Learn About Lab Grown Diamonds

POST by The Team at Great Heights

Compared to natural diamonds, lab-created diamonds (otherwise known as lab-grown or man-made diamonds) have the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics. The only difference between them is their origin.

What happens beneath the Earth’s surface is duplicated in a lab using advanced technologies. Here, the precise conditions and processes are replicated, resulting in lab-created diamonds identical to those mined from the ground. 

However, lab-created diamonds are up to 30% less expensive, in addition to being environmentally friendly and ethically sourced.

We pride ourselves on offering a vast selection of top-quality diamonds, so you can be as certain of your ring as you are about your partner for life.

Here’s to pure beginnings.

How Lab-Created Diamonds Are Created

Natural diamonds are formed deep in the Earth over billions of years due to a combination of intense heat and pressure. There are two techniques used to recreate what occurs in nature, only in a highly controlled laboratory setting. Both of these processes take between six and ten weeks, and yield diamonds that are ready to be cut, polished and graded by the same organizations that certify mined diamonds. 

The first of these techniques is Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). In this process, diamond “seeds” are placed inside of a chamber with carbon-based gasses, such as methane, and heated to extreme temperatures—800 degrees Celsius. The heat causes the gasses to break down, the carbon atoms separate out, then adhere to the diamond seed and slowly crystallize. 

The second technique is High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT). Diamond seeds are carefully covered with a layer of carbon (in the form of graphite) then subjected to temperatures of about 1500 degrees Celsius and pressurized to approximately 1.5 million pounds per square inch. The graphite melts, coating the diamond seeds. The cooling process then begins, allowing the carbon atoms to build and crystallize on the diamond seeds.

One of three processes are used to recreate the HPHT conditions found deep within the Earth: 

a belt press, the cubic press, or the bars press. The bars press is the most effective and the most popular method for creating gem-quality diamonds. The other two are more commonly used to create industrial diamond powder.

Because these laboratory processes perfectly mimic the conditions that form natural diamonds, no two lab-created diamonds are the same. Your Great Heights diamond is as unique and beautiful as any mined gemstone.

Economical

Lab-created diamonds cost up to 30% less than mined diamonds, meaning you can get more for your money without sacrificing quality. But that doesn’t mean lab-created diamonds are “cheap.” In fact, the costs for lab-created diamonds are identical to those of natural diamonds when it comes to cutting, polishing and inspection. What makes them less expensive is the fact that they pass through fewer hands up to that point. 

When a diamond is mined from the Earth, there’s a whole supply chain involved. By eliminating the mining process, we eliminate the costs associated with it. Therefore, lab-created diamonds can be offered at a lower cost to you.

Ethical

The origins of mined diamonds can be murky. Some come from conflicted regions where exploitation and violence are common. Fortunately the amount of these “blood diamonds” on the market have been significantly reduced in recent years, though it can still be difficult to be certain of a mined stone’s background. Because only with a lab-created diamond can you be positive that it hasn’t come from a region with a history of child labor, human rights violations, or poor working conditions.

If you’re looking to put your mind at complete ease, a lab-created diamond is the best way to go.

Environmentally Friendly

Mining for any resource impacts the Earth. And although diamond mining companies have worked to reduce the negative effects they have on our planet, it’s impossible to eliminate them all together. Harvesting natural diamonds require enormous amounts of water and fossil fuel, and results in soil disturbances and greenhouse gas emissions. The processes that yield lab-created diamonds don’t tax our natural resources or harm our environment. It takes considerably less energy to produce a lab-created diamond, which is actually in the interest of the growers, as it helps keep their costs low.

Overall, purchasing a lab-created diamond is a much more sustainable choice than choosing a natural, mined diamond.

Exceptional Quality

Every one of our diamonds is evaluated and graded by the same independent gemological labs that certify natural diamonds using the same high standards. They come in a wide variety of carats and shapes, from the brilliant round to the romantic heart. We’re proud of our enormous, top-quality selection.

The Grading & Certification of Lab-Created Diamonds

There are several different independent certification labs that grade both natural and lab-created diamonds. The most popular are:

  • International Gemological Institute (IGI)
  • Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
  • American Gem Society (AGS)
  • Gemological Science International (GSI)

Every lab uses approximately the same grading process to evaluate diamonds, but everyone has their own opinion which of these labs is the “best.” GIA has opted not to include color grading for lab-created gemstones, which is why Great Heights doesn’t use GIA to grade our diamonds.

Regardless of lab, every diamond is graded individually by several gemologists. Scores are then compiled to determine the diamond’s final classification. Although every gemologist adheres to the same criteria and standards, it’s not unusual for a diamond to receive a variety of grades—even if it’s sent back to the same lab for a second grading. 

These standards are referred to as the 4C’s — cut, clarity, color and carat. Gemologists will evaluate how well the diamond was cut from its raw form, how internally and externally flawless it is, how clear it is and how much it weighs. 

Because it’s not an exact science, retailers tend to choose a certification lab they trust above all. Feel free to ask your jeweler which lab they work with most frequently and why.

Mined Diamonds vs Lab-Created Diamonds

WATER USAGE:

A mined diamond consumes upwards of 126 gallons of water per carat, compared to the 18 gallons consumed by a carat of lab-grown diamonds. Mined diamonds also result in “constant discharge of wastewater and pollutants in surface water bodies,” according to a recent research study from Frost & Sullivan.

ENERGY USAGE:

A mined diamond uses 538.5 million joules per carat, compared to the 250 million joules used by a carat of lab-grown diamonds. 

CARBON EMISSIONS:

A mined diamond produces upwards of 125 pounds of carbon per carat, compared to the 6 pounds of carbon emitted by a carat of lab-grown diamonds. That’s 4.8 percent of what mined diamonds produce.

SULPHUR OXIDE PRODUCTION:

Mined diamonds produce upwards of 30 pounds of sulphur oxide, whereas a lab-created produces none at all.

The air emissions created by a single, one-carat mined diamond is 1.5 billion times higher than those produced by a lab-created diamond of the same carat weight.

LAND DISRUPTION:

A mined diamond disturbs nearly 100 square feet of land per carat, compared to just 0.07 square feet of land distrubed by a carat of lab-created diamonds. Mining often strips the surrounding land and renders it unusable, even after diamond production has stopped. But according to Frost & Sullivan’s study, laboratories that produce lab-created diamonds “are often located in areas that have a negligible impact on the environment and have almost no impact on biodiversity in the area of operation.”

WASTE PRODUCTION:

A mined diamond generates upwards of 5,798 pounds of mineral waste per carat, compared to only one pound produced by a carat of lab-created diamonds.

Human Impact

Diamond mining doesn’t have the most favorable reputation. It’s an industry that’s often caused suffering through human rights violations, the use of child labor and the overall poor treatment of its employees. Many mines are located in regions where the sale of diamonds is used to fund war or violence. These issues been exposed in recent years thanks to Hollywood blockbusters such as Blood Diamond and Beasts of No Nation. Thankfully, there has been an effort to right these incredible wrongs. 

However, diamond mining remains a dangerous profession. The mines themselves are vulnerable to collapse, and their workers run the risk of serious health problems. Mined diamonds result in 1 injury for every 1,000 workers annually, while lab-created diamonds result in zero. The diamond mining industry also sees 80 days of lost work time per 1,000 employees every year due to injury alone.