Updated: Apr 9, 2019
Lab grown diamonds, not cubic zirconia, not moissanite, not white sapphire, not glass or plastic (among the most common substitutes) have been around for years.
Lab-grown diamonds, commonly referred to as man-made or synthetic diamonds, have been in the works as early as the 1940’s. Due to their unique characteristics (thermal conductivity, hardness/use as an abrasive, optical transparency, and high electrical resistance) diamonds were initially manufactured for industrial applications.
It’s widely accepted that the largest breakthrough occurred when GE created its first batch of lab-grown industrial diamonds in December 1954 and announced the creation of the first man-made diamond in February of 1955. Gem quality lab-grown diamonds have been commercially available since the late 1980’s. Not until recently, did their quality and price in terms of the 4 C’s (Color, Clarity, Cut, & Carat Weight) improve. Lab-grown diamonds exhibit the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as a diamond, because they are a diamond. The process takes about 25-35 days from start to finish, starting with a "diamond seed", which is a piece of a natural diamond crystal. When referring to color and clarity of diamonds, the color of the "seed" does not affect the finished product's color, but the clarity does. If there are any inclusions in the "seed crystal" they can crack or break, which prevents the diamond crystal from growing. These diamond seeds are put in a "growth cell" which holds between 16 and 24 seeds. Then, using the CVD method (Chemical vapor deposition) the lab grown diamonds begin to grow from the seed. About a month later, the results are revealed. Some batches are better than others, just like in nature. Within narrow limits the lab grown crystals are chemically, physically and optically identical to natural diamond crystals. They are sent to cutters, like natural diamonds are and those that don't pass the cut become industrial diamonds. Today, the lab grown diamond market make up 1-2% of the diamond jewelry industry. Technologies for the production of lab grown diamonds have become much cheaper, enabling lab grown diamonds to increasingly penetrate the market, and this is set to continue in the coming years. This is a key reason why diamond provenance and traceability technologies are fast becoming a critical part of the diamond pipeline. Full disclosure of lab grown and natural diamonds origins are always of primary importance when purchasing your jewelry. Today’s diamond consumers must have access to the complete story of the diamond’s origins and history. It is the duty of the jewelers and their suppliers to provide transparency. Consumers want verifiable assurance that the diamond is ethically sourced, and that their purchase does not go towards financing exploitative practices on people or the environment. It can be a mixed bag of opinion. Natural verses lab grown. Each person will have to weigh what is important to them when making that jewelry purchase. Remember, in the end, the result should be a piece of jewelry that is enjoyed, and worn with pride, for the reasons that are important to each individual. Here, at b. shannon designs, there has not been the requests for lab grown diamonds. My customers have opted for the natural diamond, but who knows what the future will hold.