In the event that you've ever told your partner that their eyes "shine like diamonds," then you should be aware that the phrase has a whole new meaning! While saying that someone's eyes "sparkle like lab-grown diamonds" doesn't quite have the same effect, these synthetic gems have become increasingly popular in jewelry during the last few years—twinkling proudly in engagement jewelry and everyday items alike. But what exactly are lab-grown diamonds? What are the benefits of sourcing them for your next ring? Let's explore!
To recap some information from 8th-grade science class, diamonds are created by pockets of extreme pressure and temperature deep inside the earth's mantle. Contrary to popular belief, diamonds aren't actually made from coal—they're made from pockets of pure carbon. When properly heated and compressed, the atoms inside these chunks of carbon bond together extremely tightly, eventually crystalizing into diamonds!
It's worth noting that most of the diamonds created by this method are between 1-3 billion years old! Over time, these subterranean diamonds were pulled to the earth's surface by seismic activity, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Simply put, synthetic diamonds allow jewelers to experience that process, although they skip a few steps. Custom ordering a ring and then having to wait 1.5 billion years for a complex cascade of underground volcanic activity seems like it can make scheduling your actual wedding a bit of a pain. Thankfully, acquiring jewelry made with synthetic diamonds doesn't take that long–many lab-grown diamonds can be made in under a week!
There are two ways to make these lab-grown diamonds. In the first—called HPHT (or High Pressure, High Temperature)—chemists place a small diamond "seed" in a chunk of pure carbon, which is then locked into a tight press inside a larger structure that's effectively an oven. Unlike your household oven, however, this one heats to more than 2500° Fahrenheit, all the while placing the carbon under 1.5 million pounds of pressure! These circumstances mimic the conditions that naturally create diamonds, and the makers have a firm amount of control over each step of the process.
Another process, known as Chemical Vapor Deposition (or CVD) has grown increasingly popular in recent years. This method effectively lets manufacturers 3D print diamonds by placing small diamond seed crystals in sealed chambers with several special gasses. By blasting these gasses with a series of lasers, they ionize into plasma, which causes their carbon contents to adhere to the diamond seed and grow into a full-sized diamond. As this method is cheaper and produces higher-quality diamonds, it's quickly becoming the lead source of lab-grown diamonds.
Synthetic, or lab-grown, diamonds can have a bit of a misleading name. Upon inspection, these diamonds are functionally identical to ones that came about the "natural way." In fact, you'd have to be an expert jeweler to spot the differences between a lab-grown diamond and a "natural" one, and none of these differences have any bearing on the diamond's purity, strength, or appearance.
Given how much easier it is to create diamonds in a lab versus mining them, these lab-grown diamonds are increasingly popular among ecologically and ethically minded couples. Lab-grown diamonds consume roughly 15% of the water required to mine comparably sized gems and approximately half the electricity. Another big advantage is that they only generate about 5% of the carbon emissions of mined diamonds and don't generate any sulfur oxide in the process.
If you've been looking for engagement rings or just want to make some adjustments to your current jewelry lineup, then lab-grown diamonds can be a good place to start. Not only do these diamonds come with a significantly friendly carbon footprint, they often come with lower price tags as well! Given the strides that we've seen in technology in recent years, it's a fair assumption that lab-grown diamonds will continue to get more accessible and more affordable in the near future. Who knows? In the next decade, all of your jewelry might be lab-grown!