Greetings, AIDIA followers!
I thought I’d spend my first few blog posts telling you a little about lab-grown diamonds, since they adorn every piece of jewelry that we at AIDIA make. My interest in them has greatly evolved over the years, as I transitioned from selling mined diamonds to lab-grown ones.
I was originally fascinated by diamonds because it seemed incredible to me that such a gem could form from a base of plain old carbon, one of the most abundant elements in the earth and in all living systems. Carbon is the basic building block for most cells in the body and it makes up 18% of us! It’s in our fossil fuels, our wood, our cotton, our pencils, and our batteries. And pretty much everything else.
But it’s carbon in the Earth’s crust, about 90 miles below the surface, where the magic of a diamond can form. I say “can” because a whole bunch of conditions must be right for diamonds to form from their base of carbon. Extremely high temperatures and high pressure have to exist, and the location must be stable.
That critical temperature-pressure environment for diamond formation is how the first lab-grown diamonds were formed. Scientists figured out how to create those conditions in a laboratory setting, to grow a new diamond out of a diamond seed, and voila, the hardest substance known to man – diamond – grew. These first stones were referred to as HPHT (high-pressure, high-temperature) diamonds. At first, such stones were used mostly in industrial processes, because they didn’t come out colorless. But their extreme hardness made them perfect for use as abrasives and in cutting and polishing tools. Today, there’s still a huge demand for HPHT-grown diamonds, which are now used in a variety of industrial applications and modern electronics.
AIDIA Fine Jewelers uses some HPHT lab-grown diamonds, but most of our diamonds are created by the other cutting edge technology, called CVD, or chemical vapor deposition. Our laboratories grow diamond crystals in a low-pressure environment. The process involves depositing a carbon vapor onto a diamond seed at the start. The carbon gases are energized using various processes, and a diamond crystal begins to grow. Just like in the HPHT process, this new growing technology uses a diamond seed. Only a diamond seed can “guide” carbon atoms and make them bond to each other to grow a diamond.
CVD machines and materials are still quite expensive, and both HPHT and CVD processes require significant investment in infrastructure, know-how, and expertise. This is why, according to some the world’s leading market research firms, like Morgan Stanley, Bain Capital and others, it will take years until growing diamonds will become an easy and inexpensive process.
The good news is that, unlike cubic zirconia and other cheap diamond fakes, lab-grown diamonds are a very high quality product. In fact, they’re identical to mined diamonds physically, chemically, optically, thermally, and visually, with the same hardness, durability, brilliance and sparkle, which is what makes them so great for engagement and wedding jewelry, as well as for diamond jewelry that you can pass on to your children. Yes, lab-grown diamonds are forever, too!
Along with the physical qualities of diamond that I described above, a lab-grown diamond also bestows many other benefits – which I’ll explain in future blog posts. Stay tuned.