Synthetic Diamonds

Posted by on Monday, September 29, 2014 · Leave a Comment 

Scientists have been working for more than 100 years to develop a process for creating diamond in a laboratory. The creation of a synthetic diamond would bring significant benefit to a number of industries which require a material of its hardness and durability. Of course, it might also be of interest to buyers of jewelry, depending on its availability and cost.

Synthetic colored gemstones have been laboratory-manufactured since 1898. The first synthetic was the mineral corundum, which includes the gemstones ruby, sapphire and the famous synthetic alexandrite-like sapphire. Synthetic emerald followed in the 1940’s. Newer technologies developed by the 1970’s allowed the manufactured of synthetic amethyst, synthetic opal, synthetic turquoise, synthetic alexandrite, among others.

To be able to synthesize diamond, the same heat and pressure that we theorize exists in the earth must be created in a laboratory, with machines built to produce that environment. This was first accomplished by the General Electric Company in the early 1950’s. Since then, the race has been on to develop synthetic diamonds that might be used as gemstones for jewelry.

The first synthetic diamonds for jewelry appeared in the last 10 years. These were primarily rich fancy yellow colors. During this same period, tiny colorless synthetic diamonds were also manufactured. By 2009, larger colorless synthetic diamonds became available, generally under one carat in weight. The race is now on to produce synthetic colorless diamonds from 1 carat and up, to see if the public will purchase them for engagement rings and other purposes, instead of the natural stone.

A synthetic diamond has the same optics, chemistry and structure as a natural diamond … it is essentially the same thing. There are features of these stones however that permit gemologists to safely and accurately identify them. The 2 or 3 companies now manufacturing them in larger sizes are having each polished stone sent to a laboratory for an identification report, which will be given with the stone upon its sale.

So far, synthetic colorless diamonds are fairly expensive, approximately 25% to 35% less expensive than their natural counterparts. It is far too early to know whether a laboratory created diamond at this price will be preferred over a natural stone. The laboratory created diamonds will be very colorless and probably close to flawless. Those features may excite certain buyers, even though once the process is perfected, there will be no limit to the number of stones that can be manufactured. The question whether a synthetic can be returned, traded in, upgraded … all those issues that are part of the marketplace for natural diamonds and other gemstones will need to be worked out over time. Clearly, they will never be good investments.

Historically, throughout the 20th century, the introduction of synthetic colored gemstones had no lasting affect on the desire of the world’s public to purchase, wear and own beautiful natural colored gemstones. Of course, laboratory-created colored gemstones cost a tiny fraction of the price of their natural counterparts, while a synthetic diamond is going to be expensive, at least for the time being.

– Tom Tivol

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