Lab-Grown “Synthetic” Diamonds

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the term “synthetic” in reference to man-made or lab-grown diamonds can be misleading as it implies that such stones are false imitations. In actual fact, lab-grown diamonds manufactured by firms such as Gemesis Corp. and Lucent Diamonds have the exact same atomic structure, chemical composition, physical properties and optical features as natural diamonds. The diamond production process is performed in a laboratory setting using the Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) or High Pressure – High Temperature (HPHT)methods. These processes accomplish in a few days what takes the natural process millions of years to complete: the formation of diamonds.

Indeed, so-called synthetic diamonds are both real and above board, providing that they are disclosed as lab-grown gems by the diamond traders and jewelers who market them and they are not passed off as mined natural diamonds, which are a lot more expensive. Such fraudulent transactions have been reported. For instance, in Spring 2012 hundreds of man-made diamonds were submitted to diamond grading laboratories in Antwerp and Hong Kong and in both cases the stones were tendered without proper disclosure of their lab-grown origins (see news story).

Nonetheless, lab-grown diamonds masquerading as natural diamonds should not be confused with “fake” diamonds. These include diamond “simulants” such as cubic zirconia, moissanite, white topaz or sapphire, which do not contain the same physical properties as either natural or lab-grown diamonds.  Various tests can be performed to tell apart real diamonds from fake diamonds.

To tell apart real diamonds, i.e. mined from man-made, the Diamond View, which is available at major gemological laboratories, provides accurate identification of lab-grown diamonds, and Diamond Services’ new Diama Pen with high-power laser detects diamonds that underwent HPHT and CVD processes in a lab (see news story). In compliance with the FTC, all man-made diamonds must be labeled by laser inscription.

Like natural diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds have many industrial uses. They are used for the production of cutting tools, as dental drills, hacksaw blades, heat sinks for semiconductors and a wide range of applications in mining, medicine, machining, electronics, the tool and die industry, jewelry manufacturing and watchmaking.

Apart from their diverse industrial purposes, gem-quality man-made diamonds are becoming more accepted as an alternative to natural diamonds, for obvious reasons: They are guaranteed conflict free, environmentally friendly and much more affordable. Moreover, lab-grown diamonds are being produced in fancy colors such as intense yellow, blue and pink, which are rare in nature and in high demand. As these advantages are attractive for many prospective diamond customers, the market potential for lab-grown diamonds is substantial.

Be that as it may, the mystery surrounding natural diamonds still captivates diamond lovers around the world, and always will.