How Are Diamonds Made: Mined Diamonds vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds
Alicia Briggs | February 1, 2023
Alicia Briggs | February 1, 2023
For many of us, diamonds are beautiful and brilliant gems that we love to wear. We even use diamonds to symbolize our love and commitment to a partner, as an heirloom, or memento. While most of us know what a diamond is, you may be wondering how are diamonds made. Diamonds are actually the strongest known substance and their formation process is fascinating. Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how diamonds are made and the differences between mined and lab-grown diamonds.
To further your diamond education, our VRAI Diamond Experts are available to help answer any questions you may have.
What Are Diamonds?
Diamonds are officially defined by the Federal Trade Commission as “a mineral consisting of pure carbon crystallized in an isometric system.” Both “natural” i.e. mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds are considered the same, as far as their chemical composition goes. The difference between these two is in how they are created, not what they are.
What Are Diamonds Made Out Of?
Diamonds are made when carbon atoms experience high enough pressure and temperature that the atoms begin to bond together and form diamonds. If you’re wondering what rock diamonds are found in, after formation, they slowly make their way to the surface of a volcanic rock called Kimberlites.
Are Diamonds Made From Coal?
Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not made from coal. This myth started because both coal and diamonds are formed from carbon. While they may have that in common, neither coal nor diamonds are involved in the formation of each other.
How Are Diamonds Formed Step By Step
The process to form both mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds is the same. Diamonds are formed when:
- Carbon atoms bond after experiencing high pressure and temperatures.
- They then grow a crystalline lattice structure and become a full rough diamond.
- Mined diamonds then make their way near the surface of Kimberlite volcanoes where they are mined and collected.
- After that, diamonds are cut, polished, and sorted based on diamond grading.
Each diamond is one of a kind, varying in color and clarity, and these differences occur naturally during the formation process.
How Long Does It Take A Diamond To Form?
While it might seem like a simple process to form diamonds, it actually takes between 1 and 3 billion years for a diamond to form. It’s impossible to know exactly how long it takes diamonds to form because the formation process isn’t continuous.
Are Natural Diamonds Worth More?
“Natural” diamonds i.e. mined diamonds, generally cost more than lab-grown diamonds. This is primarily due to the fact that the price and availability of diamonds are controlled by a small group of people. Mined diamond production involves more labor, and mined diamonds are more well-known than lab-grown diamonds, so they tend to cost more. However, a lab-grown diamond is identical to a mined diamond, but lab-grown diamonds will cost significantly less. This is because their production process is more cost-effective and they are a renewable resource.
Why Aren’t Mined Diamonds Sustainable?
Diamond mining is a largely unsustainable industry. The mining process also involves further destruction of natural resources. Diamond mining is largely unregulated, and has contributed to significant environmental devastation, such as soil erosion and deforestation.
Sustainability aside, the diamond industry is also an unethical industry, rife with human rights abuses including child labor and worker's rights violations. Conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds, are diamonds that have been illegally mined and sold to subsidize terrorist or militia groups. It’s very difficult to guarantee the origin of mined diamonds, making it hard to find truly conflict-free or sustainably produced mined diamonds.
How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?
Lab-grown diamonds use the same growing process as mined diamonds, but they take significantly less time to grow and are produced in a lab.
How Are Diamonds Made In A Lab
There are two ways to create lab-grown diamonds: high temperature or chemical vapor deposition.
The HPHT Method: This method uses high temperatures to create lab-grown diamonds through a thermodynamic process. The diamond seed is placed in pure carbon and then exposed to heat and pressure. This causes the carbon to attach to the diamond seed from 14 directions, forming a rough diamond in a cuboctahedron shape. HPHT uses more energy and is also more costly than the CVD method.
The CVD Method: Chemical vapor deposition is when carbon-heavy glasses are converted into plasma via vacuum chambers. Through kinetics, the carbon atoms from inside the chamber will build in a vertical direction on top of the diamond seed. This causes the rough diamond to form a clean, square shape. CVD uses less energy, and costs less, making it a more sustainable way of producing lab-grown diamonds.
Both methods will take one month to produce a lab-grown diamond. The diamonds are then cut and polished and then graded based on their quality and color.
What’s The Difference Between Lab-Grown and Mined Diamonds?
The Federal Trade Commission recognizes both lab-grown and mined diamonds as real. Both diamond types are identical in their composition and appearance. There is no difference between the two except for their point of origin. Lab-grown diamonds have a fully traceable point of origin while mined diamonds do not.
How Are VRAI Created Diamonds Made?
VRAI created diamonds are sustainably grown in our zero-emission foundry in the Pacific Northwest, hydro powered by renewable energy. All of our lab-grown diamonds are produced using the CVD method.
First, we place a small sliver of diamond in a plasma reactor. Once the carbon has been atomized, the carbon atoms begin to stack on top of the diamond and grow. Once the jewelry-grade diamond has been formed, we can cut off the original piece of the diamond and reuse it to start this process over again.
After each VRAI created diamond is produced, it will then be cut and polished by our master craftspeople and graded.
Why You Should Choose Lab-Grown Diamonds
Mined diamond production can involve environmental destruction as well as human rights abuses. Lab-grown diamonds are generally a more ethical option than mined diamonds, but not all lab-grown diamonds are sustainably made. Some lab-grown diamonds are produced in foundries that have the same carbon footprint as a mine.
When you choose VRAI created diamonds, you’re choosing lab-grown diamonds that are both sustainably and ethically made. All VRAI created diamonds are produced in our zero-emission foundry, with no human or environmental toll. Each 1 carat diamond created by VRAI saves 250 tons of earth, 2,011 ounces of air pollution, and 143 pounds of carbon dioxide when compared to mined diamonds.
All VRAI sustainably created diamonds have a guaranteed point of origin and quality while mined diamonds do not have the same guarantee. Since all VRAI diamonds are certified, you can verify their quality and value. We are there for the entire journey of a VRAI created diamond, from the moment it’s made to the final piece of jewelry you take home with you. As such, we can ensure that every step of the process reflects our sustainable values.
Another reason to choose Lab-grown diamonds is that they are almost always more affordable than mined diamonds. Our prices reflect the true value of the diamond, not markups to account for middlemen. We can offer diamond prices that are far better than any of our competitors, including both mined diamonds and other lab-grown diamonds.
When you choose VRAI created diamonds, you’re choosing to invest in a guilt-free diamond that you can treasure for life.
How Are Diamonds Made Into Jewelry?
To make diamonds into jewelry, the rough diamond is first cut and polished, then sorted by their quality. From there, the design of the jewelry is created and a prototype is formed using a wax casting. The diamonds are cut according to the jewelry design and set into metal. Different diamond shapes are best suited for different designs, and diamonds can be cut to suit any type of jewelry.
Discover VRAI Created Diamonds
Explore our full inventory of diamonds sustainably created by VRAI online or in one of our VRAI Shrowrooms. Our VRAI Diamond Experts can offer personalized, complimentary guidance when you book an appointment. Whether you’re shopping for an engagement ring, wedding ring, fine jewelry, or loose diamonds, VRAI has beautiful, high-quality lab-grown diamonds perfect for any budget or style.