To gain a better understanding of why lab grown diamonds in Glasgow are worthy of consideration, we should start by delving into what these diamonds are and the reasons why lab-grown diamonds are called ethical.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
Just as the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are diamonds created in the lab by scientists. They have the same chemical and physical properties as natural diamonds. They are just as real diamonds as natural diamonds, with the only difference being how they came about.
Diamonds are made of carbon atoms. Lab-grown diamonds are made up of the same carbon atoms in identical structures as those of natural diamonds. However, while lab grown diamonds are created in labs, natural diamonds are formed deep in the earth’s crust where carbon deposits are subjected to high levels of pressure and temperature. They are typically formed over millions of years of this action.
Lab-grown diamonds are also created by subjecting carbon to extreme pressure and heat inside a machine in the lab. This is to mimic the natural process with results being replicated in a matter of days or weeks.
One of the processes for creating lab-grown diamonds is the high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) method. This process involves taking a small diamond fragment and using it as a seed crystal and placing a metal catalyst and a block of pure carbon on it, inside a press. Depending on the choice of a metal catalyst, the diamond may acquire the desired colour. When the press is subjected to high levels of pressure and heat delivered using electric pulses, the metal catalyst melts, allowing the carbon atoms that are breaking down to reach the seed crystal and begin to build up a multi-sided crystal structure that grows into a diamond. Care is taken to control the growth rate and ensure perfection. After cooling, the resulting lab-grown diamond can then be cut and polished to the desired shape. It is then graded according to the 4C's.
Another option for making lab-grown diamonds is the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) method. This process involves placing a small diamond slice in a chamber where it is exposed to carbon-rich gas at high temperatures. With time, the carbon gas ionises and the particles begin to stick to the diamond slice, allowing for crystallisation to occur and the diamond to form. This process can take weeks. Lab-grown diamonds that are made using the CVD method are generally considered to be of slightly better quality than those made using the HPHT method.
Both methods are however considered effective at creating high-quality and authentic diamonds that are identical to natural diamonds.
While not lab grown, recycled diamonds are considered a source of ethical diamonds. They allow buyers to bypass the environmental and ethical concerns that often plague modern mined diamonds. They are typically taken from old jewellery, re-polished and in some cases recut before being re-certified and put in a new setting. One advantage they have over lab-grown diamonds is that they also tend to retain greater value.
Are laboratory-grown diamonds the more ethical choice?
Yes. Lab-grown diamonds are considered the more ethical choice for several reasons.
They are eco-friendly
Mining activities are detrimental to the environment. The work done to extract gemstones from the earth's crust involves a high level of energy consumption and resource exploitation that damages the ecosystem. Many trees and other vegetation are cleared to make way for heavy machinery that digs deep into the earth. Some of the mines that have been dug are so big they have left behind craters that are visible from outer space. These machines and vehicles are powered by fossil fuels whose combustion causes more pollution while the mining process generates much waste that is disposed of in the surroundings.
Lab-grown diamonds are better for the environment as they are produced using much less energy and without polluting the environment. Some of the labs that do this work even rely on renewable energy like solar to power their processes.
No blood diamonds
It is a sad reality that many of the locations where natural diamonds are mined are war zones. This has led to situations where warlords or invading armies take control of diamond mines to harvest diamonds and illegally sell them to further finance their activities in these war-torn regions. The diamonds that come from such conflict and bloodshed are referred to as blood diamonds. As much as 25% of diamonds sold today are believed to be conflict or blood diamonds.
These rough diamonds have a bad reputation as trading in them fuels the destabilisation of war-torn countries. The warlords and militias that typically take control of diamond mining are seeking funding that will help them topple internationally recognised governments.
Their mining activities often involve the use of forced labour, child labour, child soldiers, human rights abuses and brutal civil wars. All these effects have been seen in several parts of western and central Africa where diamond traders ignored the harsh goings-on in a bid to find a supply of rough diamonds for their markets.
Lab-grown diamonds have no such controversies as they are made under lab conditions by scientists. There is no question that anyone is being forced to create them. The scientists are provided with the technology and supplies they need and good working conditions to do their work.
No impact on climate change
Mining activities pollute the environment. The exploration, digging, and transport of diamonds require much energy consumption and burning of fuels that result in planet-warming carbon emissions. These emissions are contributors to climate change.
While there are some allegations that lab-grown diamonds also require high amounts of energy to power their processes, it is established that many labs rely on renewable energy sources like solar and hydropower rather than fossil fuels to meet their energy demands.
Reduced need for physical labour
While mines do provide far more job opportunities than labs, the harsh working conditions of mines are of concern. People that work here are not only subjected to many dangers, but they are also underpaid and more prone to certain health problems. This includes respiratory illnesses, hearing loss, and physical injuries from certain repetitive activities.
Miners in many parts of the world often have a shorter life span than the national average. There is also the propensity for child labour to be used, especially in war-torn zones. The pollution from mining activities also often affects children that live in the surrounding areas due to exposure to toxins that can leach into farmlands and waterways.
Those that work in labs are not exposed to such levels of risk to their health and lives. They adhere to safety protocols that help reduce the risk of such dangers and they do not have to worry about their families that live with them being exposed to the same.
Lab-grown diamonds allow for easier manipulation of results. As said, you can achieve certain colour results depending on your choice of a metal catalyst during the HPHT process. However, if what you want are clarity and brightness, you can also manipulate the processes to guarantee the desired result.
Lab-grown diamonds can be grown without inclusions or blemishes that naturally occur with mined diamonds due to exposure to various possible impurities in the earth. With lab grown diamonds, impurities are kept out, resulting in diamonds that look cleaner and brighter than mined diamonds. This lack of impurities also means that lab-grown diamonds tend to retain their lustre and colour better and for longer than mined options.
They are cheaper
Mined diamonds are expensive because there is a finite supply of them and the demand is strong. The costs involved in bringing them to the market are also quite high. Some people however feel that diamonds are overpriced, more so when you consider the poor working conditions and low wages that miners earn.
Lab-grown diamonds are more affordable, despite the heavy investment in machinery and technology that goes into their making. So, if you have your heart set on a diamond but want to avoid it being tainted by association with the exploitation of people, you can opt for lab-grown diamonds that come at even more pocket-friendly prices.
Scrupulous diamond sellers
When dealing with diamond sellers that trade in mined diamonds, there is a good chance that you can end up conned. These sellers are often looking to make the most profit and can easily mislead a person into thinking the diamond they are selling is worth more than it truly is. Often the retail price you are quoted is never fully recouped if you end up having to sell the diamond later.
With lab-grown diamonds, you already have the benefit of being offered a diamond at a more affordable price. These gems are also typically available through reputable jewellers who can provide detailed information as to how the diamonds were made and their value. Given that a lack of impurities during the production process assures you of a cleaner and brighter diamond, you can expect the stone to retain its properties for longer.
Though lab-grown diamonds are yet to beat mined diamonds in popularity, growing concerns over the environment and ethics mean that with time we can expect this option to become the preference.
Tips for buying lab-grown diamonds
One of the key reasons people opt for lab-grown diamonds is that they get to avoid the possibility that they contributed to pollution and climate change emissions. However, even with lab-grown diamonds, it is important to ensure you are sourcing from a reputable lab that can account for their energy use.
Some labs are suspected of utilising even more fossil fuels than mines, hence the need to ensure you are dealing with a lab that is serious about limiting its carbon footprint through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. This is information that a reputable jeweller handling lab-grown diamonds should be able to easily provide. They should be able to tell you what kind of energy is used to power the labs manufacturing processes and what other measures they undertake to protect the environment.
Feel encouraged to ask your jeweller any questions you may have so that you can proceed with your purchase confidently. Even though lab-grown diamonds tend to be cheaper than mined diamonds, they can still make for a big purchase that may last several lifetimes, so do not be hesitant to ask questions.