Learn About Diamonds

Renowned for their sparkle, diamonds display light like no other! Created by Robert M. Shipley, the founder of Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the early 1940’s, theFour C’s of Diamond Qualityis a universal method for assessing the quality of any diamond, anywhere in the world. Shipley was committed to professionalising the Jewellery industry and worked to create universal standards for measuring the quality of gemstones.

Our Four C's of Diamonds Quality guide can help you decide on the most important factors when shopping for a diamond.

Natural vs Lab Created Diamonds

Laboratory grown diamonds go by many different names, lab-created, lab-made, cultured diamonds or engineered diamonds, to name a few. Regardless of how you refer to these, Lab-created diamonds have caused quite a stir in the diamond industry. These gemstones have the same chemical, optical and physical properties as natural diamonds as well as the same crystal structure.
Simply put, lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds. As the name suggests, unlike natural diamonds, lab created stones are grown in a laboratory or a factory, in a very short time (2-3 weeks) using one of two main processes.
Stones grown using this method are created by mimicking the environmental conditions that create natural diamonds deep within the earth's upper mantle. A diamond “seed” is placed in a piece of carbon, and immense pressure is applied, similar to those in the earth’s mantle, 5-6 GPa. Extreme temperature mimicking that of the magma in the upper mantle is also applied, with temperatures ranging from 1300°C - 1600°C. This immense pressure stimulates crystal growth around the seed, creating the diamond rough to be cut into a beautiful stone. 

CVD uses a small diamond seed as a catalyst for the crystallisation process too. The seed is placed inside a sealed chamber that is heated to between 700°C - 1300°C before being flooded with carbon rich gases (typically methane and hydrogen). These gases are then ionised into plasma using a technology similar to lasers, which essentially breaks down the molecular bond of the gas. Once broken down, pure carbon begins to stick to the seed and a new diamond forms. Additional treatments may be used (heat or irradiation) to enhance or change the diamond’s colour after it is grown.

With the naked eye it is impossible, even for a highly trained eye, to see the difference between a natural and a lab-created diamond. Lab-created diamonds are diamonds. Distinguishing between a lab-created and a natural diamond requires specialist scientific testing by a trained gemologist. Traditional observations and diamond detectors cannot tell a natural diamond apart from a lab-created diamond as they are chemically and optically identical.  
Just like natural diamonds, lab-created diamonds also come with a grading report. These can be issued by certified grading authorities such as the International Gemological Institute (IGI), or the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) among others. 

Diamond Gradings

All diamonds, natural or lab created, and any significant size or shape that are gem quality for jewellery use should be professionally graded by an accredited diamond grading specialist.

This not only confirms the quality and value of your stone, but along with an origin report, confirms that your diamond was responsibly sourced.

A Brief History of Diamonds

Ancient Diamond Mining - Golconda Diamonds

Rough Diamond - Cullinan Diamond (discovered 1905)

Cut Diamonds - ready for setting

Originally discovered in rivers and streams, some ancient Greeks and Romans thought that diamonds were the tears of gods, while in India it was suggested that diamonds occurred where lightning struck the earth. Other cultures believed that diamonds were splinters from falling stars or the essence of the sun trapped on earth. As unusual as these theories sound, the truth about diamond origin is still vague and although we know more about their creation, much of what we know was only discovered in the last 75-100 years. 

Scientists have learned that these precious stones go through quite a process before they reach the polished finished product in a jewellers display case. Diamonds are a solid form of carbon with atoms arranged in a crystal structure under immense pressure. They are initially formed deep within the Earth’s upper mantle (150-200km underground), here temperatures average 900-1300°C and pressures are around 50,000 times greater than that of the surface atmosphere. Under these conditions magma (molten lamproite and kimberlite) expand at rapid rates and cause the magma to erupt to the Earth’s surface via the path of least resistance, taking along with it rocks containing diamonds. These “paths of least resistance” settle in vertical structures called “kimberlite pipes” as the magma cools and hardens. 

Before the 20th century, natural diamonds were exclusively recovered from alluvial sources. Alluvial diamonds are stones that have been removed from their Kimberlite Pipe by natural erosive action over millennia before being deposited in a new environment like the ocean floor, shoreline or riverbed. Today, kimberlite pipes are the most significant source of natural rough diamonds and only 1 in 200 pipes contain gem quality stones. 

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