Diamonds that are created in a lab have been growing in popularity because they are chemically and atomically identical to earth-mined diamonds.

For over a century, people have been experimenting with different types of technology used to grow diamonds; it has only been in the last decade scientists have been able to perfect gem-quality diamonds in a modern-day lab.

Though lab-grown diamonds are a new trend, more people seem to be interested in wearing them because they are responsibly sourced while maintaining the identical properties of mined diamonds.

At a drab office park in a Washington suburb, in an unmarked building’s windowless lab, Yarden Tsach is growing diamonds.

Not rhinestones or cubic zirconia. Diamonds. Real ones. In a matter of eight weeks, inside a gas-filled chamber, he replicates a process that usually takes billions of years in the bowels of the planet. No outsiders get to witness this genesis, though. WD Lab Grown Diamonds, where Tsach is chief technology officer, guards its approach as zealously as its address.

Scientists have been creating diamonds since the 1950s, mimicking the conditions deep within the Earth by heating carbon to extreme temperatures while squeezing it in a hydraulic press. But it took them several decades more to cultivate large gem-quality stones.

WDLG Diamond relies on a technique developed by scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science. It starts with a tiny sliver of diamond that acts as a substrate on which the new stone can grow. This “seed” is placed inside an airless chamber, which is pumped full of hydrogen and methane that become a plasma, a hot, ionized gas. The now highly charged carbon atoms from the methane are attracted to the seed at the bottom of the chamber and begin to forge the super-strong bonds that characterize a diamond. As each new atom is added, it hews to the diamond’s lattice structure, falling into place like a piece of a puzzle.

When a stone reaches a certain size, Tsach’s team puts it in a second chamber and zaps it with a laser to excise the seed diamond and condition the new gem’s surface. What emerges from this process is small and square, about the size of a thumb nail. It’s dark from the thin film of graphite (the other form of pure carbon) produced by the laser-cutting process. It’s also distinctly unimpressive.

Then off it goes, to be cut by a commercial polisher. Tsach chooses a pattern using special software that helps him maximize the number of gems the company can get from the stone while avoiding any of its imperfections.

The last stop is the International Gemological Institute, where the gem is graded and certified. Per federal regulation, it’s also inscribed with “Laboratory grown in the USA” and a serial number to distinguish it from a mined diamond. The label is microscopically small, but growers wish they could ditch the clinical-sounding term.

Sales of lab-grown stones make up about 1 percent of the global commercial diamond market, but a 2016 report from investment firm Morgan Stanley suggested that proportion could jump to 7.5 percent by the end of the decade.

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Article Source: Washington Post