What I Learned About Lab-Grown Diamonds

© Written by Rachael Taylor for JewelleryNetAsia

I had come across lab-grown diamonds before, but I have to admit that I knew little about them when I went to meet with a company called Anata over lunch at Kensington Roof Gardens, and there were some surprising things to emerge from the table that day.

The execs explained how they had a strong foothold in the memorial market – making diamonds using the carbon from loved ones’ ashes – but were now taking the same principles and pushing into the celebratory market; using carbon from living loved ones, such as locks of a baby’s hair or the mane of a horse.

White diamonds are hard to make

The most interesting fact I discovered was that white is the hardest colour of diamond to create artificially. This struck me as particularly ironic, as in the jewellery market white is the most common colour. The advantages to this, Anata said, are that it can focus on creating some of the more rare colours of diamonds – reds, oranges, yellows, blues – for a fraction of the price you would pay for one dug out of the ground.

Lab-grown diamonds have inclusions

My preconception of lab-grown diamonds is that they would be completely perfect, with no inclusions – they are made to order in a lab, after all. But no, lab-grown diamonds do have flaws, some pretty major ones judging by the samples I put to the loupe at lunch.

Anata UK operations manager Anita Bolton told me of one diamond she took to a client – she hand delivers all the diamonds grown for customers in the UK – and how she feared the worst when the diamond, which had been grown from the ashes of her client’s deceased husband, presented a huge, black inclusion. However, the story had a happy ending when the client chose to think of the inclusion as her late husband making his presence known.

Two weeks from carbon to diamond

Another preconception I had of lab-grown diamonds is that they take months and months to grow, but Anata’s team in St Petersburg can grow a diamond in just two weeks by crystalising carbon in a high-pressure, high-temperature machine. This depends on size and colour, of course, with larger diamonds taking longer to grow, and also white diamonds – or as close to white as they can get – taking longer.

A cup of carbon

One of the questions I asked at lunch was how much carbon do you need to grow a diamond? The general answer is that it takes about half a cup of whatever carbon source you choose. This means that if you decide to celebrate the birth of a baby by making a diamond from its hair, you would need to shave the baby’s whole head (and then some). However, you can actually mix different sources of carbon together so you could always have some of baby’s hair, some of mum’s and some of dad’s.

This article was originally published on JewelleryNetAsia on 22.07.15. I write a weekly column for the website about global jewellery trends. 

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