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Are Synthetic Diamonds the Real Deal?

As long as it dazzles and sparkles, does it matter where the bling came from?

Synthetic diamonds – also known as artificial diamonds, cultured diamonds, or cultivated diamonds – are diamonds produced in an artificial process, as opposed to natural diamonds, which are created by geological processes.

Science has come up with a way to make diamonds that look just like natural diamonds. But if they look the same, are they somehow worth less than the ones dug up from the earth, price-wise? Or, from an emotional standpoint, are they man-made ones somehow – less romantic?

First of all, what we’re talking about are diamonds, not glass, not crystal, not quartz, not cubic zirconias. Optically, physically, and chemically, “real” diamonds and synthetic ones are one and the same thing.

Natural diamonds are formed when carbon is pressed together over millions of years within the depths of the earth’s crust and is surrounded by immense pressure and heat. Synthetic diamond makers copy this same process but speed up the whole deal by, well, millions of years! You can have a new artificial diamond made in a matter of weeks. After the lab is done – growing (yep, that’s the word that’s used) – only specialized tests can tell these diamonds apart from mined ones.

Getting carbon atoms to arrange into a perfect crystal is actually not easy and it doesn’t just happen naturally on the Earth’s surface since carbon that’s higher up in the ground just turns into a soft graphite (the one that’s used as lead! So your diamond ring and your pencil are actually cousins, in a way?).

When you spend money on diamonds there are the “Four Cs” that determine the quality and ultimately the price of the rock: Cut, color, clarity, and carats. Synthetic stones can cost up to 20–40% less than ones that were mined and they also don’t’ have any of the same minor flaws that natural ones do. They also don’t have the same ecological and ethical costs, so money isn’t the only difference.

Recently, De Beers, which is the world’s biggest diamond company, announced that they will begin selling synthetic diamonds for the first time in their 130-year history. Artificial diamonds have actually been grown since the 1950s but De Beers resisted shifting to the synthetic market. The company reportedly now believes, however, that technology is efficient enough to produce large quantities of synthetic diamonds that have the same quality as the best ones that have been on the market already.

So it’s pretty safe to say that grown rocks are the same thing as mined ones and since no one would ever be able to tell the difference, consider saving a bit (or a lot!) of cash on your next trip to your favorite jeweler.

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