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Learning more about artificial diamonds and cubic zirconia

A natural diamond (what you might think of as a ‘real’ diamond) develops in the earth over millions of years. They have to be discovered and dug from the ground, then cut and polished and carefully set in the perfect piece of jewellery.

It’s not surprising that diamonds are incredibly expensive and usually reserved only for very expensive pieces of jewellery, like engagement rings. In response to the expense and rarity of diamonds, lots of alternatives have appeared. These include fake diamonds, which tend to appear in cheaper jewellery. They are inexpensive and often very pretty but, unfortunately, do not look much like real diamonds. There is another alternative, though – artificial diamonds.

Diamonds

How are artificial diamonds made?

Fake diamonds aren’t the only alternative to natural diamonds. People have actually learned to create diamonds in labs, using incredible heat and pressure to replicate the natural process of diamond creation. They have the same structure, content and properties as natural diamonds – they are exactly the same thing, just created differently! These artificial diamonds have been used for decades in items like cutters and drills. In recent years, though, lab-grown diamonds have increasingly appeared in jewellery.

Fake diamonds, on the other hand, are chemically very different from diamonds. They might actually be cubic zirconia, or another type of stone that can sometimes be passed off as a diamond. They tend to be far less expensive, and of a much lower quality, particularly in larger stones. In small stones, however, they can actually be indistinguishable from diamonds!

Why would you choose an artificial diamond?

There are lots of reasons to choose a lab-grown diamond rather than a natural diamond. Given that they are chemically and physically exactly the same as natural diamonds, the choice does not depend on appearance.

Cost
Diamonds created in a lab tend to be slightly cheaper than natural diamonds, because they are not as rare. The price difference is not as significant as with fake diamonds, but it still makes artificial diamonds just a little bit cheaper. Generally, they are 20-30% cheaper than natural diamonds. When you consider the price of a diamond, that’s a pretty significant saving!

Ethical sourcing
For many people, diamonds are ethically problematic. Although conflict-free diamonds are increasingly available, there is still a worry that buying a diamond might be funding crime, insurgency, corruption, and exploitation. ‘Blood diamonds’ are a major problem in the jewellery world, but buying a lab-grown diamond guarantees that your new ring hasn’t financed anything unpleasant or illegal.

Environmental issues
Diamond mining also comes with significant environmental costs – which aren’t a problem with lab diamonds, as they don’t need to be mined from the earth. Artificial diamonds are definitely the more eco-friendly option.

Colour
Coloured diamonds are created in nature when tiny impurities are present in the carbon that eventually becomes a diamond. Unsurprisingly, getting particular colours is very rare, and completely up to chance. In labs, on the other hand, specific impurities can deliberately be added to create a diamond of a particular colour. Even lab-grown coloured diamonds are expensive, but they are less expensive and less rare than natural coloured diamonds. They are much easier to find and therefore the perfect choice for anyone with their heart set on a coloured diamond.

The future for diamonds

While lab-grown diamonds are increasingly popular, it doesn’t look like natural diamonds are going to lose their attraction any time soon. For larger sizes especially, lab-grown diamonds are difficult to produce, so the most valuable diamonds in the world are still natural. There is also a certain romance attached to natural diamonds, produced by the earth itself over millions of years rather than in a few days in a lab.

13 Dec 2016

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