Man Made Diamond Information
For decades, diamonds have been the symbol of love and marriage, of life-long commitment. And for just as many years, scientists and researchers have searched for less expensive ways to create or “grow” diamond and other gemstone substitutes.
These imitations are not only for the jewelry industry, but also for the world of technology. In fact, the first man made gemstone was a ruby, created in 1902. Even before that, though, in 1893, a scientist working in a meteorite crater in Arizona, found tiny diamond-like structures, and tried to replicate them. Thus the history of man made diamonds began well over a hundred years ago.
Synthetic gems, like the previously mentioned ruby, possess all the same traits and characteristics of the their natural counterparts. The only difference is their "occurrence." Natural gems are found out in the world, usually mined, and synthetic ones are created in the laboratory.
Similar to man made diamonds are diamond simulants. Consisting of a different chemical composition, these stones have similar characteristics to diamonds. The tiny gems discovered in Arizona were an example of a diamond simulant. Composed of silicon carbide (SiC), the tiny chips were a hard mineral called moissanite, named after Dr. Moissan, the scientist who discovered them in that crater in 1893. These simulants didn’t hit the market until recent years. Cubic Zirconia, however, is the king of the simulant market. Popular, abundant and inexpensive, CZ is composed of zirconium oxide (ZrO2), and has been around since the late 1970s.
Within the synthetic category, the stones are classified into different man made diamond types, according to the method by which they are manufactured. The oldest method, first discovered in 1955, creates diamonds by replicating the conditions nature uses. High pressure, high temperature (HPHT), subjects the seed ingredients to temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Celsius, and to pressures of over 50,000 atmospheres (much like a herd of elephants standing on the head of a pin.) Companies using this process to create their synthetic diamonds include LifeGem and Gemesis. Tairus also uses HPHT to produce their diamonds, but via a slightly different process known as the hydrothermal method. All three companies are recent entrants into the gemstone world, and create slightly different types of man made diamonds.
The other method used to create man made diamonds is CVD, chemical vapor deposition. This process uses a seed ingredient, too, but instead of using high heat and pressure, creates a chemical reaction. The reaction forms a “carbon” vapor which then deposits the diamond onto the seed, often atom by atom. Apollo man made diamonds are “grown” using this method. Apollo Diamonds is also a recent entrant into the gemstone market.
As mentioned previously, the production of imitation diamonds was originally meant to serve science. The discoveries of gemstone quality crystals were merely an accident. In technology, man made diamond applications are abundant. Diamonds are beautiful, and they are also very hard, extremely durable and can act as thermal conductors. These traits qualify them for use in computers, lasers, radiation detection devices and semiconductors. Diamonds are rare and expensive, with a cost that often hinders usage in research. Inexpensive, mass production of man made diamonds can be a boon to future scientific breakthroughs. So, research continues.