It is often said that diamonds are a woman’s best friend, but not all women can afford to wear diamonds. Diamonds are precious natural stones, and they are very expensive. The larger the size of the stone, the higher the price that it fetches in the open market.
Despite the high price, the demand for these lovely stones is always on the rise, so scientists have discovered ways to produce these stones under controlled conditions in a laboratory.
Are Artificially Made Diamonds As Good As The Mined Ones
A natural diamond is obtained from the interiors of a coal mine. It is produced due to the naturally high temperature and pressure in the deep mines. Laboratory processes for producing diamonds try to simulate conditions similar to those in the deep mines. However, the end product is not exactly identical.
Slight variations like the presence of small impurities or a change in color or shape tremendously affect the value of these precious stones. So the price of a lab-grown stone is way below those that are mined naturally. Nonetheless, the popularity of lab-made stones is increasing, and you, too, can get lab grown diamonds at an affordable rate.
Why The Lab Grown Variants Are Less Expensive
The Presence Of Impurities
Natural diamonds have impurities, but the lesser the contamination with impurities, the higher the price. Impurities are nothing but other metals and elements that are naturally present in the surroundings and which get trapped in the process of crystallization.
One way of growing a diamond-like crystal in the lab is to subject a carbon-rich element to high temperature and pressure. These conditions cause the carbon to form a precipitate which is also known as the seed.
Post-seed formation, other carbon-rich elements are passed through a mix of metals and gasses to increase the size of the seed. This mix of gasses and metals contains impurities like nitrogen. The presence of these impurities lowers the price of the final product.
Changes In Shade
A pure and expensive diamond is transparent and does not have any color tinge. But in the laboratory, the carbon is deposited after it is passed through a mix of gasses. If this mix has nitrogen, then the color becomes yellowish. If it has elements like boron, the color can become bluish.
Natural variants might also have a slight tinge, but in the laboratory-made stones the color is deposited in a regular geometric fashion, making it look unnatural. Many advanced laboratories have started the practice of growing diamonds in an environment that is nitrogen-free.
Under such controlled conditions, the color of the final product is quite close to the clarity of natural diamonds.
Addition Of New Properties
Stones that are grown in the lab acquire new properties that are not present in naturally mined stones. For instance, some of them might be fluorescent.
Fluorescence is the property of a material to emit light or radiation of some frequency when exposed to radiation of another frequency. As a result of fluorescence, lab-made stones can give out radiation of different frequencies.
The presence of fluorescence can be checked under special microscopes in the laboratory. The presence of such additional features is a disadvantage as these properties are not present in the naturally mined variants.
Changes In The Shape
Under laboratory conditions, the stone has a cubical structure. The cubical structure is the result of the deposition process. The deposition of carbon happens in a regularized fashion, and so a regular cubical shape is formed. However, things are different under natural conditions.
Hence, natural diamonds usually have eight faces and not four sides like a cube. Since the cubical shape is deviant from the natural shape, it reduces the overall value of the end product.
But many people now prefer wearing unusual shapes of stones, so the cubical shape can see increased demand in the near future.
Deposition Of Black Graphite On The Edges
One way of manufacturing a diamond in a laboratory is to deposit vapors of a carbon-rich material like graphite on the body of a small carbon crystal. The vaporization is initiated by microwaves, and it helps in increasing the size of the stone.
However, the graphite might form black deposits on the edges of the stone. These black deposits are scrapped out at regular intervals, but if some of them remain, then the cost of the final product decreases tremendously.
Hence, most manufacturers are very careful in scraping out the black deposits from the side of the final product.
Limitation Of Size
In the laboratory, a small precipitate of carbon known as the seed is used as the starting material to enlarge the size of the diamond. Microwaves are used to vaporize carbon which in turn increases the size of the seed.
Hence, the greater the deposit, the bigger the size of the ultimate diamond. The diamond has to be picked up before a new cycle of deposition takes place. However, there is a limitation to the maximum size that can be produced.
Hence, laboratory-made products have not yet been able to reach the size of the biggest natural diamonds. Many researchers have tried to improve the size with time, but there is still a lot of scope for improvement.
Since size is a crucial determinant of the final price, laboratory variants often fetch a much lower price than natural variants. But recently, many manufacturers have been able to get single large pieces of diamond using artificial methods.
Despite the lack of clarity and small size, laboratory-made diamonds are becoming very popular. There are many reasons for the high popularity of these stones. The lab-made variants are easy to make as compared to mining a real diamond.
They are eco-friendly, as people do not continue to dig deep to procure real diamonds. With time the quality of the lab-made variants will improve. They might not be able to give tough competition to natural diamonds in terms of value anytime soon but they can certainly match the quality in the long term.