History of Lab Grown Diamonds

The discovery in 1797 that diamond was pure carbon led to many attempts to try converting various forms of carbon into a diamond. The earliest successes were recorded by James Ballantyne Hannay in 1879 and Ferdinand Frederic Henri Moissan in 1893. Their methods involved heating charcoal to around 3500 degrees Celsius with iron inside a carbon crucible in a furnace. Hannay made use of a flame heated tube whereas Moissan used an electric furnace. Since then, many other scientists have tried replicating or using new methods to experiment with producing synthetic diamonds.

It is widely believed that the breakthrough for successfully creating the lab-grown diamonds came from General Electric or GE in the 1950s.  Although the development for the creation of the lab-grown diamonds started in 1941, it was halted by the Second World War and the project was resumed only in1951. The first commercially successful synthetic diamond was achieved in December 1954 and announced in February 1955. However, these were too small and imperfect to be used for jewelry but were usable for industrial purposes.

Synthetic gem-quality diamonds were first produced by GE in the 1970s. Their process used a tube to add heat and pressure to a graphite seed in the center until it grew into a diamond. These were always yellow to brown in color because of contact with nitrogen. Inclusions were also observed in these which were“plate-like”. Some adjustments to the procedure led to the production of colorless diamonds.

GE initially developed theHigh Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) process, which mimicked the diamond forming conditions of mined diamonds. However, this process was very expensive and complex.

The Chemical Vapor Deposition(CVD) method was achieved in the 1950s, through research by theSoviet Union and the US on the growth of diamonds. Today, most lab-grown diamonds are made through this process.

With the improvement in technology each day, it has been possible for companies to make crucial advances and grow higher quality diamonds more rapidly and with lesser cost. And although there are currently two methods of growing diamonds, scientists and lab engineers are constantly researching and experimenting with improving the efficiency and scale. This research has also enabled the production of better-quality diamonds that can be cut in various shapes and sizes.

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