Home Articles The Technology Behind Lab Grown Diamonds and its Evolution

The Technology Behind Lab Grown Diamonds and its Evolution

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The thought of creating a beautiful and valuable diamond from basic carbon has always piqued the interest of gemologists. Many people have attempted to execute this remarkable feat, similar to the alchemists who sought to turn lead into gold in the past.

However, it is only recently that we have been able to produce gem-quality lab-grown diamonds large enough to be utilized in jewelry. Their legitimacy, as has been proven time and again, is unquestionable. Stephen Morisseau, a spokesman for the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization overseeing the international diamond grading system, was recorded as saying:

[Lab-created diamonds] are not fakes. They are not cubic zirconias. They have the same physical and chemical properties as a mined diamond.

Given the rise of lab-grown diamonds and their increasing demands throughout the world, it is essential to understand how the technology behind them has evolved over the years.

Early Efforts

Throughout history, several people have claimed to have successfully made diamonds. However, it was not until recently that a written and reproducible technique was established. Henri Moissan was among the first to step to the fore and claim to have created a man-made diamond. In 1893, he created one by heating charcoal in a carbon crucible to 3,500 degrees Celsius.

In the years that followed, many attempts were made to reproduce his procedures, with some success recorded, but none of them were ever scientifically confirmed. The quest, however, continued.

Given that diamonds are crystalline forms of carbon, making artificial carbon crystals for lab-grown diamonds proved difficult. Attempts were made to grow diamonds in the same manner as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds have been grown for decades, but the procedure failed miserably.

High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT)

Due to extraordinarily high pressure and temperatures, natural diamonds originate deep underground, nearly 100 miles beneath the earth’s surface. People can find and mine diamonds when a certain type of subterranean volcano delivers them closer to the planet’s surface.

Understandably, most people are still unaware of how diamonds are created in a laboratory. The two most common processes for making lab diamonds are High-Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) (Chemical Vapor Deposition). However, CVD is preferred for generating high-quality diamonds.

The first practical synthetic diamonds were made using the high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) method. The belt press, the cubic press, and the split-sphere (BARS) press are the three basic manufacturing procedures put to use for HPHT diamonds.

Each technique is designed to create a high-pressure, high-temperature environment that promotes diamond production. It starts with a microscopic diamond seed buried in carbon, which is then exposed to tremendous pressure and heat to form a diamond.

Using an upper and lower anvil, the GE belt press achieves pressures of over 1.5 million pounds per square inch and temperatures of over 2,000 degrees Celsius. In this environment, pure carbon melts and begins to form a diamond around the initial seed.

HPHT diamonds are created in a small capsule within a machine that can generate extremely high pressures. After migrating through the flux, the carbon material crystallizes on the cooler diamond seed, generating a synthetic diamond crystal. The creation of one or more crystals occurs over the course of days to weeks of crystallization.

The Evolution of HPHT

Since its original breakthrough with the belt press, HPHT technology has advanced gradually. More efficient cubic and split-sphere presses have been developed, resulting in bigger, more perfect diamonds. Using the HPHT process and a cubic press, NDT is credited with producing the world’s largest gem-quality, faceted, lab-grown diamond. This stunning diamond weighs 10.02 carats and has an E color and VS1 clarity rating.

Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)

Diamond hunters no longer need to source diamonds because of the option presented by scientists in lab-created diamonds. On account of the principal use for industrial usage, supply and demand for lab diamonds were minimal when they were initially made. Gem-quality lab diamonds became more widely available for commercial use from the 1980s. As the desire for man-made diamonds grew, more individuals began to worry if these gems were genuine. Thankfully, lab-grown diamonds are chemically, optically, and physically similar to diamonds mined from the ground.

Forward to the present day, lab-grown diamonds account for about 2-3 percent of the market for diamond engagement rings. Admittedly, while earth mined diamonds are still the most popular choice for diamond engagement rings, lab-produced diamonds are a more cost-effective alternative.

With time and as the technology behind them becomes more sophisticated, their share will surely increase.

 

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