Cultured diamonds are in the news now. But what is a cultured diamond? Is it a cubic zirconia? Or a moissanite, diamond substitute? No it is neither of these but a real authentic diamonds made in a laboratory.
What is a Cultured Diamond?
Basically a cultured diamond is ‘grown’ rather like a cultured pearl. But under a very tightly controlled laboratory environment under conditions emulating those in which mined diamonds are formed deep under the earth’s surface.
How is it Made?
Starting with a very tiny diamond seed and a separate source of carbon, extreme pressures and temperatures are applied so that the carbon source slowly transforms and grows atom-by atom, layer-by-layer, bit by bit on the diamond seed until you have a fully fledged diamond..
Comparing Man Made and Natural Diamonds?
There is, in fact, no difference between a cultured diamond produced in a laboratory or one produced deep under the earths surface. Both have the same physical, chemical and optical properties.
Both have the same hardness, specific gravity, refractive index and dispersion factor. Both are polished using the same equipment and techniques. Both have the same brilliance, sparkle, fire and scintillation. And both are in fact a died in the wool verifiable diamond. The only way of possibly telling the difference is that the man made diamonds will have no flaws whereas a natural diamond is likely to have some flaws unless they are a perfect diamond. Very rare indeed.
What about Artificial Diamonds?
They are totally different to moissanite and cubic zirconia which are actually diamond substitutes called “simulants”. The features and properties are quite different and they do not have the same characteristics. The polishing and grading is also very different.
The term cultured and man made is used to distinguish and identify the true nature of these diamonds as distinct from naturally grown diamonds. Sometimes the term ’synthetic” is used to describe man made diamonds. This is incorrect as these are actual diamonds and not “pretend” diamonds as are cubic zirconia and moissanite.
Certifying Man Made Diamonds
The various gemological laboratories, GIA, IGI, EGL, and other grading laboratories all certify the laboratory-grown diamonds as diamonds, having the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as a mined diamond.
Grading of Laboratory Diamonds
All diamonds, whether natural or laboratory-grown, are graded according to the same strict standards of the Gemological Institute of America for clarity, cut, carat weight and color - the very familiar 4 C’s. As further certification and to distinguish its cultured diamonds from those mined in nature, Gemesis insists that its stones are properly identified.
Who Makes Cultured Diamonds?
The two main companies who make cultured or man made diamonds are www.apollodiamond.com/ and www.gemesis.com. Both basically make them the same way and distribute their diamonds through dealers. Much of their diamonds are made for industry but many are also made for the jewelry market. While Apollo grows the classic white diamond, Gemesis grows exclusively the yellow diamond for the jewelry trade. On the Gemesis site it states:
“Some of the world’s most famous natural diamonds are of fancy color. With exceptional beauty and rarity, these diamonds have been associated with many intriguing figures in history from Louis XIV and his precious Tavernier Blue, which later was re-cut as the infamous Hope Diamond, to Catherine the Great and her unique blue-green Orlov. None can forget the stunning pear shape yellow diamond worn in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Today, fancy color diamonds are more visible than ever…pink and yellow diamond engagement rings worn by celebrities and a pumpkin color diamond ring worn by an actress who received an Oscar. A survey of contemporary fashion magazines will confirm the extent to which the world’s leading jewelry designers have embraced the allure of fancy color diamonds. With such enduring interest, there should be little doubt why Gemesis concentrates its production on colors.”
Each man made diamond is laser inscribed with an identity name and number.
History of Man Made Diamonds
General Electric was the first company to produce man made diamonds in 1954. Since then various laboratories have produced man made diamonds mainly for industrial purposes. De Beers has naturally enough not been very pleased and spent many millions discrediting man made diamonds with the “Gem Defensive Program”.
Even going so far as to petition the US Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to have man made diamonds branded as not natural. And also to try and blur the difference between “simulant’ and synthetic, in an attempt to imply man made diamonds are fake.
“Like hell!” retorts Carter Clarke, a retired brigadier general and founder of Gemesis, one of the leading diamond produces. “If you give a woman a choice between a two-carat stone and a one-carat stone and everything else is the same, including the price, what’s she gonna choose?” he said in an interview with Wired Magazine. “Does she care if it’s synthetic or not? Is anybody at a party going to walk up to her and ask, ‘Is that synthetic?’ There’s no way in hell. So, I’ll bite your ass if she chooses the smaller one.”
So the manufactured diamond industry instead uses the term “cultured diamonds,” in the same way cultured pearls are identified from natural pearls. It is noteworthy that when cultured pearls were first introduced to the world they also experienced a cultural lag before being fully accepted also. Today the cultured pearl market is 95 percent of the market and means that pearls are available to most people rather than the select few.
Where to find them
However the DeBeers propaganda machine has done well and most stores still refuse to carry man made or cultured diamonds. Going to Apollo or Gemesis web sites are the best places to find dealers prepared to carry stock.
Currently there is little difference in price between cultured and natural diamonds. But it is very likely, as the labs grow and are able to produce diamonds in more quantities, that cultured diamonds will become more available and also become cheaper.
Perhaps DeBeers would do better to look at producing their own cultured diamonds.