Why “Made in laboratory” diamonds are so popular?
Sidney Newhaus, co-founder of the diamond company Chemie, says the diamonds Meghan wore took only five days to make in the laboratory.
Sydney New Boss and his business co-founder Jessica Warch belong to the diamond business family and live in Antwerp, the world’s largest diamond business hub.
Newhass’s father owns a diamond shop. His grandfather worked for a company called De Beers and after World War II he took up the diamond business as a permanent occupation.
Abandoning their families’ traditions, Newhaus and Warch abandoned the traditional diamond business because of the environmental and human cost of extracting them.
What are laboratory-made diamonds and are they really a sustainable alternative to traditional diamonds?
First of all, remember that a diamond made in a laboratory is also a diamond and it is chemically, materially and visually similar to a natural diamond extracted from underground mines.
Naturally occurring diamonds are formed under extreme pressure from the earth’s crust and extreme temperatures up to 100 miles underground. Most of them formed between one and three billion years ago when the earth was much warmer than it is today.
Laboratory-made diamonds are also made under extreme pressure and heat, but they are made inside the machine instead of underground.
There are two ways to make a diamond. In both cases there is a complete digestive tract.
The first diamond in the laboratory was made from a system of high pressure. This system is called ‘HPHT‘ in which the seed is placed with pure graphite carbon and then heated to a temperature of 1500 Degree centigrade and then placed in a chamber and applied pressure 1.5 million pounds per square inch. And that’s how a diamond is made.
Recently, another method of diamond making has been discovered called Carbon Vapor Deposition (CVD).
The seeds are placed in a chamber containing gas filled with carbon and then heated to a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius. Under these conditions, the gases begin to attach to the seed and thus the process of diamond formation begins.
Laboratory diamond-making technology has recently made great strides, allowing companies to make high-quality diamonds quickly and cheaply. This means that competition between diamond-making companies in the laboratory and diamond-mining companies has increased.
The first diamond in the laboratory was made from a system of high pressure high temperature.
According to a report commissioned by the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), a diamond that used to cost 4,000 USD per carat in 2008 now costs only 300 to 500 USD per carat.
In the diamond industry, the practice of making diamonds in the laboratory is now growing rapidly.
Young people who buy diamonds like it because of its price, transparency and environmental reasons and they are attracted to it.
According to the AWDC report, its market has grown by 15 to 20 percent. This is likely to increase further as more and more atomists now keep laboratory-made diamonds in their stores.
There is no complete data on the carbon footprint of diamonds extracted from the mines, but the energy required to make diamonds in the laboratory is quite high.
According to a report published by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from diamond mining is three times less than that produced in the laboratory. But it is important to note that DPA represents the world’s three largest diamond mining companies, including De Beers, Alrosa and Rio Tinto.
However, some laboratory diamond companies have been warned by the US Federal Trade Commission not to present themselves as environmentally friendly companies unless they can verify this claim through data.
It is estimated that one carat of diamond requires 250 tons of earth to be mined. And in 2018 alone, 148 million carats of diamonds were mined. Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl. According to a report published in 2014, extracting diamonds from mines consumes twice as much energy per carat as making a diamond in a laboratory.
An estimated 57 kilograms of carbon is emitted per Carat of diamond from the earth, but only a few grams are emitted by diamond mining in the laboratory. But it also assumes that renewable energy is being used, which also calls into question the report.
But those figures are much lower than that of another company, Turkost, which produced the Diamond Producers Association’s report mentioned earlier. He said that 510 kg per carat emission of carbon dioxide in making diamonds from laboratory and 160 kg per carat in extracting and polishing from diamonds.
But the environmental damage from diamond mining far outweighs the carbon emissions.
The process of extracting diamonds from the mines also affects the water sources used by the locals. This is due to the leakage of acidic material in the mine and actually due to the addition of broken rocks inside the mine to the water supply.
According to a study by the University of Waterloo in Canada, this is the biggest responsibility of the mining industry. Although acid mine drainage is not only a problem in the diamond industry, it is also present in many metals and coal mines.
Mining has wreaked havoc in Canada and elsewhere. According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal in 2016, a Canadian lake was emptied in search of the De Beers diamond, killing 18,000 fish in it. Diamond mining in India is putting further pressure on the tiger population there.
So neither the laboratory nor the diamond mining industry is spotless, but the environmental impact of diamond mining is still great. Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany’s chief executive, wrote in a 2015 article in the New York Times that “there are very few industries in the world that have more environmental and social footprint than mining.”
Of course, the environmental and human harms of diamond mining are intertwined. Many diamond mines keep miners at very low wages and in unsafe conditions.
Even diamonds mined in the early 2000s, according to the Kimberley Process, did not have a transparent beginning. The process involved the use of conflict diamonds.
According to Global Witness, a non-governmental organization, “The definition of conflict diamond as seen by the Kimberley Process is that Heera funds an armed group that is trying to overthrow a legitimate government.”
A spokesman for Global Witness said there were many shortcomings in the process.
He said on condition of anonymity that the link between diamond mining and human rights abuses has grown significantly over the past several years. “The Kimberley process has failed to figure it out.”
He gave the example of the mid-2000s, when thousands of miners were killed after diamonds were discovered in Zimbabwe. According to a report by Global Witness, the diamonds found there were being sold openly in Dubai and Antwerp.
The matter is further blurred when the stone is cut and polished and then it is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Kimberley Process. Diamonds reach mines from various places to shops and are often found in diamonds exported from other countries.
As a result, despite the Kimberley Process certification, many companies still do not know where the diamonds they are using come from.
According to a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, “no company has been able to identify from which individual diamonds all its diamonds came.”
But at the same time, there is concern that the demand for laboratory-made diamonds will reduce job opportunities in mineral-rich developing countries.
Brad Brooks Rubin was previously the US State Department’s Special Adviser on Conflict Diamonds and is now the director of The Century Project, which works to end abuses in Africa’s most war-torn regions.
Brad Brooks asks, “Is it morally right to forbid people from buying diamonds in developing countries where millions of jobs depend on them?”
The human question is a bit complicated, but the diamonds made in the laboratory are still better in terms of environmental impact.
Diamonds for jewelry account for only 30% of the market, while the rest are used for digging, cutting and milling. This is the area where the environmental benefits of laboratory diamonds can be utilized.
One of their industrial uses is the disinfection of contaminated water sources. During the process of making this diamond, a non-metallic element of mineral boron or boric acid is added to it so that a boron filled diamond can be produced which can be an electrical conductor.
It then oxidizes other toxic organic compounds by passing current through the diamond, a process called mineralization, which later converts them into a biodegradable form.
Jason Payne, chief executive of Ada Diamonds, says laboratory-produced diamonds can also significantly reduce carbon footprint in communication and transportation.
“Diamond is the most well-known semiconductor, much better than silicone and other materials.” Like our mobile phones when we charge them.
According to the US Department of Energy, diamond products reduce such losses by 90%.
The thin layer of diamond also reduces friction in mechanical parts as it moves from the windmill to the car. When car company Nissan used diamond film on parts of its car engines, they reduced friction by 40%.
“On the contrary, diamonds extracted from the ear are not clean for such use,” says Payne.
Whenever there was a bad time in the mining diamond industry, it immediately secured its survival through advertisements. Of course, many of us will be fans of diamonds only because in 1947, De Beers cleverly advertised them brilliantly.
The company changed the current culture forever when it said that “a diamond is forever, and a diamond ring is an essential part of an engagement.”
The idea that diamonds are so rare is a very deliberate illusion. In fact, due to the huge supply of diamonds, De Beers recently had to say that it is reducing its contracted buyers. The company has confirmed that it will review the contracts after their terms expire this year.
But with the growing popularity of laboratory-made diamonds, efforts to rebrand diamonds from the mines have not been fruitful.
Their industry is facing an increase in supply and a decrease in demand around the world, especially in China, which is the world’s second largest diamond market. There, diamond sales in 2019 have been five percent lower. “We as an industry are struggling because of consumer distrust,” said Simon Forrester, chief executive of the British National Association of Jewelers, at a meeting in London.
De Beers also said at the end of 2019 that they are also reducing production by 15% due to lower prices.
Newhaus says she has seen a change in Antwerp’s environment as consumers’ environmental sustainability and social welfare agendas have increased. “He (Antwerp) was very active when I was young. Business was booming for everyone. Now when I go back I see that the atmosphere there is different … Now there is less money than before.
A major sign of this change is Newhaus’ shift from his traditional family business to a more high-tech laboratory diamond business. With clients like Meghan Markle, her lab-making diamond business is booming.
The real value of diamonds in jewelry, whether extracted from mines or made in the laboratory, does not have to be precious or rare, says Newhaus. “It’s a more emotional attachment,” he said, caressing the green necklace around his neck with his fingers. “It was the first jewelry I made for myself.”
That is why as long as diamonds retain their emotional significance, atoms will continue to sell them, whether they are made in the laboratory or extracted from the mines.