When Did Lab-Grown Diamonds Start?

When Did Lab-Grown Diamonds Start?

Curious about the beginning of lab grown diamonds? Look no further!

In this informative Twirl Weddings guide, I will provide answers to some commonly asked questions regarding the origins of lab grown diamonds, such as:

  •  Who was responsible for the discovery of lab grown diamonds?
  • When was the first lab grown diamond successfully created?
  • When did the sale of lab grown diamonds begin?

What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?

Lab created diamonds have gained significant recognition and acceptance in the diamond industry since their initial introduction. They are gradually overcoming the negative perception associated with being considered fake diamonds.

Contrary to popular belief, lab diamonds are genuine diamonds in every aspect except for their origin.

They possess an identical hardness rating on the Mohs scale as naturally mined diamonds. While there may be slight variations in color between natural and synthetic diamonds, their overall composition remains unchanged.

Laboratory grown diamonds exhibit identical chemical, physical, and optical properties to diamonds formed in the Earth’s crust.

The Process of Creating Lab Grown Diamonds

The production of lab-grown diamonds involves two primary methods, each with its own unique variations. While different companies may employ their own techniques, the two main approaches are high pressure high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

HPHT Diamonds

To craft lab diamonds using the HPHT method, scientists aim to replicate the natural conditions responsible for the formation of diamonds deep within the Earth.

First, a diamond seed—a small piece of diamond—is placed into a chamber containing pure carbon. Inside this chamber, scientists subject the diamond seed to intense heat and high pressures. These extreme conditions prompt the seed to crystallize and transform into a diamond.

CVD Diamonds

Similarly, CVD diamonds also employ a diamond seed; however, they specifically use a Type IIa diamond seed. Type IIa diamonds are unique as they do not contain any nitrogen impurities and constitute only 2% of the world’s diamond population.

To initiate the growth of a CVD diamond, the diamond seed is positioned within a smaller vacuum chamber. Scientists then introduce carbon-rich gases, such as methane, into the chamber. As the gases heat up, heat waves break them down. Gradually, the gas transforms into a plasma state, leaving behind only carbon atoms. These carbon atoms coat the diamond seed, which eventually cools and develops into a fully grown diamond.

It’s worth noting that CVD diamonds often utilize HPHT diamond seeds, as Type IIa diamond seeds have been successfully synthesized.


History of Lab Grown Diamonds

The existence of diamonds on Earth spans billions of years, but our story truly begins with the discovery of diamonds in Africa.

When gemologists and researchers unveiled the fact that diamonds were composed of pure carbon and formed under extreme temperatures and heat, the quest to replicate their creation began.

While other gemstones had already been synthesized at that time, people were eager to achieve the same feat with diamonds.

Initially, diamonds didn’t capture as much attention as they do today. This was because, at that time, the art of faceting diamonds to make them sparkle had not yet been mastered.

Everything changed when Marcel Tolkowsky invented the first natural ideal cut diamond in 1919. By optimizing the symmetry and proportions of a rough diamond, he created a magnificent display of white and rainbow light that captivated the wealthy and aristocratic.

Once the discovery was made that diamonds could be faceted into various shapes beyond the traditional round shape, the possibilities became endless. The search for a method to synthesize diamonds began, as the ability to create gem-quality diamonds would save countless resources.

From that point onward, numerous companies embarked on experiments and endeavors to fabricate diamonds. The race was on, leading to various attempts and innovations along the way.

The Evolution of Synthetic Diamonds

Back in 1879, James Ballantyne ventured into the realm of diamond creation by using barrels filled with minerals abundant in carbon. However, his efforts did not yield the desired outcome of creating diamonds.

In 1887, Sir Charles Algernon Parsons embarked on a series of experiments involving rifle bullets, applying heat and pressure through a metal press containing graphite-filled holes. Parsons devoted years to various experiments in pursuit of his goal.

Fast forward to 1893 when Ferdinand Frédéric Henri Moissan attempted to create lab diamonds but unexpectedly stumbled upon the creation of moissanite instead.

The year 1907 saw Otto Ruff claim that he had successfully produced diamonds based on Moissan’s work, only to retract his statement later.

Then, in 1926, Dr. J. Willard Hershey built upon Moissan’s research and made significant strides by producing the first synthetic diamond in Kansas, USA. However, upon further examination, it was discovered that the material he created was not exactly diamond.

By 1928, Hershey initially believed that he had successfully created a synthetic diamond. However, he later asserted that no one had truly achieved a reliable process for creating diamonds. Any claims made by others were likely based on the creation of lab-grown spinel.

Moving ahead to 1949, Baltzar von Platen from the ASEA Swedish Corporation embarked on his own endeavors to create lab diamonds. However, he encountered challenges in finding a suitable press capable of simulating the necessary high pressure and high temperatures.

Finally, in 1953, ASEA claimed to have successfully created a synthetic diamond, but they kept this achievement a secret until the 1980s.

Lab Grown Diamonds at Blue Nile

Shop at Blue Nile

Who Was the First Person to Create Diamonds in a Lab?

The Journey of Lab Grown Diamonds – Pioneers, Breakthroughs, and Growth

Many individuals took up the challenge of creating lab grown diamonds, with varying degrees of success. Each person’s experiments paved the way for others to build upon their findings.

In 1954, General Electric (GE) achieved a significant milestone by producing the first high-quality diamond using high temperature and high pressure techniques with a diamond seed. The journey began for GE in 1941, but due to the disruptions caused by World War II, they had to temporarily halt their experiments. Once the war ended in 1945, GE resumed their research.

Tracey Hall, a member of the GE team, played a crucial role in the synthesis of diamonds. In 1954, he developed a belt press that provided the necessary conditions for diamond growth. Although the diamonds produced were quite small, with the largest one measuring only 0.15 inches in diameter, Hall’s press was a key breakthrough. In 1955, Hall left GE and joined Brigham Young University as a researcher to further expand his experiments.

In 1960, Hall, along with Herbert M. Strong and Robert H. Wentorf Jr., obtained a patent for their diamond synthesis method. Hall also improved his press by creating a tetrahedral press. As time passed, GE achieved another significant milestone in 1971 by creating a gem-quality synthetic diamond weighing one carat.

In the 1980s, a Korean company named Iljin Diamond successfully synthesized diamonds after obtaining trade secrets from a former GE employee. This marked a new chapter in the growth of lab grown diamonds, inspiring more and more companies to embark on diamond synthesis endeavors following GE’s groundbreaking achievements.

Failed Diamond Experiments Gone Right

Many individuals and companies have made attempts to create diamonds in a lab. However, most of them did not succeed in producing diamonds. Nonetheless, their efforts led to the creation of other beautiful gemstones commonly seen in fine jewelry today.

Let’s take a look at one notable explorer in this journey:

1. Henry Moissan – The Discovery of Moissanite

While digging in a crater in Arizona, Henry Moissan stumbled upon a mesmerizing colorless material that he initially thought was a diamond. However, it turned out to be a natural gemstone called moissanite. Interestingly, moissanite is believed to have originated from outer space, earning it the nickname “Space Diamond.”

Although Moissan’s intention was to synthesize diamonds, his experiments led to the accidental creation of moissanite instead. This was a significant breakthrough, even though it wasn’t the lab-grown diamonds he sought after.

RECOMMENDED: Moissanite vs Lab Diamonds

When it comes to finding a diamond alternative for engagement rings, moissanite is currently the top choice in the jewelry industry. It offers exceptional durability with a hardness rating of 9.5, making it highly resistant to scratches. Additionally, moissanite dazzles with its ability to reflect rainbow-like light, reminiscent of a disco ball.

If you’re interested in exploring moissanite options, we recommend checking out Brilliant Earth, our trusted friends in the industry. They provide the opportunity to create your own moissanite ring by selecting from their collection of loose moissanite stones and beautiful ring settings.

2. M. V. Stackelberg & K. Chudoba – The Discovery of Cubic Zirconia

Back in 1937, two Soviet scientists named Stackelberg and Chudoba stumbled upon the natural form of a gemstone called cubic zirconia. Initially, they mistook it for a diamond. However, their experiments were disrupted by the war, preventing them from further exploration.

When Was The First CVD Lab Diamond Created?

Let’s talk about HPHT, which is the main technique used to produce most lab-grown diamonds. This method mimics the natural diamond formation process by subjecting the carbon to intense pressure and heat.

Do you remember our friend Tracy Hall? Interestingly, he was the first person to successfully create a synthetic diamond using the CVD method, a whole two years before GE introduced HPHT diamonds. Surprisingly, the CVD method actually produced the first man-made diamond, although many people believe that HPHT diamonds were developed first.

The reason behind this misconception is that the diamonds created through the CVD method by Hall were not of high quality like the HPHT diamonds. Hall and his team faced challenges in producing colorless diamonds. Instead, they ended up with yellow and brown diamonds, rather than the desired colorless CVD diamonds.

When Did Artificial Diamonds Made in Labs Become Available for Purchase?

I don’t have the exact date when lab-grown diamonds were first sold, but they started becoming available commercially in the 1980s.

Initially, lab diamonds didn’t gain immediate popularity because many established natural diamond companies, including De Beers, criticized them.

Lab-grown diamonds posed a significant challenge to the natural diamond industry as they were 20 to 70% cheaper than similar-grade natural diamonds.

Although De Beers also experimented with lab-created diamonds in the early years, they eventually entered the lab diamond market and began offering them directly to consumers.

Marketing played a role in undermining the reputation of lab-grown diamonds, despite their comparable light performance and durability. They were portrayed as ordinary stones, while natural diamonds were portrayed as magical and rare.

Lab-grown diamonds faced confusion due to various names such as synthetic diamonds, cultured diamonds, cultivated diamonds, man-made diamonds, and more.

This confusion led to misunderstandings about lab diamonds, with many people thinking that synthetic diamonds meant fake diamonds. However, lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds.

RECOMMENDED: Lab Created vs Natural Diamonds

The demand for lab-grown diamonds today primarily comes from the millennial generation and subsequent generations. The movie Blood Diamond played a significant role in raising awareness about mining practices and conflict diamonds.

Although we only endorse companies that adhere to the Kimberley Process, which aims to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds, choosing a lab-grown diamond is the only way to guarantee that your diamond is completely free from conflicts and controversies.

However, it’s important to note that not every diamond mined from the Earth is a conflict diamond. Only a small percentage, around 1-2% of all diamonds worldwide, are considered conflict diamonds. These are typically sold on the black market rather than through legitimate diamond retailers.

Nevertheless, despite this fact, many people remain skeptical. Their concerns extend beyond just mining practices and include ethical and environmental considerations. While lab-grown diamonds are not entirely sustainable, they do require significantly less energy to produce compared to the mining process for natural diamonds.

For many individuals, the deciding factor in choosing lab-grown diamonds is often the price point. Millennials and younger generations prioritize improving their quality of life rather than spending more on a mined diamond.

To address misconceptions about lab-grown diamonds, the National Diamond Council, the Gemological Institute of America, and the FTC aimed to provide clarifications. They wanted to inform people that lab-grown diamonds generally have lower resale value and may not offer trade-ins or upgrades on the stones, with Ada Diamonds being an exception.

Furthermore, the FTC cautioned companies against marketing lab diamonds as the sustainable or eco-friendly option unless they could substantiate such claims.

The lab-grown diamond industry gained more popularity in 2019 when Meghan Markle wore a pair of lab-grown diamond earrings, drawing attention to these alternatives.

According to a survey conducted by The Knot, 25% of engagement rings now feature a lab-created diamond or diamond simulants/alternatives as their center stone.

Best Places to Buy Lab Grown Diamonds

If you’re looking for a reliable place to buy an engagement ring with a lab-grown diamond, check out our recommended top two sellers of lab-grown diamonds listed below:

James Allen

Shop at James Allen

Why we admire them: They offer a diverse range of choices, great prices for lab-grown diamonds, and a lifetime warranty that covers ring settings.

Brilliant Earth

Shop at Brilliant Earth

Why we admire them: They have an extensive collection of colored lab-grown diamonds, and they prioritize social responsibility. They also offer traceable natural diamonds with GIA Origin Reports, use recycled metals, and eco-friendly packaging materials.


Lab-grown diamonds may be relatively new to the industry, but they have undergone significant developments over the years, providing even more compelling reasons to consider buying them.

The journey of lab-grown diamonds began back in the 1800s and has continued to evolve up until today. Numerous individuals have played crucial roles in the development of General Electric’s pioneering lab-grown diamond.

Now, what lies ahead for lab-grown diamonds?

While we can’t predict with certainty, it would be fantastic if we could discover ways to make all lab-grown diamonds sustainable, benefiting both the environment and our wallets even further.

That’s a vision I personally hold for the future of lab-grown diamonds. What are your thoughts on this matter?

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