When you visit a typical jewellery shop to buy a diamond, you may be asked if you want a lab-grown diamond or a natural one. What are lab-grown diamonds anyways, and what makes them unique?
What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?
From the name, a lab-grown diamond is a type of diamond grown in a lab rather than forming naturally from the earth. Usually, a lab-grown diamond forms when laboratory conditions mimic what happens under the earth's surface.
Diamonds form in the earth's crust when high pressure and heat works on pure carbon. The same procedure is used in the lab to crystallize carbon into diamonds.
Diamonds produced in the lab benefit from shorter production time, less ethical issues, and a shorter supply chain. Because of this, they are more affordable. Also, there are fewer risks of purchasing unauthentic or unethically sourced lab-grown diamonds.
About 10% of mined diamonds in the market are blood or unethically sourced diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds like the ones from Biron-gems.com, on the order hand, are simply taken from the lab, cut and polished to the required size.
Other than these market factors, lab-grown and natural diamonds are scientifically the same. While people may prefer natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are more perfectly produced than mined ones.
What Are the Two Main Types of Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are manufactured in the laboratory using two distinct methods. These are:
High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) Diamonds
HPHT diamonds are produced through an exact imitation of the natural diamond production process. When carbon is exposed to the right temperature and pressure, it crystallizes to form diamond.
Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) Diamonds
CVD is a cheaper method of manufacturing lab-grown diamonds. It requires lower pressure and temperature than HPHT and could occur in a shorter time.
To grow diamonds by CVD, carbon-rich gas is pumped into a vacuum chamber that contains a natural or HPHT diamond seed. At the right temperature, the gas breaks down, and the carbon settles down on the diamond seed. As it crystallizes, it forms a diamond that gets bigger and bigger with time.
How Long Does It Takes to Make a Lab-Grown Diamond?
In the laboratory, diamonds take about 6 to 10 weeks to grow fully. Some lab-grown diamonds may even be grown in two weeks!
Comparing the formation time of natural and lab-grown diamonds leaves us with a huge time difference. According to gem scientists, the diamonds we mine today began forming millions or billions of years ago.
The vast time difference is because diamonds in the earth don't form at a stretch. Temperature and pressure climb over time until carbon begins to melt, cool, and crystallize. Also, there may be huge pauses that occur for thousands of years before conditions become favourable again for the process to continue.
How Are Lab-Created Diamonds Graded?
Lab-grown diamonds are graded just like mined diamonds. The most important parameters for grading diamonds are the 4Cs: colour, clarity, cut, and carat. A diamond’s cut contributes to its already present radiance. The right cut can enhance your diamond’s radiance by getting it to disperse light from all angles.
A lab-grown diamond's clarity measures the number of inclusions or blemishes it contains. Lab-grown diamonds tend to have less visible and less occurring flaws than those in natural diamonds. When inclusions are present, clarity is affected, which dampens the radiance of a diamond. Diamonds with high inclusions are very dull in appearance and of little value.
Natural and lab-grown diamonds are classified into different grades based on their clarity. There are about nine different grades of diamond clarity which are further classified into four categories:
- VVS1 – VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included): These are very rare diamonds with inclusions that are hard to detect even with a 10x magnification
- VS1 – VS2 (Very Slightly Included): Lab-grown diamonds in this category have very minor inclusions. They cannot be seen with the naked eye and do not affect clarity
- SI1 – SI2 (Slightly Included): Inclusions in SI1 diamonds may not be seen without magnification. SI2 diamonds have inclusions that are quite visible, especially with larger carat sizes
- I1 – I3: Lab-grown diamonds with these grades have inclusions that are very visible and will disturb their clarity and brilliance
Although lab-grown diamonds are sometimes referred to by other names such as manufactured or factory diamonds, they are not fake or sub-standard diamonds. They are chemically the same as mined diamonds and have the same grading as their natural counterparts.
The process by which lab-grown diamonds are made is a fascinating one. It cuts down many rigors, is eco-friendly and ethically sourced, and about 40 to 50% more affordable.