Diamonds are one of the fascinating gemstones that are currently known to man. Because of the beauty of diamonds, they’ve been the subject of many songs, poems, and other forms of literature. Diamonds are one of the most expensive materials used in the jewelry industry, and there are various types of this precious stone.
There are two types of diamonds– natural and synthetic or lab-grown- and they both have advantages and unique characteristics.
Natural diamonds are formed in the earth over billions of years; these diamond types are mined from deep within the earth’s surface. Diamonds are not evenly distributed on the planet; instead, they are primarily found in kimberlites on continents over 2.5 billion years old. The exception to this rule is the Argyle diamond mine in Australia, which is the world’s largest producer of diamonds by weight.
Natural diamonds are made purely from carbon and are the hardest natural substance on earth. These diamonds are formed hundreds of miles beneath the ground and pushed closer to the surface under high pressure and temperature conditions. Diamonds take over 3.5 billion years to develop, and as a result, they have imperfections within their structure– known as inclusions.
You can find color diamonds in twelve pure hues: black, blue, brown, gray, green, pink, orange, purple, red, violet, white, and yellow. Chameleon diamonds do exist and are frequently classified on their own. These chameleon diamonds are greenish or yellowish diamonds that momentarily change colors when illuminated or exposed to heat.
Synthetic Or Lab-Grown Diamonds
In contrast to diamonds extracted from the earth, synthetic diamonds are created in a laboratory. The need for synthetic diamonds results from the high demand for raw diamonds not just in the jewelry industry but for use in industries where their hardness and high thermal conductivity are needed.
Synthetic diamonds have been produced for decades to meet the demand for more gem-quality diamonds. Most synthetic diamonds are so well-done that it is impossible to distinguish between them and naturally-mined diamonds. Only a gemologist with specialized tools can differentiate between a well-done synthetic and natural diamond.
Synthetic diamonds are made through the High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) processes. Diamonds made using the HPHT technique usually have a yellow tint caused by nitrogen impurities during the creation process. However, synthetic diamonds of all colors can be made by adding boron during its formation or exposing the stone to radiation after synthesis.
All signs point to the fact that the synthetic diamond market will only increase in the coming years. A report by PRNewswire predicts that the artificial diamond market will grow by around 7% in 2022. A total market increase of 8% or $9.8 billion is also expected between 2022 and 2026.
Differences Between Natural And Synthetic Diamonds
Natural and synthetic diamonds might look the same to the naked eyes; however, there are some distinctions between both types of diamonds.
1. The Formation Processes
Even if the result looks identical, synthetic and natural diamonds’ processes to become fully-formed stones are very different. Firstly, natural diamonds are made hundreds of miles beneath the earth’s surface, while synthetic ones are made in regulated conditions in a laboratory.
Because synthetic diamonds are made in a lab, the manufacturers can determine the result of the stone they’re processing. However, the miners have to settle for whatever quality of stone they get from the ground with the natural diamond.
However, miners can use HPHT to enhance the color of natural diamonds and the clarity by laser drilling or fracture filling. In most places, stones that have been improved are no longer considered natural diamonds and are therefore not as valuable.
Finally, a natural diamond takes billions of years to form, and there’s a finite supply in the world. On the other hand, high-quality synthetic diamonds can be made from start to finish in a matter of weeks. As long as the diamond “seeds” are available, there will be no shortage of synthetic diamonds.
2. The Appearance
To the naked eyes, the appearance of natural and synthetic diamonds is the same. However, the slight differences begin to show when they’re closely examined under high magnifying equipment.
The most notable difference between natural and synthetic diamonds is the presence of inclusions in natural ones. Inclusions are the flaws in every naturally-formed gemstone, and even though they are present on synthetic diamonds, they look different.
Nowadays, some dubious manufacturers of synthetic diamonds try to emulate the types of inclusions found in natural ones. However, professional gemologists in institutions like the GIA and AGS would be able to tell the differences between both.
3. The Price
There is a massive difference between the prices of synthetic and natural diamonds. On average, synthetic diamonds cost around 1/5th the price of a natural diamond of matching qualities. The fact that there’s a limited supply of natural diamonds and the general cost of mining and refining makes it cost more than lab-grown diamonds.
There is also a difference in the sell-on value of natural and synthetic diamonds. Without factoring in inflation, your natural diamond would maintain at least 50% of its value if you decide to re-sell. However, the synthetic diamond has next to no sell-on value.
Also, as the processes of creating synthetic diamonds have become cheaper and faster, the price is dropping rapidly. In May 2018, the entrance of De Beers into the synthetic diamond game was also a massive factor in the decrease in prices. According to National Jeweler, the synthetic diamond market took a 26% drop in prices in the first three quarters of 2019 alone, and there has been a steady decrease since.
4. Social And Environmental Impact
For more than a century, diamond mining has been associated with several political issues. Firstly, the impact of Cecil Rhodes’ mining company, De Beers, on South African citizens is a huge human rights matter today. Of the billions of dollars worth of diamonds mined from the country, most black South Africans worked in the mines at wages of around 5 dollars a week.
The 2006 movie Blood Diamond does a lot to highlight the “evils” of the diamond industry and the use of diamonds to fund the war in Sierra Leonne. The diamond industry has tried to clear its name in the following years with a better trace of the supply chain of diamonds. However, the reputation of the illegal diamond mining industry remains.
Also, the significant environmental impact of mining diamonds makes synthetic diamonds seem like a more sustainable option. It’s worth noting that these claims of synthetic diamonds being more eco-friendly are not universally agreed upon within the industry. According to a study from the Diamond Producers Association, the carbon-intensive process of producing synthetic diamonds makes them more environmentally harmful.
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Natural vs Synthetic Diamond Jewelry
Natural and synthetic diamond jewelry have their advantages and disadvantages, and people have their reasons for preferring one to the other. Firstly, if money is a huge factor for you, then synthetic diamonds are the clear option to choose because they cost considerably less than natural ones. With synthetic diamonds around, people no longer have to bother about spending their salary of 2 months on an engagement ring.
One thing you can be sure of if you go for either of the two types of diamonds is that you’ll be getting a stone that looks great. Diamonds have a glitter unmatched by other types of gemstones, and even lookalikes like cubic zirconia and moissanite don’t measure up. If appearance is all that matters to you, then you can choose any of the two types.
For some people, the story behind a diamond is essential, and they would prefer not to have “blood diamonds” on their jewelry. Synthetic diamonds are free of all the ethical issues attached to some natural ones.
On the flip side, some natural diamonds are worth a lot of money because of their “story”, and those stones hold sentimental value to some. Also, many people looking for jewelry that they intend to use as family heirlooms still prefer to use natural diamonds.
Types of Diamonds by Cut
Diamonds are cut in a variety of shapes. The primary goal of a diamond cutter is to lose the minimum carat weight possible. Therefore, since raw diamonds often come in random shapes and sizes, the diamond cutter will produce whatever shape maximizes carat weight and value.
When cutting a diamond, the quantity of waste in the rough diamond is frequently a factor in determining its worth. Shapes that can retain more of the raw diamond might be less costly. Popularity and availability are the other elements that impact the price of the diamond.
The most common diamond form is by far the round brilliant. In order to maximize brightness, flare, and fire, round brilliant diamonds are cut. It is a timeless classic that is utilized for bracelets, earrings, pendants, and just about every other type of jewelry you can think of.
The princess diamond is another popular diamond shape. It is traditionally nearly square but it can also be rectangular. The corners need to be protected with a wise choice of setting since the edges are sharply defined at 90-degree angles. Its brightness is comparable to that of a round diamond.
Rectangle-cut diamonds are not commonly used because of how easily the edges can get chipped. Most rectangle diamonds use the step-cut design. If you opt for a rectangle diamond you have to be wary of the kind of setting you use to ensure that the edges don’t break off.
The emerald-shaped diamond is known as a step cut diamond with long facets parallel to the girdle. For further protection against chipping, the corners have been trimmed. When buying emerald diamonds, check for high clarity since, like with any step cut, imperfections can be noticed a little more readily in this shape.
A square-cut emerald is another name for the Asscher diamond. It shares the emerald cut’s clipped corners and step facets. Although this cut was initially introduced in 1902, it has seen a recent surge in popularity.
The oval diamond is a spherical variety with a superb cut that has extended ends. Oval diamonds are a good choice for those who like the sparkle of a round diamond but are searching for something different.
The pear diamond has a lovely form with a point at one end and a rounded end at the other. It is a popular option for rings, earrings, and pendants because of its feminine form.
The marquise diamond has two pointed ends and an extended eye form. The extended design provides optimum finger coverage when it is fitted in a ring.
A trillion cut diamond also referred to as a trilliant cut, is a diamond that’s cut into a triangular shape. A normal trillion cut diamond will have a flat table at its surface and three sides that are all the same length. The trillion cut was first used in the 1960s, making it a relatively new diamond form.
The octagon diamond has 8 perfectly symmetrical sides; it’s a uniquely-shaped beauty. It can be set into a more squarish or roundish feature by simply rotating the diamond.
Diamond Carat Sizes
Carat is the standard unit of measurement for diamonds. Carats measure the weight of a diamond, not its size; however, the size of a diamond mostly correlates to its weight. One carat is equal to 0.200 grams or 0.007 ounces. Therefore 1 pound is equal to 2,265 carats and 1 gram is equal to 5 carats.
Carat is one of the 4Cs that jewelers use to determine the value of a diamond– the others are clarity, color, and cut. Carat weight is the easiest and most objective of the 4Cs as all you need is a scale that can read tiny weights.
However, carat is arguably the least influential of the 4Cs when it comes to influencing the price of a diamond. A diamond that is smaller in size but has better clarity, color, or cut would always cost more than a larger one.
Some diamond shapes are better at maximizing carat weight than others. For example, a 0.25ct square diamond would be about 3.5mm while an Asscher diamond of equal carat size would be 4.5mm. The smallest diamond sizes are Round Brilliant cut Diamonds referred to as “Stars”; these diamonds can be as little as 1.7mm, weighing 0.02cts each.
Are Synthetic Diamonds Graded?
Yes, they are. The same technique used to grade and certify mined diamonds is used to grade and certify lab-created diamonds. A gem lab that specializes in grading diamonds receives the diamonds and grades them according to the 4Cs of cut, clarity, color, and carat.
At the lab, several gemologists independently grade each diamond; the individual grades are tallied and examined to arrive at the final grade. This procedure aims to assign each diamond an objective grade. However, it’s not uncommon for different laboratories to have slightly varying results on one diamond.
Before buying any diamond jewelry, you must ask for the grading certification. All graded synthetic diamonds usually have a certificate attached to them. Among other things, these certificates indicate whether the jewelry is natural or synthetic.
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