Lab grown diamonds vs moissanite

Written by: Hagai Bichman

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Time to read 7 min

Lab grown diamonds vs moissanite

Unlike diamond simulant gems like cubic zirconia and glass crystals

Marketed since the 1970s onward, scientifically engineered lab-created diamonds are a decidedly 21st century innovation. The first gem-quality lab diamond only surfaced in the 1950s - small and included, with variable properties...

How long have lab grown diamonds been available as alternatives to mined diamonds, compared to moissanite created in a lab ?

Unlike diamond stimulant gems like cubic zirconia and glass crystals marketed since the 1970s onward, scientifically engineered lab-created diamonds are a decidedly 21st century innovation. The first gem-quality lab diamond only surfaced in the 1950s - small and included, with variable properties.

Whereas moissanite traced a more revelationary discovery route. This specific mineral composite was originally uncovered within a meteor crater in 1893 by Henri Moissan, who determined its extraterrestrial origins and later earned a Nobel prize. Scientists only realized in the 1990s that recreating moissanite required advanced thermal growing techniques - well after lab diamonds were achievable.

So while moissanite gained retail presence from the late 1990s onward before hitting mass-market saturation today, high-quality lab-grown diamonds are an exponentially more nascent category. Only in the early 2000s did they become reliably reproducible gems with controlled transparency and color. And large gem-sized 1+ carat specimens matching natural diamond quality have only surfaced commercially over the past five to seven years with increasing scale.

So moissanite enjoys a two decade lead in consumer awareness and availability. But now boasting identical optics and durability, lab diamonds are set to rapidly catch up in coming years as innovation continues optimizing sustainable luxury and affordability.

What are the core visual and testable differences that distinguish real mined diamonds from lab diamonds and moissanite ?

While the average consumer struggles to tell them apart, each stone has slight distinguishing characteristics visible under microscopic inspection. Trained gemologists leverage insights into their composition and properties.

Mined diamonds showcase irregularities like inclusions, blemishes and crystal strains forged by haphazard geological turmoil before being cut. Lab diamonds and moissanite both form artificially as precision-grow that unmarked by this unpredictable turbulence. So they review as internally flawless.

Their shared sparkling brilliance arises from exceptionally hard crystal carbon or silicon-carbide structures. But moissanite tends to throw more rainbow fire with heightened refractive dispersion that trained eyes can spot. And only diamonds test positively on thermal conductivity.

Lastly, spectroscopic shifts under radiation reveal moissanite's silicon-carbide properties diverging from a diamond's single-element spectrum. So advanced lab testing combined with microscopic observation pinpoints a stone's likely origins.

But for anyone less than a gemologist, lab diamonds and quality moissanite alike serve as visually indiscernible diamond simulants, with fire exceeding most natural counterparts. So without running exhaustive tests, even experts must rely on source disclosures to confirm what dazzles.

What are the relative environmental impacts of mining diamonds versus creating them in a lab or factory ?

When comparing diamond mining against lab-grown diamond manufacture and moissanite production, scientific sustainability analyses consistently demonstrate far higher ecological footprints and harms arising from traditional extraction methods.

Diamond mining relies on clearing vegetation, blasting tunnels and crushing tons of soil while consuming immense energy fighting flooded, hastily exhumed depths. Processing raw gem extractions requires yet more acid reactions and fossil fuels. Collectively this entails toxic local impacts and greenhouse emissions contributing to climate change.

Whereas engineered diamond production utilizes renewable electricity in meticulously controlled chambers with minimal waste or ecological damage. Moissanite grown via thermal growing methods similarly demonstrates far less harmful footprints lacking disruptive excavation and transportation costs.

One life cycle study found the carbon impact per polished carat was 35 times higher for mined gems than lab-grown equivalents. So for consumers prioritizing environmental best practices, selecting sustainably grown crystals over mined avoids directly enabling avoidable emissions, toxicity and needless disruption from industrial mining.

The choice seems clear - today’s technological innovations craft dazzling lab jewel alternatives that ecologically and ethically outshine traditional diamond production by tremendous margins. It's on us as shoppers to leverage that power.

When were the key breakthroughs in large-scale diamond production methods using HPHT and CVD technology ?

In the decades following the first lab-grown diamond synthesis experiments in the 1950s at high pressures and temperatures, several pivotal engineering leaps accelerated technological capacity to grow diamonds with control, speed and scalability.

In the 1970s and 1980s, advances in high-temperature microwave plasma generation and chemical vapor isolation enabled diamond seed crystals to form more swiftly under stabilized conditions, bringing economic viability closer.

But the greatest leap came in the mid-1990s from a Russian research collective's inventions using temperature gradients driving carbon diffusion to produce consistent diamond films. This discovery of isothermal techniques sparked the CVD diamond revolution.

Paired with automated computer monitoring, CVD represented the convergence of material science, quantum physics and software innovations to give manufacturers absolute precision in replicating nature’s diamond creation recipe.

By 2015, mass-produced CVD diamonds under spotlighted plasma reactors began matching natural stones for size and quality, with unparalleled visual consistency.

Today with exponential capacity scaling annually, innovations in laser, microwave or ultrasonic application bring lab-grown diamonds to retail markets indistinguishable from mined at mass-market prices - completing a 70-year technology trajectory from concept to commercialization success.

How has the diamond mining industry attempted to differentiate and market against lab diamonds and moissanite as threats ?

Despite increasing endorsement across the fine jewelry industry, the powerful mining lobby continues actively attempting to differentiate natual diamonds against emergent lab-grown competitors through advertising and legal efforts with mixed results.

One initiative seeing traction frames mined diamonds as elite emotional heirlooms marking life's meaningful moments rather than mere adornments, while positioning synthetic stones as soulless commodities. This aims to imbue natural origins with notions of legacy and memory - exploiting sentimentality.

More brazen campaigns directly seed doubt against lab diamond quality, trust and investment value despite sharing identical physics. Some ads portray scientists as questionable villains stealing cosmic forces. Others suggest inevitable resale deterioration.

Additionally mining groups aggressively pursue trademark suits to restrict lab-grown terminology as deliberate deception rather than navigation of FTC truth-in-origin regulations. So messaging tries limiting vocabulary to handicap understanding.

While the fight to sway public opinion continues, younger generations seemingly place higher emphasis on ethics over marketing tactics. So ultimate victory may arise from emphasizing transparency and unpacking both sides’ stated stances against holistic facts.

How have prices of both lab grown diamonds and mass-produced moissanite changed over recent decades ?

How have prices of both lab grown diamonds and mass-produced moissanite changed over recent decades?

Over the past 20 years as processes for fabricating diamonds and moissanite gradually scaled, prices for these precision-engineered jewel alternatives have substantially declined, vastly improving accessibility.

In 2000 when lab-grown diamond jewelry first emerged commercially but with inconsistent production variables, 1 carat high-quality stones cost over $4,000 a carat - still deemed luxury purchases. Likewise moissanite pricing reached up to $1,200 per carat during early retail rollout.

But optimizing repeatability saw lab diamond prices sink to $800 per carat by 2015 then $300 by 2020 with surging Chinese manufacturing competition - an 85% cost decrease in just 5 years. Moissanite pricing followed similar trajectories, plunging 90% to $100 per carat wholesale as factories automated like semiconductors.

This brings robust sparkling jewels once solely in the realms of the ultra-wealthy to nearly every tech-savvy shopper today. Further projected declines look set to soon bring lab diamond jewelry costs on par with far more ordinary materials like silver.

So while mined diamond pricing stays relatively inelastic, engineered diamond alternatives ride aggressive growth and efficiency gains thanks to the tech sector's globally-honed playbooks - making sustainability decisively crossover into affordability.

Which luxury designers and jewelers were the first to embrace and offer created diamonds and moissanite pieces ?

While the natural diamond industry initially sought to undermine public confidence in engineered jewels, several high-end designers took early initiative to harness ethical lab diamonds and moissanite in premium collections - lending runway credibility.

Among the first movers was couture house Chanel, debuting a fine jewelry collection featuring cultured diamonds as early as 2007 when prices still approached $4,000 per carat. Their embrace was a turning point in positing lab-grown gems as genuine luxury contenders, given the maison's authority crafting diamond symbols of desire since Coco Chanel’s 1932 Bijoux de Diamants.

Likewise Bulgari unveiled a parent company-backed mass-produced CVD diamond subsidiary in 2016 to widespread market fascination - legitimizing technological ingenuity elevating diamond creation.

Meanwhile Tiffany & Co, having trademarked and mainstreaming the legacy solitaire, took until 2018 to unveil transparent lab diamond debuts after initially berating the sector. But their pivot indicated to shoppers that peak American luxury now sanctioned sustainable science in gemology.

So elite early adopters shaped attitudes and unlocked lab-grown desirability, accelerating market uptake exponentially. What were once coded plastics are now recast and rebranded as apex sustainable gemology thanks to their bold early faith in pairing Green with Glamour.

Will moissanite continue encroaching as an affordable lab diamond alternative as production technologies keep advancing ?

Industry analysts widely predict moissanite will continue increasing diamond market share over the 2020s among price-conscious shoppers, thanks to accelerating technological improvements making quality moissanite exponentially more affordable at scale.

Already moissanite commands 10% of the global jewelry market for diamonds under 3 carats, overwhelmingly taking share from the mined small stone segment. Further optimization of thermal growing reactors promises 200% growth in moissanite output within 5 years.

And the entry of established tech titans including Samsung promises to revolutionize fabrication. With capabilities honed engineering silicon, expanding into growing cubic silicon-carbide moissanite introduces immense vertical efficiencies and supply. Costs could plummet towards $10 per finished carat.

This across-the-board budget positioning pits moissanite as a categorical lab-diamond alternative rather than just lower-priced substitute. Even next-gen lab diamond rates struggle to compete with silicon infrastructure capacities absent new innovation leaps.

So while lab diamonds aim higher on the luxury scale, their budget prospects risk negation by moissanites’ faster,vastly more scalable tech infrastructure enabling open access to brilliant affordable jewels without ethical compromise. The grassroots diamond indeed seems destined for the mainstream.