“Diamonds are forever,” and “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” are old sayings that sprung from one of the world’s most popular gemstones: the diamond.
Diamonds do not last forever. Diamonds degrade to graphite, because graphite is a lower-energy configuration under typical conditions. They are (the stuff in wedding rings) and graphite (the stuff in pencils) are both crystalline forms of pure carbon.
All of this would change in 1867 when massive deposits were discovered in South Africa. The world’s diamond production increased more than tenfold in the following decade.
But since the 1970s, a new competitor is threatening the natural diamond’s place on the gemstone pecking order: the grown ones.
To grow diamonds, manufacturers use one of two approaches: 1) they simulate the crush of the earth by applying high temperatures and pressure to carbon, creating a diamond seed. 2) They use a 3D printing-like approach, layering carbon inside a vacuum chamber.
Scientists have been growing diamonds in lab settings since the 1950s for industrial uses, but by the 70s and 80s, these man-made jewels have increased in quality so much so that even expert gemologists cannot tell the difference between diamonds created by humans and those mined by humans.
Manufactured diamonds are usually 30% less expensive than naturally mined diamonds, and are more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds. Mined diamonds can create serious environmental damage, including leaching chemicals into water sources and destroying the habitats of threatened animal species. With laboratory-produced diamonds, however, there is no air or water pollution, nor are substantial hazardous chemicals used during the process.
Of course, mining companies claim that grown diamonds are inauthentic, and although grown diamonds are cheaper than their natural counterparts, there are drawbacks of purchasing a grown diamond as opposed to a natural diamond. For one, grown ones are still far more expensive than other proven created ones, like cubic zirconia. For another, buyers may not be able to resell manufactured, as there currently is no secondary market for them.
Just like no two couples are alike, no two diamonds are alike. This is true for both lab-grown diamonds and organic diamonds. When considering the differences and similarities between lab-created diamonds and “nature grown diamonds,” you won’t find many that are visible to the unaided eye, unless you’re actually a gemologist.
Still, manufactured diamonds are nearly indistinguishable from, and cheaper than, naturally mined ones. And for some, that is good enough.
So can manufactured ones fulfill consumers’ jewelry needs as well as mined? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide.