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Golden Age Technology

Lab-Grown Diamonds: A Fashionable Alternative without the Harmful Effects of Mining

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Diamonds are chiefly known for their use in jewelry, but most diamonds are used in industry. Diamonds are expensive because these high-quality gems are in short supply. It takes billions of years deep in the earth’s crust under conditions of intense heat and pressure to cause carbon atoms to crystallize and form diamonds. In addition, diamond mining is a complex and costly process that has many detrimental effects on the environment, including soil erosion, water contamination, deforestation, and ecosystem destruction.

Lab-grown diamonds, also known as man-made diamonds or synthetic diamonds, were first created in 1954, offering a more affordable and eco-friendlier alternative to mined diamonds. It’s anticipated that lab-grown diamonds will be a major part of global jewelry’s future. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds that look and feel just like natural diamonds. They also consist of pure carbon in the same cubic crystalline form as mined diamonds. The only difference between the two is that natural diamonds often contain a tiny amount of nitrogen, while man-made diamonds do not.

The two primary methods for producing lab diamonds are the high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) process and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Three methods are used to create an HPHT environment for growing diamonds: the belt press, the cubic press, and the bars press. HPHT diamond technology, although a great invention for growing high-purity colorless diamonds, requires long growth times and high energy costs. Enter chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a newer method to alleviate the problems of HPHT by using a low-pressure environment.

Nowadays, both the HPHT and CVD techniques can produce colorless and flawless diamonds but the CVD method can produce much larger colorless diamonds. It typically takes several days to grow one crystal diamond with both methods; however, scientists at the Australian National University and RMIT University have found a way to speed up the process into just a matter of minutes and at room temperature. British multi-millionaire and environmentalist Dale Vince, founder of Sky Diamond, has created the world's first zero-impact diamonds.

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