Artificial diamonds, while chemically identical to mined diamonds, are created by engineers in a laboratory. The introduction of large, feasible diamonds grown artificially has set off a heated controversy about the advantages, disadvantages, and strategies associated with these new gems. As more people invest in growing diamonds, others are concerned about their impact on the international diamond industry.
Many people believe that the name "artificial" diamonds is somewhat of a misnomer. These gems are not imposters such as cubic zirconia, glass, or quartz. Some prefer alternative names such as cultured, grown, laboratory, or man-made diamonds, similar to the words used for pearls. At the crystalline level, there are no appreciable differences between the dazzling gems that emerge from the ground and those that emerge from a vacuum chamber in terms of cut, clarity, or color.
Engineers have long been able to create tiny shards of diamonds for industrial use. Diamonds are the hardest substances on earth, so they can cut through metals easily. For this reason, industrial saws are often outfitted with chipped or dust diamonds. But only in 2004 did companies announce their success at developing methods of producing cultivated diamonds large enough to be used on rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry.
So far, there are two reliable methods of making artificial diamonds large enough for jewlery. One uses a "seed" of a smaller diamond and puts additional molten graphite (a form of coal) under enormous pressure and temperature until it is added to the crystalline structure and makes the seed larger. Another method, called chemical vapor deposition, CVD, creates a chamber where tiny pieces of diamond precipitate and condense together, like ice crystals, in layers to form a solid deposit. These specimens can easily be colored and usually have no imperfections.
Certified geologists have trouble distinguishing mined diamonds from their manufactured counterparts. Some people believe the strict line between the origins of the stones is not important. Others maintain that consumers want the real thing, and will not settle for anything artificial because it is not as special, valuable, or traditional.
Another side points out that a monopoly on diamonds has artificially inflated their value, as well as contributed to ideal monetary equivalents when exchanging weapons and slave labor. This perspective views the sale of artificial diamonds as a humanitarian alternative.
Also, it is noteworthy that even if artificial diamonds don't replace mined diamonds in jewelry, they will almost certainly replace silicon in microchips. This stone is very difficult to overheat or melt. Engineers are already developing the next generation of super-fast computers using artificial diamonds.