Diamonds are widely regarded as the most expensive and desirable gemstones for jewelry. That is understandable. After all, diamonds are the products of a deep-mantle process which takes millions of years to develop and involve volcanic eruptions to transport them to the Earth’s surface.
To locate and mine the rough diamonds, it requires lots of hard work and huge amounts of capital. After the roughs are retrieved, another line of specialized polishing work is required before it gets donned onto the finger of a lucky woman. The diamonds have to be cut to specific shapes and proportions in order to bring out the sparkle in them.
With the slew of mining activities and high-tech manufacturing processes that goes into the creation of a polished diamond, the production costs are aptly reflected in the diamond’s price tag. However, will this situation always remain the same or will we see big changes coming our way in near future?
Let us take a look at what synthetic diamonds are and whether they represent any kind of danger towards the industry.
Contrary to popular belief, the technology for producing synthetics was not developed in the age of computers. In fact, the first synthetic diamond was created more than a century ago in 1893 by Henri Moissan. He used an appliance to create diamonds by subjecting small amounts of carbon to high pressure and high temperature (HPHT). In present day, a very similar process is also used for producing diamonds for industrial applications.
Common simulants like Cubic Zirconium (CZ) or Moissanite are cheap alternatives that only look like a real diamond. They do not possess the same material properties as diamonds.
On the other hand, synthetics are man-made diamonds with essentially the same chemical, physical and optical properties of a natural diamond.
In order to produce gem-quality diamonds for jewelry applications, another process called chemical vapor deposition has been developed by scientists in recent years. Under low pressure conditions, an initial seed layer of diamond is grown in size by allowing carbon vapor to deposit on the substrate.
Companies Using High Pressure High Temperature Technology
New Age Diamonds – http://www.newagediamonds.com
D.NEA – http://d.neadiamonds.com
DNA 2 Diamonds – http://dna2diamonds.com
AOTC – http://aotc.com
Companies Using Chemical Vapor Deposition Technology
Washington Diamonds Corp – http://www.washingtondiamondscorp.com/
INDAB – http://www.indab.com/
Hebei Plasma – http://www.hediamond.cn/en/
* I am not advocating for or against synthetic diamonds. I believe they can co-exist with natural diamonds since they have applications in both industrial and jewelry markets to satisfy the needs of different users.
Perhaps one of the largest reasons why lab-grown diamonds haven’t created a big dent in the industry lies in the prohibitive costs. When it comes to something which is artificially created, I’m sure the first thing that people would associate with these products is the word “cheap”.
It isn’t the case here and there are 2 main reasons why synthetic diamond prices are kept high.
First of all, the process of polishing a diamond utilizes the same techniques that were used a hundred years ago. Diamonds are the hardest material on Earth and only a diamond can be used to polish a diamond. Today, this is done in the form of powdered abrasives on a polishing wheel.
More importantly, a diamond cutter’s work is a labor intensive and requires highly skilled personals as well as specialized equipment. The overhead cost for processing a rough diamond (whether it is synthetic or natural) is very much the same!
The second factor which accounts for costs comes from the distribution channels such as retailers, marketing, lab fees, taxes and everyone in the supply/distribution chain. While you can argue that man-made stones removes the cost of mining from the equation, the truth is that lab grown stones have significant costs in production as well. With the current level of technology, lab grown stones require huge amounts of time for them to reach an effective size. And in any businesses, time is money.
Another setback diamond growers face is that it is very difficult to grow diamonds of large sizes. For example, growing a 5 carat stone is very challenging and almost at the limit of current technological capabilities.
All of these factors combined together actually balance out the advantages provided by the synthetic diamond industry.
For people who cannot afford a natural diamond, the lower prices of synthetics might be viable options to explore; especially if you are considering to buy a fancy colored stone. Besides lower prices, consumers of synthetic diamonds can be assured that their purchase is 100% conflict-free since they originate from a lab.
For other consumers who are worried about buying undisclosed synthetic stones, make sure you only buy a diamond that is certified by a reputable gemological lab like GIA or AGS. Grading reports are your best assurance because every diamond is subjected to stringent tests which can accurately detect treatments and authenticity.
On a last note, until the public’s mindset of purchasing the “real stuff” for someone they love is shifted, you won’t see the demand or value of a natural diamond diminishing in near future.