‘Lab grown’ diamonds cost a lot less...

A synthetic diamond is basically a stone that has the durability, refractive index, and hardness of a natural diamond – but it is man-made in a laboratory, using the HPHT (high pressure, high temperature) process.

While natural diamonds are produced by a natural geological process, synthetic diamonds are cultured diamonds grown in a lab by a technological process. A tiny piece of natural diamond is immersed in molten carbon and placed under high pressure and temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. The HPHT process recreates the geological environment that occurs naturally deep within the earth’s crust to yield natural diamonds.

A synthetic diamond should not be confused with stimulant diamonds, such as glass, cubic zirconia, or moissanite. A diamond stimulant is a non-diamond material that is created to imitate a true diamond.

The first synthetic diamonds were produced by General Electric, in 1954. Although the technology for synthetic diamonds was in use since then, no synthetic diamonds were ever seen on the market until the 1990s. This was because it took many years for General Electric to produce a synthetic diamond that could compare with the quality of a natural diamond – and when they figured out how to do it, they found that it cost more to produce a synthetic diamond than it did to mine and cut natural diamonds. In fact, it seemed that synthetic diamonds were rarer than natural diamonds!

Finally, a small company, Gemesis Corporation, figured out a way to produce synthetic diamonds that were of the same quality as natural diamonds, at a cheaper price. Today, Gemesis produces synthetic diamonds that are almost perfect natural diamond replicas, but they are not available in a clear, white color. Their colored diamonds are available in yellow, orange, or pink, along with a wide range in beautiful precious-metal settings.

High demand for diamonds has led to the development of methods for producing synthetic diamonds. Even though the majority of natural diamonds are industrial grade, 90% of the diamonds used for industrial purposes are synthetic diamonds.

Newer synthetic diamonds so closely resemble natural diamonds that only an experienced jeweler can tell the difference after a close examination. Given that they cost about 1/3 the price of natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds are expected to carve a market niche of their own in the jewelry industry, though the big payoff is expected to be in industrial technologies.

Useful tip

If you really want that diamond engagement ring or that loose diamond at an affordable price, you should check out synthetic diamonds. Remember though, that a synthetic diamond can never give you the assurance of true and lasting value that you get from a natural diamond, even if you only buy a small natural one.

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