What is a laboratory diamond?
Synthetic diamonds, also known as laboratory or cultured diamonds, are grown in highly controlled laboratories using advanced technological processes.
Laboratory diamonds consist of carbon arranged in the diamond's characteristic crystal structure. Since they are made of the same material as natural diamonds, they have exactly the same atomic composition as natural diamonds. Therefore, they have the same optical and chemical properties. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to differentiate — with the help of a jewelry magnifying glass — between artificial and natural diamonds.
How are laboratory diamonds created?
Man-made diamonds are created from tiny carbon "seeds" of pre-existing diamonds. There are two techniques for diamond formation, either a high pressure high temperature (HPHT) system or a special deposition process called Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).
The HPHT system mimics the geological conditions that allow diamonds to form naturally. The diamond layers grow from the carbon seed by subjecting the carbon to high pressure and temperature.
The CVD process is more recent and works in the opposite way to the HPHT method. "Instead of pressing the carbon onto the diamond, the carbon is released to become pure diamond. Moderate heat is applied to a cloud of carbon in a vacuum chamber, causing the diamond atoms to rain down on the diamond seed and make it grow" (Rapaport, 2003).
Some deposited laboratory diamonds (CVD) can also undergo heat and pressure treatment after growth.
Like naturally occurring diamonds, fancy colored diamonds created in the laboratory are formed when small amounts of specific trace elements are present during the growth phase of the diamond.
The exact composition of the trace elements may differ from that of natural diamonds, for both white and colored diamonds. Thus, laboratory diamonds can only be distinguished from natural diamonds by testing with specialized equipment capable of detecting small differences in trace elements and crystal growth.
Are laboratory diamonds environmentally responsible?
Due to a lack of transparency, it is difficult to collect accurate data to compare the carbon footprint of mined and laboratory diamonds.
Although the energy required to manufacture a laboratory diamond is significant, figures published by Diamond Foundry suggest that the total environmental footprint of mined diamonds is much higher than that of laboratory diamonds.
Furthermore, mining activities disrupt large areas of land and surrounding ecosystems. They often render land unusable for future use, even after mines close. Moreover, mine shaft waste, if not properly managed, can flow into rivers and streams, with potentially disastrous environmental consequences. Plus, it is well known that the opening of a new mine can also cause the displacement of communities (Environmental Literacy Council; in Kelley, 2008).
At MYEL we only use lab-grown diamonds or upcycled diamonds - that is, diamonds that have already been used and that are being given a second life.
Why buy laboratory diamonds?
Synthetic diamonds are identical to those mined from the earth, are cut and polished in the same way, and receive the same official certification of quality.
In addition to ensuring that they are not conflict diamonds, the cultivation of synthetic diamonds does not result in the destruction of huge areas of land and does not cause displacement of communities.
Finally, since the manufacturing of laboratory diamonds is less expensive than the mining of natural diamonds, it is possible for the consumer to buy, with the same budget, a better quality diamond.