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Cultured Diamonds: Can A Natural Process Be Duplicated?

Dec 15, 2007
Due to the unaffordable prices that real diamonds command, scientists have tirelessly formulated ways on how to duplicate the diamond formation process. The results are known as artificial, lab-created, or "cultured" diamonds. They are composed of the same 3D carbon crystal which occurs in natural diamonds and may essentially have the same properties.

In some cases, cultured diamonds can even have properties superior to real diamonds, such as being purer or harder.

One of those who first studied the manufacture of cultured diamonds was Ferdinand Moissan. In the late 19th century, he experimented with subjecting charcoal to temperatures of up to 4000 C to try to duplicate the formation of a diamond.

Other scientists, such as Ruff, who has allegedly reproduced diamonds, and Sir William Crookes, who laid claims to a successful reproduction in the early 20th century, published their works which were eventually studied by Dr. Willard Hershey.

Dr. Hershey pored over their experiments and came up with a cultured diamond of his own, in 1926. This "diamond" is now on display at the McPherson Museum.

Using cultured diamonds for industrial processes

Howard Tracy Hall, during his stint as a GE employee, embarked on a project that would make use of a reproducible and verifiable procedure in making cultured diamonds. He was already able to heat carbon at up to 3000 C, with a pressure of half a million psi, but the Second World War broke out and experiments had to be stopped.

After this attempt, many other scientists followed suit, although GE was still the first to produce cultured diamond crystals with gem-like quality.
Technologies used in the manufacture of cultured diamonds

Basically, two major procedures are being utilized in the production of cultured diamonds - these are the application of high pressure combined with high heat, and a procedure known as chemical vapor deposition.

The former is affordable and uses temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Celsius. The latter process, on the other hand, involves applying gases and carbon to a substrate such as silicon and puts out generally flat cultured diamonds.

Cultured diamonds are especially important in the cutting industry. As diamonds are used for the tips of drilling bits because they are the most durable material for the job, it is thus very important to develop a technique which could manufacture cultured diamonds for this purpose.

A cut such as the round brilliant cut will have a standard number of facets. This technique, known to bring out as much brilliance from a white diamond as possible, was developed by gem expert Marcel Tolkowsky. He gave mathematical measurements for the ideal round brilliant cut, and the further a white diamond's characteristics are from what Tolkowsky defined, the less brilliant the stone becomes.

The last criterion in the selection of white diamonds is carat. This refers to the weight of the stone. Generally, the larger the gem, the higher the cost. But you, as a buyer, should be aware that this is not always the case. Due to the premium given to engagement stones weighing certain milestone carats, such as 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0, a 1-carat white diamond may have less sparkle than a diamond of a lesser carat rating because of a poor cut.
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