Man-Made (Cultured) Diamonds – Myths vs Reality, 2007
The ability to grow true gem-grade diamonds in a lab has been a long standing goal of science and industry, and one that has been achieved on a limited basis over the past five years.
Unfortunately most media publications are usually designed to sell articles, and thus often do not provide consumers with a true picture of the commercial reality and availability of lab-grown diamonds. Further, many sellers of diamond simulants (stones that look similar to diamond, but are not real diamond) exploit this knowledge gap as a way to deceptively sell their simulants as ‘lab-grown diamonds’. As the president of a company that has been involved with both lab-grown diamonds and diamond simulants for over seven years, and having seen the confusion many of these less than factual articles have caused, I wanted to help provide customers with an industry insider assessment of what is and is not commercially available, and help educate those who are indeed looking to purchase a true lab-grown diamond. Thus, we begin a short tour of myth vs. reality in the lab-grown diamond market (circa 2007).
First and foremost, lab-grown diamonds (real diamond, but not mined) are in fact available for jewelry purchase, but on a limited basis. The significant catch though is this – when most people think of a diamond, they automatically think of white diamonds. As of October, 2007, no one is currently able to offer white (colorless) lab grown diamonds for sale on any type of production basis. Regardless of diamond hk what various reporters write, the reality is only fancy color diamonds (predominantly yellow, and to a much lesser degree, pink and blue) are available.
The reason for that gap between what consumers want (white lab-grown diamonds) and what labs can deliver (mostly yellow lab-grown diamonds), is due to both commercial value and natural barriers. Lets discuss the natural barrier first – yellow diamonds are yellow because they incorporate nitrogen into their crystal structure. White diamonds are white (or clear) because they have much less nitrogen in their crystal structure. When growing diamonds, however, nitrogen is a catalyst – it significantly speeds up diamond growth, and in addition reduces defects. Thus, you can grow a 1ct (finished) yellow in roughly one week, versus growing the same size white (by restricting nitrogen) can take you 4-6 weeks (using BARS method, the default method currently). In other words, nitrogen can help you grow up to 6x as much yellow diamond as white in the same amount of production time. That’s a tough natural barrier.