As the classic phrase goes, "diamonds are a girl's best friend." The stunning and sparkling gemstones are beautiful and alluring, whether used in an engagement ring, wedding band, pendant, or tennis bracelet. For many people, the price of diamonds puts them out of reach, but that doesn't have to stop you. With the growing popularity of lab-grown and manufactured diamonds, anyone can add a sparkling piece of jewelry to their collection.
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Lab-grown diamonds are manufactured in a controlled lab environment. They have the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as a real diamond — the only difference is where they originate. A lab-grown diamond is evaluated with the same four "C's" as a natural diamond:
Additionally, lab-grown diamonds are cut in the same shapes as natural diamonds. These cuts include princess, emerald, and round brilliant, each of which provides a unique look and a stunning sparkle. Other shapes include pear, marquise, oval, cushion, radiant, heart, and asscher.
Before you learn how lab-grown diamonds are made, you should understand the origin of natural diamonds. A natural diamond is created through a combination of pressure, heat, and time. They begin growing about 100 miles into the mantle of the Earth as a product of the carbon molecules deep underground that are under intense pressure and heat. A natural diamond can only form in a precise environment that includes 50-70 kilobars of pressure and a temperature between 2,000 and 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
When a volcanic eruption occurs, deep-source movement of the materials beneath the surface of the Earth can push natural diamonds closer to the surface. From there, they are located and mined. One of the oldest known diamonds started forming more than 3 billion years ago. Time is a significant factor, as it can take many years to form a diamond large enough to use in a piece of jewelry.
Lab scientists use two main methods when forming lab-grown diamonds. The first mimics the natural production of diamonds, utilizing a high-pressure, high-temperature atmosphere. In order to start the process, a scientist uses a diamond seed, which is either a small lab-grown diamond that has undergone the process or a natural diamond. The next step is placing that seed under hydraulic pressure and applying a propriety recipe of metal, including cobalt, nickel, and iron, to encourage growth.
The second method for producing lab-grown diamonds is known as chemical vapor deposition (CVD). This process also uses a diamond seed, which the scientist places in a sealed chamber that goes up to extremely high-temperature levels. As the heat increases, a carbon-rich combination of methane gas and hydrogen fill the chamber. The ionization process breaks down the carbon gas, which allows the resulting carbon molecules to attach to the seed. The CVD method is faster — it builds layer by layer and can grow to the desired size within about 14 days.
Lab-grown diamonds aren't the only synthetic stones used in jewelry. Other stones are used as well, such as moissanite and cubic zirconia. Moissanite is made from silicon carbide, which is an extremely rare mineral. It has only been found in several environments, including the Green River Formation in Wyoming and inside meteors.
Most moissanite jewelry features human-made stones rather than naturally occurring gems. One of the differences between a lab-grown diamond and moissanite is its hardness — a lab-grown diamond achieves a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, while moissanite comes in at 9.25. Additionally, moissanite has a slightly higher refractive index.
Cubic zirconia is a crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. On its own, zirconium is used in many products, including dental implants, but the crystalline form provides the sparkle and shine that makes it a cost-effective alternative to a natural diamond. However, lab-grown diamonds share the same chemical makeup as natural diamonds, while cubic zirconia has an entirely different chemical composition. Additionally, cubic zirconia gives off a rainbow effect that you will not see with a natural or lab-grown diamond. This material is much softer than a diamond, and it tends to become cloudy and get scratched over time.
When you're shopping for jewelry, you may wonder whether it's worth it to invest in a natural diamond or if it's a better option to choose a lab-grown diamond for your piece. One of the key advantages of lab-grown diamonds is the price. The supply chain to obtain this type of stone is much shorter, which means you can get what you want without having to wait for it to be produced in the Earth, found, and mined. A lab-grown diamond can cost quite a bit less than a natural diamond of the same size and clarity.
Although mined diamonds are more traditionally used in jewelry, lab-grown diamonds continue to grow in popularity. It's nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two when looking at the stones, even side by side. Only an experienced jeweler with special tools can differentiate the two, as lab-grown and mined diamonds are identical in all ways. You can determine what type of diamond you have in your jewelry by reviewing the grading report, which will include its grade on all four of the "C's" and indicate whether it was mined or grown in a lab.
Unlike synthetic or imitation diamonds, lab-grown diamonds don't get cloudy over time, nor do they get scratched. Lab-grown diamonds are just as strong as mined stones, each earning the highest score of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. By opting for a lab-grown diamond, you can also get the ideal stone for your jewelry setting, as the diamond can be created to your exact specifications.
At Unique Gold and Diamonds, we carry a wide selection of beautiful and stylish jewelry. Our goal is to provide each customer who visits our store with an excellent experience. As a trusted source of custom jewelry, we want to help you create the perfect piece that suits your style. We also purchase jewelry, gold, and silver and provide jewelry repair services.