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It's fascinating to learn about all the physics, chemistry and chain of events that have to occur over 90 miles deep below the Earth's crust in the birth of a natural diamond. Over one billion years of enormous heat and pressure applied upon crystals of pure carbon raised to the surface by the violent schisms and eruptive blows of volcanoes containing kimberlite, a diamond containing igneous rock. This precious cargo is spewed upward into our planet's higher layers, most remaining hidden within the upper mantel of the earth's crust while others will become exposed only after thousands years more of natural erosion in alluvial deposits within dry rivers and ocean beds. From this point human power takes over by sifting through millions of tons of loose earth and ocean gravel or by more intrusive methods known as open pit and underground mining, stripping layers of sand and rock sometimes more than 500 meters in depth.
Humankind has always tried to re-create what is long admired and universally appreciated as perfection in nature. So, how incredible and literally awesome it is to know that knowledge and technology have combined and reached that point together where we are able to take command of those same sciences and mimic what happens naturally within a laboratory controlled environment, within weeks and without all the harsh physical processing of ore and its environmental footprint. We have discovered a manner to sustainably cultivate diamonds by the means of technology in a price point that is friendlier allowing us options of sizes, colors and designs choices that may once have been beyond our reach.
Making things more marvelous is that we not only have one process to achieve this accomplishment, but two!The earliest innovation was something called High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and the more recent development called Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). Both methods begin with the implantation of a seed, a tiny slice of another diamond which is used much like a template for the future layers of carbon to structurally build upon.
HPHT's process of diamond growth depends upon intense pressure and temperature being applied throughout the duration in pressure cooker like cubic presses. We're talking 1500 degrees Celsius (2,732 degrees Farenheit) and 1.5 million pound per square inch, that's 70,000 times the pressure at sea level! The "birther" diamond seed is placed very carefully into the bottom of a growth cell. Extremely fine layers of carbon in the form of graphite are then meticulously placed atop these diamond seeds. With the applied temperature and pressure, the graphite in the "growth cell" is melted into a liquid and cooled into our favorite form of carbon, a diamond crystal.
The newer system utilizes large flat plates of diamond seeds placed into a vacuum chamber and carefully injected with a hydrocarbon gas, such as methane. High powered microwave energy raises the temperature to over several thousand degrees breaking down the atomic baonds of the hydrocarbon gas with the resulting free carbon "raining down" upon the diamond plates layer by layer very much in the manner that snow would collect upon a table.
Each process is best suited for certain sizes, shapes and colors of diamonds. Development of this technology took 60 years of perfection to be able to grow diamonds up to one carat in size. We are now able to grow diamonds 2, 3, 4 carats and larger. Theoretically, they can grow in size without limit given enough time and investment. The largest grown diamond to date weighs in at 155 carats. Utilizing the CVD method, colored diamonds may be achieved by introduction of certain gasses into the treatment, much the same way that natural diamonds aquire color from gasses which are trapped within their structure during growth. Pink and blue diamonds which are so highly valued and priced may now be an exquisite part of your own wonderfully prized jewelry wardrobe!
Not all lab grown diamonds are colorless and flawless. Just like natural mined diamonds, no two created diamonds are alike. They are graded by independent laboratories in the same manner as their natural grown counterparts. In fact, because they are virtually indistinguishable from natural mined diamonds, they may only be told apart by an expert with a high tech machine that can discern the very slight tell-tale signs of one being lab grown. For this reason, all lab grown diamonds sold by us may be clearly identified by a tiny inscription lasered into the diamond's girdle (edge) which is invisible to the naked eye, yet viewable at 10X power magnification. Similarly, any lab grading reports, including GIA, and in-house appraisals will declare the origin of a diamond being lab created if it is such.
The value of a natural diamond is determined by its intrinsic rarity. Larger and higher quality gemstones being the most rare. The earth is already holding all the diamonds that it created. None will be replaced and for all measures, in our lifetimes and beyond, no more will come into being. However, the capability allowed by technology to grow diamonds means that we have unlimited potential to cultivate sizes, clarities, colors etc. This translates into pricing which is significantly lower than naturally occuring diamonds.
Lastly, what is the difference between a lab grown diamond and a diamond "simulant"?
A diamond simulant is an alternate stone or crystal that one might use in place of a diamond for similar visual features at first look. However, none share the same chemical and physical properties of a diamonds. Simulants may range from crystal to cubic zirconium which lack the fire dispersion optics of a diamond and are extremely soft and vulnerable to wear and breakage. Their lifespan is considered very short in comparison. Moissanites are beautiful alternates to diamonds. They do occur naturally, however, in such small sizes and availability that they are only used in their synthetic form. Even in these lab grown species, Moissanite is not nearly as hard as a diamond.
Lab grown diamonds are not "fake", simulants or cheap substitutes for diamonds. There is no dissimilarity between a natural diamond and a lab grown diamond in their crystal structure, chemical composition, optical properties and physical properties - cubic crystal structure. They can be cut, polished, set, worn and repaired without any differences.
They are both diamonds. They are both beautiful. They are both meant to be enjoyed for a lifetime and beyond ...and they are both available to you at Cyrus Jewelers!