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Diamonds [and Lab Diamonds] for Dummies

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By Priya Raj on 28th February 2023

The world of diamonds is complex and filled with jargon that the average Joe wouldn’t know. The Sybarite presents a comprehensive guide to all things sparkly and new.

It’s just like they say; Diamonds are a girl’s best friend - and one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. Prized for their beauty and rarity, the stones are formed within the Earth’s mantle [between the Earth’s crust and core] in a natural process when carbon deposits into the earth and is subject to a combination of heat and pressure. Though the exact measure of time isn’t available, it is thought to take millions of years, resulting in the high price of diamonds, depending on clarity and carat.

Pricing

Diamonds, along with being the strongest substance on Earth, are undoubtedly also the most expensive. Their price tag is determined by the four c’s; colour, clarity, cut and carat. Clarity references the level of imperfections [or ‘inclusions’] in the diamond. Because these diamonds are formed naturally, there may be slight imperfections that, though often invisible to the naked eye, do affect the value of the stone. This scale ranges from the lower end of the scale [13] to FL [flawless] - i.e. the best money can buy.. The colour scale is slightly different, working on an alphabetised grading system [from D to Z]. D is the clearest stone you can find, and Z is a near-canary yellow diamond. Diamonds, when mined, have a rough shape and unpolished surfaces, so they undergo polishing and cutting to make them look presentable. The ‘cut’ references the shape of the stone. The reason some cuts cost more is dependent on how much diamond material is wasted by cutting the stone to a particular shape. The final, and most obvious deciding factor which affects the price is the carat weight [size] of the stone; and of course, the bigger the diamond, the more it’ll cost you.


Natural Diamond Mining

The process of how the diamond is made is simple; the problem arises when they are then taken from the ground. Historically, the diamond industry has been associated with conflict and human rights abuses. The mining of natural diamonds involves removing sand and soil from the ground to reach the stones, and can also mean draining lakes and other bodies of water - killing the animals which live in them. The dust particles created from this labour contribute to something called “ground-level ozone” - a gas which causes lung problems and asthma for the people who inhabit the area. It’s an extremely labour-intensive process with the use of machinery and chemicals - all of which pollute the areas where the mining takes place.


Lab Diamonds

To combat these concerns, jewellers and industry experts have been heavily promoting the ethical and lab diamond sector for the past decade. Ethical diamonds are natural diamonds which have been sourced and produced with a view of being as socially and environmentally responsible as possible, often with completely transparent supply chains for clients to know exactly where their diamond came from. Some jewellers now also offer "recycled" diamonds, which are sourced from old jewellery and repurposed for new pieces.


Lab diamonds, on the other hand, also referred to as cultured, lab-created, engineered, or synthetic diamonds, are a whole other ball game. Krish Himmatramka, founder of ethical jewellery brand Do Amore, started his journey into diamonds after realising that others didn’t have a strong stance on ethics and sustainability. Do Amore's GIA graduate gemologist, Corinne Taylor-Davis walked us through what it takes to make a lab diamond. Lab diamonds - as the name suggests - are made in a lab from one of two methods; CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition) or HPHT (High Press, High Temperature). According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), these processes date back to the 1950s. “HPHT uses non-crystal carbon (graphite) and puts it under extreme temperature and pressure, turning it from greyish graphite to crystal-clear diamond. CVD uses vaporised elements in a high-temperature, low-pressure environment, allowing crystal-clear diamond layers to grow on top of a small "seed" crystal. HPHT has been around for decades, whereas the newer CVD technology was the catalyst for the recent lab diamond boom. In fact, because of the relative newness of CVD technology, there are currently fewer lab diamonds in the world than natural ones". 

Do Amore, @doamore on Instagram
Do Amore, @doamore on Instagram
Do Amore, @doamore on Instagram
Do Amore, @doamore on Instagram

Not only do lab diamonds cause nowhere near the social or environmental impact of natural diamonds, but they are also roughly 10-15% off the cost compared to the size and quality. “Lab diamonds’ pricing is not linked to rarity. Value [instead] is based purely on quality factors, just as with natural diamonds (the four cs: colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight)” explains Taylor-Davis. A common misconception of lab diamonds is that they are not real, or are comparable to the likes of cubic zirconia, another clear non-costly stone. “Both natural and lab-created diamonds are crystallised carbon. This quickly distinguishes them from simulants like cubic zirconia, which is a completely different gem with inferior sparkle, durability, and value. Instead, lab diamonds look, sparkle, and wear exactly the same as a natural diamond” said Taylor-Davis.


Diamonds are timeless gemstones which have captivated people for centuries. As awareness of the environmental and social impact of diamond mining grows, so has the next generation of fine jewellery lovers who are hyper-focused on ensuring their decisions don’t leave the planet in a worse state. Ultimately, lab or natural, ethical or recycled - they all hold the same beauty with different origins; and the choice is yours.

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