Namoi Valley Independent
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

Shimmering innovation: The rise of lab-grown diamonds

Today, a lab-grown diamond ring on your finger is not only possible but increasingly common. Picture Shutterstock
Today, a lab-grown diamond ring on your finger is not only possible but increasingly common. Picture Shutterstock

Brought to you by Emmanuel Davis.

When you think of a diamond, you likely imagine a gem that has taken millions of years to form deep within the Earth, brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions and finally mined and processed to make your precious diamond jewellery. Yet, technology has transformed this narrative.

Today, a lab-grown diamond ring on your finger is not only possible but increasingly common. And statistics are indeed affirming this trend.

According to the 2023 MVI Marketing Report, sales of lab-grown diamonds have seen an impressive growth rate of 15 per cent annually over the past five years. A separate study conducted by De Beers' Group found that about 70 per cent of millennials would consider buying lab-grown diamonds, indicating a profound shift in consumer sentiment.

The science behind the sparkle

How exactly are these diamonds produced? There are two primary methods employed to create lab-grown diamonds: High-Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). Both mimic the natural conditions under which diamonds form, but in a highly controlled laboratory setting.

In the HPHT process, a small diamond seed is placed into carbon, exposed to high temperatures of approximately 1400°C, and subjected to the immense pressure of 5.5 million PSI, roughly equivalent to 100,000 times the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level.

Over a few weeks, the carbon atoms crystallise around the seed, forming a diamond. On the other hand, CVD utilises a diamond seed placed inside a chamber filled with carbon-rich gas. When subjected to high temperatures, the gas breaks down, and the carbon atoms adhere to the diamond seed, crystallising over time into a diamond. These processes produce diamonds that are chemically, physically, and optically identical to their mined counterparts.

The environmental and ethical upsides

Lab-grown diamonds aren't just a fascinating science experiment. They also hold significant promise for resolving some of the most contentious issues associated with the diamond industry: environmental degradation and ethical concerns.

A research paper published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology in 2022 showed that compared to mined diamonds, the production of lab-grown diamonds results in a 70 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, a 90 per cent reduction in water usage, and zero risk of soil erosion or habitat destruction.

Moreover, lab-grown diamonds bypass the ethical issues associated with conflict diamonds, or 'blood diamonds,' mined in war-torn areas and sold to finance armed conflict against governments. These lab-created gems offer a guilt-free alternative that appeals to the growing market of ethically conscious consumers.

The future of diamonds

As the lab-grown diamond industry continues to evolve, we can expect further improvements in the quality and variety of these synthetic gems. Recent research has shown that it's now possible to create coloured diamonds in the lab, expanding the possibilities for stunning and ethically-produced jewellery.

Despite the burgeoning success of lab-grown diamonds, they currently represent just a fraction of the global diamond market. However, their share is steadily increasing, and some experts predict that they may capture up to 30 per cent of the market by 2030.