There is constant confusion between consumers when buying if what they are purchasing is completely authentic, relatively similar, or not even close. We will start by defining the main differences between simulated, synthetic and natural diamonds. Real or natural diamonds are mined from the earth and formed by nature; they have a hardness of 10 as measured by Mohs hardness scale. Synthetic diamonds are still in fact real diamonds apart from being made by man in a laboratory, these are surprisingly going to have better clarity and colour then real diamonds. Lastly we have simulated diamonds which are materials that look like natural stones but do not possess the same physical properties as the originals; these could be made by nature such as quartz or man-made like cubic zirconia.
Natural diamonds have been found in approximately 35 different countries around the world with South Africa, Botswana and Russia being leading gem quality producers where as Australia is the major industrial producer. Starting with finding the gemstones, which is obviously not too easy considering the rarity and price of these stones. Not so long ago finding these gems was dangerous and almost a guessing game, where as in this modern age we have satellites and aeroplanes which drastically improve the chances of finding diamond rich areas. Areas that have the possibility of diamonds in them are rock formations called kimberlite, a blue type of rock that is found in pipes leading from ancient volcanos. Once an area has been found with diamonds it is then evaluated if that area is commercially viable to mine considering 20 million pounds of earth must be mined just to uncover one pound of diamond.
Diamonds can come in different colours besides clear as well. Colours form in these stones from lattice defects and impurities; nitrogen is a common impurity found in these gems and is responsible for colours such as yellow or brown forming while boron can make them form blue. Colours in stones also have 2 other causes such as irradiation caused by alpha particles which results in the colour of green, additionally there is plastic deformation of the diamond crystal lattice which results in pink and red forming. In terms of how rare different types of coloured diamonds are yellow diamond is considered the rarest followed by brown, colourless, blue, green, black, pink, orange, purple and red.
There are a multitude of different ways a diamond can be cut to improve the symmetry, proportioning and polish of the diamond which greatly impacts the overall look of the diamond once cut. Modern day cuts tend to lean towards the round brilliant where the facet arrangements and proportions have been made to look the most impressive although there are other cuts such as point cut, table cut, old single cut, Mazarin cut, Peruzzi cut and old European cut.
Synthetic diamonds are gems that are made through the use of technological methods like temperature, pressure and chemicals, the synthetic gem industry recently gained a relatively large boost when the gemmological institute of America, which invented colour, cut, clarity and carat diamond codes 50 years ago started grading the quality of lab grown diamonds. It takes on average 4 days to grow a diamond to 2.5 carats using a large oven and placing a microscopical diamond grain inside it along with thousands of pounds of pressure with temperatures as high as 2700 degrees to start producing the diamond.
Both diamonds mined out of the ground and synthetic stones are chemically identical, so consumers shouldn’t see a difference, even under a microscope it can be incredibly hard to tell if it’s natural or synthetic. Synthetic diamonds are being polished and set cost a staggering 15% less then natural forms to purchase. These statistics could be worrying to the future of natural diamonds but luckily there is technology available to tell the slight differences between the two. Lab created stones do fill a certain niche, people after cheaper alternatives to real diamonds as well as coloured variations even though experts predict they will never replace real natural diamonds.
With the rising price of natural diamonds there has been demand created for materials similar in the gemmological characteristics to real diamonds known as diamond simulants or imitations. In modern days the most common materials used to make simulated diamonds are high-leaded glass such as rhinestone and cubic zirconia with such lab created products as moissanite popping up in jewellery products.
In ordered to be considered a diamond simulant, the material must possess qualities to it that are similar to natural diamonds. A lot of diamond simulants are extremely similar to real diamonds but always have one or more flaws that will differentiate itself from the real thing.
Another way of acknowledging the difference between natural and simulated diamonds is the degree of colour prismatics seen. If the diamonds light degree where it hits the stone and the dispersion of the colours is low it will appear comparably dull and lifeless compared to a real diamond while if the effects are considered to high the stone will be seen as to tacky or unreal.
Overall it is up to the consumer how much they are willing to spend and what sort of quality they would like in their diamond. Although replicas and imitations may seem cheaper and appealing nothing can match the unrivalled strength, sparkle and durability of a real diamond. Which the ever expanding market and technology for synthetic diamonds who knows what sorts of diamonds will be created in the coming years. Whichever diamond or piece of jewellery you choose it is important to do your research and ask questions on what you are buying, although most suppliers are truthful in what they are selling only true experts will be able to tell what is real and what is fake.