For years, lab-grown diamonds were commonly used in industries related to high-end manufacturing. "Yet with technological advancements, many labs are now able to create gem-quality diamonds at lower costs," said Sun Lihua, a geologist at the Gem Appraisal Center of Peking University, China's leading institute that offers diamond grading services.
Replicating the process of how mined diamonds are formed, labs today use two major processes to grow diamonds - high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD), both of which are used to create an environment of extremely high pressure and temperature.
"Rapid technological improvements have allowed many Chinese labs to eliminate the presence of other elements that impact diamond quality, such as nitrogen molecules that make the stone look yellow and reduce its value," Sun said.
The cost of growing lab diamonds has also dropped by up to 90 percent in the past 10 years, according to a report from business analysis website ifanr.com. Today, the cost of making a lab diamond is about 30 percent lower than that involved in mining a gem of similar size and quality, said Li Zheng, research manager at market research provider Leadleo Research Institute.
"Aside from the fact that lab-grown diamonds are created artificially, rather than discovered under the Earth's surface, they are the same in terms of their physical and chemical characteristics," Tang said.
Cheaper, better, and more accessible - all these characteristics are making lab-grown diamonds a popular alternative to mined gems.