the lab grown diamonds continues to evolve and innovate each year. With the world moving away from fossil fuels and seeking more renewable and sustainable energy lab grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular. Each Lab grown diamonds still as strong as a natural diamonds. They are also graded in the same manner using the 4 c’s, cut, clarity, colour and carat weight.

These diamonds have become increasingly popularity with celebrities like Meghan Markle and Bindi Irwin, who have chosen lab grown diamond jewellery over natural diamonds, increasing the demand and reducing the stigma of owning a lab grown diamond. Another huge advantage for lab growns is the price. The overheads for a natural diamond to be extracted out of the ground and then processed into a piece of jewellery is significantly higher than that of a lab growns. With the difference between them to be as much as 50% per carat, making lab grown diamonds easier on the wallet.

For the natural diamonds, it is knowing that you have a one of a kind diamond. Like many who prefer an authentic real Pablo Picasso painting, a replica won’t suffice. A natural diamond is a unique, special and beautiful creation from our earth, and the desire to have such a rare stone in an engagement ring is still paramount among buyers today.

Each year around 2.3 billion carats are mined from our earth, with scientist predicting there only 20 more years of supply left, after which there will be no more natural diamonds left, making a natural diamonds priceless.

The way of the future

From a jewellery perspective, both are excellent choices to use. Some of the lab grown diamonds we have seen rival their natural counterparts. For some clients, it is choosing a smaller natural diamond over a lab grown because of its origin. While others may opt for a larger lab grown stone due to price. It all comes down to price and personal choice, but you can be assured which ever you choose, you can expect to have a stunning piece of jewellery.