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What are Lab Grown Diamonds?
Feb 13, 2023
Our today's edition of Current Affairs is here. Read to know more about Lab Grown Diamonds. Also, find the topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus below:
For Prelims: General Science
Lab grown diamonds, naturally-occurring diamonds, High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method, Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method, jewellery industry, Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
During the 2023-24 Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman stated the government’s move to focus on lab grown diamonds.
What are Lab grown diamonds and how are these different from naturally grown diamonds? (150 words, 10 marks)
Customs duty on the seeds used in lab-grown diamond (LGD) manufacturing will be reduced.
The duty on seeds for rough LGDs will be reduced from 5% to nil.
The change will come into effect starting February 2, 2023
A five-year research grant will also be provided to one of the Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) for research and development in the field of LGDs.
Creation of new tariff lines to help in better identification of a number of products, including synthetic diamonds
What are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds.
They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LGDs are chemically, physically and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab-grown.”
Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia (CZ), White Sapphire, YAG, etc. are “diamond simulants” that simply attempt to “look” like a diamond.
These lack the sparkle and durability of a diamond and are thus easily identifiable.
Differentiating between an LGD and an Earth Mined Diamond is hard, with advanced equipment required for the purpose.
How are Lab-Grown Diamonds Produced?
Naturally-occurring diamonds take millions of years to form; they are created when carbon deposits buried within the earth are exposed to extreme heat and pressure. On the other hand, LGDs are mostly manufactured through two processes – high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method or Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method.
The most common (and cheapest) method of manufacturing LGDs is the “High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method.
This method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius).
Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
In the Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method-
The seed is heated to around 800 degrees Celsius inside a sealed chamber filled with a carbon-rich gas. The gas sticks to the seed, gradually building the diamond.
Uses of Lab-Grown Diamonds
LGDs have basic properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provide them the signature diamond sheen.
However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes.
Industrial purposes- in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters.
Use in Electronics: Pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity. This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodes, laser arrays and high-power transistors.
Use in jewelleries: As the Earth’s reserves of natural diamonds are depleted, LGDs are slowly replacing the prized gemstone in the jewellery industry.
Crucially, like natural diamonds, LGDs undergo similar processes of polishing and cutting that are required to provide diamonds their characteristic lustre.
In 2019, India alone witnessed a sharp rise in lab-grown diamond exports worth $443 million which rose 102 per cent year-on-year.
Even at the beginning of 2020, lab-grown diamond exports in India were up 60 per cent on year while natural diamond exports were down by 41 per cent y-o-y.
The export of polished lab-grown diamonds grew by 60.08 per cent so far in fiscal 2023 while that of cut and polished diamonds has fallen by 1 per cent in the same period, according to a report by Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
Are LGDs better than naturally-occurring diamonds?
Visually and chemically, the two are the same. However, the environmental footprint of a diamond grown in a laboratory is much lesser than that of a naturally-occurring diamond.
According to a report by Diamond Foundry, an environmentally-conscious LGD manufacturer, it takes ten times more energy to extract a natural diamond from the earth than it takes in creating one above the ground.
Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds. They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LGDs are chemically, physically and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab-grown.”
What is the difference between lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds?
LGD are manufactured in laboratories, as opposed to being mined from the Earth's crust. However, the chemical composition and other physical and optical properties of the two are the same.
What are the two types of lab-grown diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are categorised as either high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapour deposition (CVD) diamonds, depending on the method of their production.
Why are lab-grown diamonds better?
LGDs have basic properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provide them the signature diamond sheen. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes. The environmental footprint of a diamond grown in a laboratory is much lesser than that of a naturally-occurring diamond.