Are CVD Diamonds Real Diamonds?
They may be called “synthetic,” but don’t let the term fool you. Everything, from their internal atomic structure to the way they glitter on your finger, CVD diamonds are just like the mined diamonds that need to be excavated from the ground. CVD diamonds look exactly like so-called “natural” diamonds.
In fact, even a trained jeweler cannot identify the difference. And this isn’t just the opinion of diamond manufacturers, either; in 2018, the FTC ruled that, for all intents and purposes, synthetic diamonds and natural diamonds are a similar thing: 100% a diamond!
How Are CVD Diamonds Made?
Growing CVD diamonds relies on a unique and innovative process. In chemical vapor deposition, a thin ‘seed’ diamond is placed inside a sealed chamber and subjected to high temperatures (generally around 800°C). Then, a carbon-rich gas mixture (usually of hydrogen and methane) is introduced to the chamber.
The gases are ionized to break down their molecular bonds, allowing the pure carbon to connect itself to the diamond seed. Because the carbon builds up, it forms atomic bonds with the seed diamond, leading to the expansion of a new, larger diamond — completely just like the diamonds found in nature.
How Fast Do CVD Diamonds Grow?
The CVD process allows carbon atoms to attach to the seed diamond layer by layer. This produces a gorgeous, genuine diamond. But the method may be a slow one — generally moving at a rate of 0.1-10 microns per hour, for larger surfaces (smaller surfaces grow at slower rates). Estimates vary, but it’s generally considered to require about a month to grow a 1ct CVD diamond.
What Is the History of CVD Diamonds?
The first lab-grown diamond was created by General Electric back in 1955. DeBeers bought the technology, and it disappeared for several years. And while the GE/DeBeers diamond was grown using the HPHT approach, it set the stage for later technological advances that might eventually lead to the creation of CVD diamonds. By the 1980s, CVD diamonds had become a reality.
Are CVD Diamonds Expensive?
When it involves cost, everything is relative. So, once we say that CVD diamonds are inexpensive, what we’re really saying is that they typically cost but mined diamonds — about 20–30% less. So, for what you’d pay for a 1.5-carat mined diamond, you’ll instead upgrade to a 2-carat CVD diamond.
This is primarily due to three factors.
1) The large expense of digging deep holes within the earth.
2) The long supply chain related to mined diamonds.
3) The history of monopolistic manipulation of pricing.
Natural diamonds have to be located, extracted from the ground or seabed floor, shipped and sold to cutters, then shipped and sold to wholesalers, then shipped and sold to jewelry fabricators and at last distributed through independent retailers and large diamond chains with huge rents and advertising budgets.
The Diamond Producers Association will spend quite $180m in 2020, convincing consumers to shop for mine instead of lab-grown diamonds. With these steps along the way to you, the prices increase a lot. CVD diamonds skip most of that, allowing a much cheaper price tag.