August 04, 2017
In my quest to offer a truly environmentally-friendly and ethical alternative to mined diamonds, I’m so excited to start offering lab-grown diamonds! Not familiar? These diamonds are grown in laboratories that recreate the same environment that causes diamonds to form in the earth. Sounds simple, but it’s taken decades of trial and error to grow diamonds that have the exact same molecular composition and optical properties of a mined diamond. Even highly trained gemologists are unable to tell the difference! But as Vogue magazine points out, "it also couldn’t be more different, because there are zero doubts about its origin, carbon footprint, or human impact."
So how are they formed? Here’s the brief: A thin layer of natural diamond is used as a foundation. It is exposed to the heat of plasma reactors that rival the intensity of heat of the outer layer of the sun. Atoms begin layering on top of the thin “starter” of diamond in the exact same crystalline carbon structure of a diamond mined from the earth. Atom by atom, it grows into a pure jewelry-grade rough diamond identical in molecular composition to a diamond mined from the earth. The rough diamonds are then cut by master stone cutters, often sacrificing up to 80-90% of their mass, to ensure the diamonds are cut to maximize brilliance, clarity, and fire.
Each individual diamond grown in these foundries is just as unique as a mined diamond since each diamond will grow organically in the forming process with its own unique character. They are every bit as “real” as a mined diamond. In fact, lab-grown diamonds are getting some serious press. NPR says “They Sparkle Every Bit as Bright” and Fortune magazine even explains “Why Man-Made Diamonds Are Now Better Than Mined” diamonds. Another plus is that lab-grown diamonds are less expensive than their mined counterparts. Not only are lab-grown diamonds a more socially and environmentally-friendly choice, but they’re budget-friendly too.
Don’t believe the media? Then take it from the “Patron Saint of Science” himself, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Watch him and an expert gemologist try to distinguish between mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds:
Lab-grown diamonds are in extremely high demand, so new companies are popping up all over the world. We’re being picky and are choosing to partner with four companies that align with the social and environmental values of Kristin Coffin Jewelry:
Diamond Foundry (www.diamondfoundry.com) is a San Francisco based company founded by a group of M.I.T., Stanford, and Princeton Engineers, and backed by prominent environmental activists such as Leonardo DiCaprio. It was named one of the “Best Startups of 2015” and “One of the Most Innovative Startups in Tech”. They’ve also been widely featured in well-known publications such as Vogue, NY Times, and Harper’s Bazaar. Not only are the diamonds cultivated in the United States, but they are then masterfully cut by a four-generation family of gem cutters from Antwerp, Belgium. This talented family was responsible for revolutionary contributions to the gem world, such as the original Princess Cut.
Chatham (www.chatham.com) is the pioneer of the lab-grown gemstones. They started like many California tech company startups: In a garage in San Francisco. In 1931, Carrol Chatham was successful in creating the first cultured emerald in the world and decades later perfected the growth of sapphires and other precious gems. It was his son, Tom, who took the reigns after Carrol Chatham’s passing and was able to fulfill his dream of perfecting the lab-grown diamond. Today, Chatham is still the leading company for lab-grown gemstones and has a long history of giving back to the community, including prominent museums, gemological institutes, and universities across the country.
Hoover and Strong (www.hooverandstrong.com), a Virginia-based company founded in 1912, is well-known as being an environmental leader in the jewelry industry. They’re known as the “World’s Greenest Refinery”, as they only offer 100% recycled metals and truly conflict-free diamonds. I’ve built a relationship with Hoover and Strong over the years and source all of my accent and pavé conflict-free, Canadian-origin diamonds from them. Their lab-grown diamonds are proving to be equally as beautiful and ethical.
Green Rocks Diamonds (www.greenrocksdiamonds.com) is based in Florida and was founded by a group of high tech entrepreneurs in partnership with some of Israel's best diamond cutters. Green Rocks is a 100% vertically integrated company meaning that they control every step of the process from the growth of the first carbon molecule to the sale of their diamonds to selected jewelers. Green Rocks Diamonds prides themselves on maintaining a carbon footprint of close to zero and being an environmental leader in the diamond industry. Despite the fact that they are newly established in 2016, the quality of their diamonds truly rivals any diamond -- mined or lab-grown -- that I've ever seen.
So how do lab-grown diamonds compare to moissanite and white sapphire? You can read a more in-depth comparison in this blog post.
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