Since their opening in 1931, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) have quickly established themselves as the foremost authority in gemology and become the industry standard in gemological sciences. The...
Synthetic DiamondsMarch 6, 2017 - Diamond Articles
The desire for diamond has set a definite imprint on the culture and history of our world. From being the impetus for starting wars, to becoming the elemental symbol of love and desire, people throughout history yearn to own diamonds. When there is a desire to own something valuable, motive follows to make similar imitations of it, as well as less expensive copies of it. Why? Then, everyone can have a piece of the pie, even those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. And so synthetic diamonds were born.
What Does it Mean for a Diamond to be ‘Synthetic’?
With diamond, some materials are used that have the look of diamond, some are imitations or simulants, some materials are composite, and then, ultimately, synthetics were created. In gemology, we use the word synthetic quite strictly. To be a synthetic, an artificial (i.e. lab created) gemstone must have a natural mineral counterpart of the same composition and structure. For synthetic diamond, this means that a manufactured synthetic diamond has the same chemistry, physical properties and structure of a natural diamond. In essence, it is a diamond in every way, with the only difference being that it is man-made, as opposed to being brought out of the earth.
The History of Synthetic Diamond
James B. Hannay (1879) and Henri Moissan (1893) attempted to convert charcoal into carbon, after the discovery that diamond was made of pure carbon. Hanay used a flame-heated tube, while Moissan used his electric arc furnace. Sir Charles Parsons spent forty years methodically trying to reproduce their experiments to create diamond, and in 1928 authorized Dr. C. H. Desch to publish and article stating that, to date, no synthetic diamonds had been produced by anyone, and that previous experiments had likely created another gemstone.
Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA) was the first company to succeed in growing diamonds in their ‘sphere’ apparatus in 1953, but they did not announce their discovery at the time. Two years later, General Electric publicly declared that they had grown the first diamonds using the ‘belt’ apparatus, a process guarded by the US government. De Beers announced their success in growing diamonds in 1959 using a similar method, and by the 1960’s synthetic diamond was being created by both GE and De Beers for industrial purposes.
Where Synthetic Diamonds Are Used
Because of the hardness of diamond, it is especially ideal for machine and cutting tools. Diamond powder is used as an abrasive, and there are diamond-tipped drill bits. It is ideal for use on polishing and grinding as well. Diamond has high thermal conductivity, but no electrical conductivity, making it ideal for use in the laser industry, as well as for use in semiconductor technology. Synthetic diamonds can be made to size, making synthetics perfect for use in industrial sectors, saving time and money from having to crush natural diamonds to size.
How Synthetic Diamonds are Made
Most synthetic diamonds are created using either High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) methods. In HPHT, a carbon source (usually graphite or diamond powder) is dissolved by metallic catalyst solvent, upon a diamond seed crystal, which will grow under conditions of extreme high pressure and high temperature. Pressure can be applied by anvils in the Belt Process or Cubic Press, by liquid in a compression barrel through the BARS process, or through a pyrophyllite gasket and electrical currents using a Toroid press. In CVD synthetic diamond making, temperatures and pressures do not have to be so high, and instead a mix of oxygen, hydrogen and methane (which has carbon) can allow for recrystallization on the seed crystal.
Synthetic Diamonds in Jewelry
With growing interest in synthetic diamonds for industrial use, and advancement in technology, comes advancement in diamond quality and growing interest in synthetic diamonds in jewelry.
Synthetic diamonds are advancing as an alternative center stone to diamond for use in engagement rings, as well as other fine jewelry pieces, such as pendants, bracelets and earrings. There is also growing use of synthetic diamonds as melee in jewelry (melee are small diamonds, around 0.001 to 0.018cts. in weight, as seen in a micro pave diamond bands).
Selling Synthetic Diamonds
Andrew Brown, President of WP Diamonds, says of their secondhand market value, “The synthetic diamond growers typically sell certified, grown diamonds at 30%-40% less than the equivalent natural diamonds. Given the nascency of this new supply, the secondhand market is only just starting to emerge. Just like we saw with cushion cuts, which have re-emerged as a popular shape over the last 10-15 years, we have only really started to see cushion cuts be recycled over the last few years. So, given that only approximately 1% of diamond supply is synthetic, we expect the recycled synthetic market to remain extremely small and immaterial for quite some time. It is likely that the secondhand market will not become established or truly developed for a long period and we expect synthetic diamond trades will be at less than half the value of the equivalent, secondhand, natural diamond.”
About WP Diamonds
When looking to sell either your natural diamonds or diamond jewelry, WP Diamonds offers a quick and simple way to have money in your account in as little as 24 hours. With an A+ rating from the BBB, we take the security of your diamonds seriously. Simply fill out our online form and our GIA trained gemologists will be in touch with you shortly with a price quote. Our service is free, secure and streamlined. But don’t just take our word for it, read our hundreds of customer reviews.