The irresistible rise of laboratory diamonds. That’s why synthetic diamonds like more and more for those who buy jewelry ♦ ︎
Would you like to buy a ring with a large 1 carat diamond and pay for it half? Or even 90% less? And what if the diamond had not been mined in some Russian or African mine, but produced by a factory?
It is the dilemma to which you will increasingly be confronted. Synthetic diamonds, which companies pudically call diamonds grown in the laboratory or even “off the ground” are now an increasingly common reality. According to the data collected by the Earther website https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351 the sector analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates that by the end of 2019 this stones will be 2-3 % of the market. A percentage destined to increase. By now synthetic diamonds, ops, laboratory-grown diamonds are a widespread industry, especially in China where about half of those in circulation are produced, but mostly used for industrial purposes. This year, according to analysts, some factories will move from 100,000 high-quality diamonds to 1-2 million.
Production is also flourishing in the West, where even the largest real diamond industry, De Beers, has started producing artificial stones. And the International Grown Diamond Association (Igda), an association founded in 2016 by a dozen companies active in the sector, now has about 50 members. According to the association, the diamonds obtained in the laboratory are about 1% of a market of rough diamonds, extracted from the earth, of 14 billion dollars. There are two reasons for this growth: technology allows prices to be lowered and diamonds to be difficult to distinguish from natural ones. To understand if a diamond is real or artificial, in fact, equipment is needed that only a few gemology centers have available. If the stone is not guaranteed (assuming traceability works) a jeweler cannot distinguish a natural diamond from a factory-made diamond.
How they are produced
Not all artificial diamonds are the same. The more traditional system, introduced half a century ago, plans to recreate the same conditions with which diamonds were formed in the bowels of the earth. That is, through enormous pressure and an equally exceptional temperature. This method is called HPHT (high-pressure high-temperature). Diamonds are obtained from a carbon material, for example graphite like the one used for pencils. Graphite is placed in a gigantic mechanical press capable of 5-6 Gigapascal pressures and subjected to temperatures of about 1,600 degrees Celsius. In short, a great effort must be made. The alternative system is completely different: it is called CVD and works through chemical vapor deposition (Chemical vapor deposition). According to the engineers who developed it, it is a way of recreating the conditions of how diamonds could form in interstellar gas clouds, in space. In this case a gas generated from hydrocarbons, such as methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor next to hydrogen. The gases are then heated from 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius. This causes the breaking of the carbon atoms, which are then deposited on a substrate, generally a flat square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method.
How is it possible that engineering and chemistry produce stones similar to natural ones? And yet it is so. On the contrary, the lack of nitrogen in the diamonds produced with the CVD method gives, pears, an exceptional chemical purity. So much so that they are classified as type IIa, that is particularly pure, as only 2% of those found in nature. Among other things, while in the past artificial diamonds were only very small, today manufacturers can also create stones of considerable size, always with a high degree of purity. In the USA an artificial diamond of almost 7 carats was produced, but in Germany it has reached the point of producing a monster of 155 carats.
Years ago a laboratory diamond cost a little less than a natural one. Today it costs much less. Indeed, very much less. According to industry experts, a medium quality diamond grown in a laboratory now costs 40% less than a natural one. Two years ago the discount was only 18%. Furthermore, De Beers is also going to propose mass-produced diamonds grown in the laboratory, almost like Swarovski crystals, with a discount of almost 90% compared to natural diamonds.
The public appreciates
We can back to the starting question: would you like to have a diamond ring and pay for it half? Earther reveals that a survey conducted by Consumer Research conducted by MVI in 2018 found that most respondents would choose a larger diamond developed in the laboratory than a smaller natural stone, as long as they have the same price .
Are they really ecological?
One of the reasons that drive the growth of artificial diamonds lies, according to the manufacturers, in their sustainability, that is respecting the environment. But is it really so? It depends. Of course, compared to primitively mined diamonds, in mines that exploit local populations and that devastate the territory, or perhaps that are used to sustain wars, the impact of laboratories that produce synthetic diamonds is less. However, it must be added that where the mines are controlled and the mining activity is more modern, the work remains hard, but also necessary for the local populations. Countries like Botswana, which were among the poorest in the world, have today improved the average living conditions of the population thanks to the mining of precious stones. There are two sides of the coin, in short.
Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that a lot of energy is needed to produce laboratory diamonds. According to industry experts, the most efficient diamond factories using the HPHT method today use about up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production uses even more, 1,000 kWh per diamond carat produced. A study has estimated that laboratory diamonds produce about 511 kilograms of carbon emissions. According to the mining companies, to extract a natural diamond, between fuel consumption and electricity, it reaches only 160 kilograms of emissions. In short, according to the data of companies that extract diamonds (and therefore should be considered partisan), extracting a natural stone pollutes less than artificially producing it. Hard to say how reliable these data are, but you have to take note of what they say.