Getting a high-quality diamond through natural means can be difficult. Carbon needs to be compressed and heated to an incredible degree over millions of years – and there’s a great deal of luck involved, both in the formation of the diamonds themselves and the unearthing of them.
Nowadays, an alternative technique is being developed that’s showing enormous promise. Rather than waiting for diamonds to occur naturally, they’re being crafted in a lab. This eliminates many of the difficulties inherent in the traditional diamond business. A lab-cultivated diamond takes just a few weeks to create, rather than millions of years.
Diamond rings have become a virtual requirement for would-be bridegrooms, with the practice having been introduced around the turn of the 20th century by the De Beers Group. Now, the diamond industry seems poised to take another generational leap forward. So what’s the fuss about?
What techniques are used?
This is achieved through one of two techniques: High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). The former uses temperatures in excess of 1,500°C, and pressures in excess of a million psi, to persuade a lump of carbon into the consistency that we’d recognise as diamond. The latter takes a different approach, instead using special gases to produce the same reaction using clever chemistry.
What both methods have in common is the diamond seed – a tiny fragment of diamond which forms the core around which the rest of the diamond is formed.
Are Lab Diamonds as Valuable as Natural Ones?
The short answer is that lab-grown diamonds have next to no resale value. They’re produced in large numbers, with each product being identical to the ones around it. They’re therefore not as appealing to customers looking for a one-of-a-kind item.
With that said, we should remember that diamonds in general have an extremely poor resale value. If you buy a diamond engagement ring, then you shouldn’t expect to be able to sell it on if things don’t work out. Given that this is a scenario that most new couples don’t imagine themselves dealing with, the sense of the investment (or lack of it) is rarely considered. At least when you buy a synthetic diamond, you do so in the full understanding that you’re never going to see the money again.
Can I tell the difference between the two?
A lab-grown diamond isn’t equivalent to alternatives like the cubic zirconia – you are actually looking at a real diamond, even if it’s been manufactured rather than mined. As such, it’s impossible to tell with the naked eye whether a particular gem is ‘real’ or ‘cultivated’. A gemmologist with a microscope may be able to tell the difference; the rest of us will not.