Monday, November 16, 2015

Natural vs Synthetic Diamonds: Toe to Toe

There's a lot of buzz going on about synthetic diamonds and the potential threat they pose to the natural diamond industry; and depending on the person you speak with, you may wind up with more questions than answers regarding both. As with most things with polarized opinions, this subject is seldom presented evenly, hardly ever divulging both what is good and bad about each. So in an attempt to get real about diamonds, synthetic and natural, we've decided to address common selling points from each camp that might require some revision:

1. Synthetic Diamonds Are Not "Real"

People are often mislead to understand that a synthetic material is the same as a simulant. This could not be further from the truth. A simulant, without having the same composition or structure, looks to imitate the appearance of another. Such is the case with colorless cubic zirconium and synthetic moissanite. A synthetic material, however, is chemically, and in terms of its cristallinity, identical to its natural counterpart. 

Diamond and its various simulants or imitation materials. Photo courtesy of
What distinguishes the two is that one was produced in a lab environment and the other in nature. This has given synthetic diamonds an undue stigma. The only problem with synthetic diamonds is when they are not disclosed as such, causing the supply to flood the market and lose its value as a rare material.

2. Synthetic Diamonds Are Less Damaging To The Environment Than Natural Diamonds

Those who advocate synthetic diamonds are very vocal about the cost to the environment it is to mine diamonds. They say that the gas emissions released and energy consumed to supply the mining process are disastrous carbon footprints that ruin entire ecosystems. This is unfortunately the case with some less responsible prospectors. As with most things however, there are some who recognize this impact and are committed to restoring the ecosystems that have been disturbed in the process. 
Diavik Mine in Canada. Photo Courtesy of
That said, it  can be hardly be concluded that the production of synthetic diamonds does not come with its fair share of ''carbon foot-printing''. The methods of producing synthetic diamonds are various, but essentially the point is to simulate the temperatures and pressures that occur deep in the Earth and that are crucial in diamond crystallization. With temperatures hitting approx.1400 degrees Celsius and pressures leveling at approx 60kPa, you could imagine the energy needed to achieve this. In a recent study, it was determined that depending on the location of the mine, there were varying amounts of energy consumed, some less and some more than that used to produced lab-made diamonds.

3. Natural Diamond Mining Funds Conflict and Warfare

Alright. So most of the free world has seen the film Blood Diamond. If you haven't, then its very probable that something to that effect has been brought to your attention: Diamonds, like minerals used to produce the screens on phones and computers, are in some instances sold to finance insurgencies and conflict. 
Still of Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond (2006). Photo courtesy of
This is undeniably the ugliest face of our industry. Resolutely, it has been the continued work of many to ebb the flow of these conflict-sourced materials. Accords such as the Kimberley process taking effect in 2003 work towards this by imposing strict requirements on the transport of rough diamonds. Though it is far from being enough to reverse this failure of humanity, we have found that more than ever before, people are now insisting on ethically sourced materials and that this can be attained in the natural stone world.

I'm afraid I do not have the same celebrity as some well-known ambassadors for either schools of thought mentioned here today, but I do hope that this has given a fuller picture of what these stones really are about. While we are continually fascinated by science's newest advancements, we at Bergamot Gems have always believed in the truly rare beauty of naturally sources and un-enhanced materials. It is our consummate work to ensure transparency and social responsibility for our materials; with hopes that the world will follow suit and for science to outdo itself once more.

What do you prefer, natural or synthetic? We'd like to know! Be sure to drop us a line!

1 comment :

  1. Thank you, it's nice to see an unbiased comparison of synthetic vs natural diamond. I didn't know some lab-created stones used MORE energy than naturally mined!