Ethical Sourcing in Synthetic Diamonds: How the Industry Will Be Redefined by New Technology
Humans have been attempting to synthetically create diamonds and other precious stones in a laboratory setting for decades. However, for the most part, those synthetic diamonds were not comparable to their natural competitors, resulting in their relegation to industrial and household uses. Diamonds made in a factory did not have the clarity and refractory abilities of natural diamonds. This means they were great to incorporate in cutting and sanding products, but less than desirable when it came to engagement jewelry. Now all of that is changing.
Synthetic Diamonds, Then and Now
The synthetic diamonds of a decade ago were generally quite small, typically less than a carat, and industrial grade in quality. However, because of advances in the machinery used to create synthetic diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are now chemically and structurally identical to their naturally created counterparts. There are now companies that are able to manufacture and sell jewelry-quality diamonds directly to consumers.
Typically, these are sold as loose diamonds, which can be mounted in any ring a consumer wants. The quality of these newer synthetic diamonds makes it hard to tell them apart from naturally produced diamonds.
Custom-Made Diamonds From Any Carbon Source
Advances in the machinery used to grow synthetic diamonds have resulted in the ability to create diamonds over a short period of time, unlike the natural conditions under which diamonds develop. This means that companies are able to create custom diamonds made of something special or significant to the purchaser, such as cremation ashes, baby hair or teeth, or fabric. The item being used is then cooked down to pure carbon, which is, in turn, placed in a machine that creates high pressure and temperatures to create the diamond. It takes several weeks to grow a custom diamond.
Synthetic Diamonds and Industry
The improvement in the quality of synthetic diamonds has a lot of implications for industry as well as retail consumer jewelry sales. These higher-quality, larger synthetic diamonds can make diamond-based tools and technology a more feasible and affordable goal. While diamonds and diamond dust have been used in saw blades, circular saws, and similar cutting tools for years, the low quality and small size of the diamonds coming out of synthetic diamond laboratories limited their use. Naturally-grown diamonds of great clarity and large enough size were often cost prohibitive for most businesses.
Why Does Industry Use Diamonds?
The biggest reason for the demand for diamonds in industry is that they are so hard. On the Mohs scale of hardness, which goes up to ten, diamonds rate at a ten. They are so hard that they are four times harder than the next hardest mineral. Diamonds are so hard that they can only be cut by other diamonds. The saw blades and lathes used to cut diamonds for jewelry have diamond dust embedded in the metal to aid in the cutting process. It makes sense, then, that this hard mineral would have industrial applications. From cutting implements and abrasives to orifices for nozzles, diamonds have endless uses.
Why Are Naturally Occurring Diamonds an Ethics Issue?
Diamonds occur all over the world, with great concentrations in places like Canada, India, Russia, and Africa. Areas of Africa where diamond mines proliferate have historically been destabilized by colonial attempts to mine and extract diamonds. The areas around the mine often suffer ecologically as well, as huge amounts of earth are dug up and removed in the effort to locate and remove the diamonds from their birthplace underground. Add to this the fact that a few powerful players control most of the global diamond trade, and there are a myriad ethical issues raised by the sourcing of mined diamonds.
How Are Synthetic Diamonds Ethically Superior?
Simply put, there is substantially less environmental and social impact from synthetic diamonds, with little or no loss of beauty in the trade. From the permanent destruction of the countryside by the creation of a diamond mine to the amount of resources it takes to extract diamonds from the earth, there is a quantifiable negative impact associated with mining diamonds. Synthetic diamonds can be created in any laboratory with the right machinery, and only require a power source and a carbon source. They can also be made by many companies, eliminating the need to deal with power players and conflict diamonds.
Real-World Industrial Applications for Synthetic Diamonds
We’ve already discussed how synthetic diamonds have been used to make blades and saws harder. The hardness of diamonds can also be useful in applications where corrosion or erosion would be a concern. The diamond waterjet orifices manufactured and sold by DTI are an excellent example. These orifices are cut from a single, flawless synthetic diamond. This ensures there are no cracks or fissures in the orifice. There are also no feathers or carbon spots, resulting in a perfectly clear diamond orifice made from a stone that exceeds jewelry quality.
What Does a Diamond Orifice Do?
Waterjets, which are used in a broad range of commercial and industrial applications, create a substantial amount of pressure at the point where the water exits the nozzle. Even the strongest and purest steel will degrade over time when exposed to the intense pressure created by waterjets, making the nozzle orifice one the weakest points in the device. Using a synthetic diamond cut to create the waterjet orifice means that the nozzle orifice on the waterjet can withstand pressures as high as 90,000 pounds per square inch without any corrosion or wear on the diamond orifice itself.
What Other Benefits Do Synthetic Diamonds Offer?
In discussing the diamond orifice, it’s important to note that one of the biggest offerings of a diamond component is a byproduct of its hardness. Namely, the diamond is very durable and long lasting. A diamond orifice can be used for up to 1,000 hours and possibly even more. Many manufacturers and suppliers that sell waterjets now insist on diamond orifices, as they are becoming the new standard due to their long life. They may even be sold with a guarantee for 500 or 600 hours, provided the orifice is used, installed, and maintained properly, and will offer peak performance with clean cuts their entire life.
Synthetic Diamonds Can Outperform Naturally Diamonds
Because they can be manufactured at any size and cut into whatever shape is necessary, synthetic diamonds are incredibly versatile in a way that naturally-grown diamonds are not. Those mined diamonds, so long prized for their pristine beauty, can contain flaws, from carbon spots and feathers to cracks and deep imperfections. Those flaws can become problematic when diamonds are being used on a large scale for industrial purposes. Synthetically grown diamonds are perfect, occlusion free, and can be sourced in a variety of sizes and colors.
Why Ethical Businesses Are Looking to Synthetic Diamonds
There is a finite amount of naturally-grown diamonds in the world, but there is an infinite amount of carbon to be sourced for the creation of synthetic diamonds. Combine that with a reduced environmental impact and the ability to support domestic diamond manufacturers instead of questionable international diamond mining operations, and synthetically grown diamonds simply make sense for the ethically-minded business.
Featured photo source: Pixabay.com
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