What is the difference between a lab grown and a mined diamond?

Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds. They are the same material as naturally grown diamonds and have identical chemical, physical and optical properties, including hardness, sparkle, and fire. They can possess inclusions just as mined diamonds and should be purchased with the same care and attention to detail – the only difference is where the diamond comes from.

Industrial exploration and extraction of naturally occurring diamonds requires large-scale mining operations in often remote locations with specific geology, where large amounts of rock must be processed to yield tiny amounts of diamond. Laboratory processes, on the other hand, can be conducted comparatively hazard-free anywhere in the world but do require significant amounts of electricity. The source of the electricity used is therefore a key component in assessing the environmental impact of growing diamonds in a lab.

What makes diamonds so special?

Its exceptional hardness, sparkle (or brilliance) and colorful fire are the properties that make diamonds a sought-after component in fine jewelry. Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material and this hardness allows diamond to be used to create jewelry that will last for generations. Because diamond is so extremely scratch resistant, the precise cut that is given to a diamond to enhance its sparkle and fire is perfectly preserved – even when worn every day.

Diamond has the highest refractive index of all gemstones, with a value of 2.42. The brilliance, i.e. the typical sparkle, is caused by this high refractive index of the material and maximized by an expert who applies an ideal cut to each individual stone.

The fire, in turn, is caused by the relatively high dispersion of diamond, which refers to the difference in refractive index at different wavelengths, or colors of light. Along with brilliance, fire is an important quality feature of a pure stone and a precise cut.

All of this is equally true for mined and lab grown diamonds.

How are lab grown diamonds created?

Diamond consists of a very common and familiar chemical element: carbon. It is the peculiar way in which it has crystallized into a diamond cubic structure that makes a diamond stand out from other forms of carbon. The unique properties that make diamond so special, its hardness, sparkle and fire, are due to this special crystal structure.

The growth of this diamond crystal structure requires very specific conditions that rarely occur naturally and are also difficult to create in a laboratory. The two methods to achieve this are a high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) process, which has been used to produce mainly industrial diamonds since 1955, and the newer chemical vapor deposition (CVD), in which growth takes place layer by layer in a process lasting several weeks under low pressure in a plasma reactor

Only in recent years have both processes been improved to such an extent that they also produce diamonds that meet the highest standards for jewelry, even though these still only make up a small proportion of total production.

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