A Brief History of Lab-Grown Diamonds

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Diamond rings have become an iconic symbol of love and are the most popular gemstone of choice for engagement rings. Aside from being linked to a symbol of purity and relationship longevity, diamonds are incredibly durable which makes them an investment. Diamonds are natural stones that are formed when carbon deposits deep within the earth, around 90 to 125 below the earth’s surface, are subjected to high pressure and temperature. Diamonds, while they are not rare, are the most expensive gemstones on the market.


Due to the price and demand of diamonds, some people choose to seek alternatives, in particular lab-grown diamonds. But what exactly is a lab-grown diamond and where did the idea come from? Read on for everything you need to know about this synthetic diamond.  

What are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are composed of the same material as mined diamonds but are produced in a controlled technological process. Scientists use a similar process to how diamonds are formed in nature to create diamonds in a lab. A variety of scientific methods are used to compress carbon at high pressures and temperatures to make it crystalize and ultimately form diamonds.

Who Created the First Lab-Grown Diamonds (and When)?

The history of the science of diamonds dates back to the late 1700s when scientists discovered that diamonds were made of pure carbon. While many scientists attempted to recreate the process in a lab upon that discovery, it wasn’t until nearly two centuries later that the process was successfully completed and replicated.


In December 1954, General Electric (GE) created the first lab-grown diamonds. The project operated under the codename “Project Superpressure,” first began in the 1940s and was subsequently postponed during World War II. Scientists experimented with a variety of methods and ended up using a high-pressure device. Scientists experimented with dissolving graphite, which is another material made with pure carbon, into a variety of metals.


Through this experiment, they were successful in creating lab-grown diamonds. The discovery was credited to a team of scientists, which included Howard Tracy Hall and Herbert Strong.


While the process was discovered in 1954, the diamonds were not big enough for use as a gem. The first gem-quality diamond was created nearly two decades later in 1971. However, the diamonds created were yellowish in color, so mined diamonds still maintained popularity. Scientists in the United States, China, and Russia worked to improve the process of lab-grown diamonds to exceed the quality of mined diamonds in color, clarity, and size. 

The Impact on the Diamond Industry

Mined diamonds continue to maintain popularity among consumers, but the demand for synthetic diamonds grows each year.  Even celebrities adorn themselves with lab-grown diamonds, such as the synthetic diamond earrings Meghan Markle was seen wearing in 2019. Lab-grown diamonds cost between 30–40% less than mined diamonds and are considered a more ethically-sourced gem, which are the two primary reasons some consumers prefer them over mined diamonds.


Mined diamond mining has some conflicts associated with it, specifically blood diamonds. The term blood diamonds refers to the dangerous working conditions of the diamond trade in war zones. Diamond mines tend to become involved in the violence and cruelty of the war which has earned the label of conflict diamonds. For individuals looking to shop more socially and ethically conscious, choosing lab-grown diamonds is a conflict-free route. 

Modern Lab-Grown Diamonds

The method to create lab-grown diamonds by GE was complex and expensive, so alternative methods have been crafted based on their research to reduce the time and cost. Most synthetic diamonds today are made through a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. During this process, a diamond seed is placed in a heated chamber with carbon gas which causes the carbon to stick to the seed growing into a larger diamond. This method allows scientists to have more control over the properties of the diamonds so they can produce gem-quality diamonds that are large in size. The process is less expensive as it takes lower pressure and temperature to heat CVD.


The process of using CVD was refined in the 1980s, even though the patent for this device was issued in the 1950s. In the beginning, only one seed could be placed in the chamber which made the process rather time-intensive. Now, these chambers can hold multiple seeds so the process is much more effective.


With consumers seeking to find products that are more cost-effective and ethically-consious, lab-grown diamonds will continue to increase in popularity. The quality of synthetic diamonds is well on par with mined diamonds, which makes switching to lab-grown products an easy choice for those seeking the look and elegance of diamonds.