Thus begins my initiation into the controversial world of lab-grown diamonds. Fortunately, continues Vishal Mehta, the chief executive of the Singapore-based IIa Technologies, while the supply of naturally forming diamonds may eventually run out, it is now possible to “grow” gem-quality diamonds that have exactly the same composition as their natural counterparts.
Laboratory grown diamonds are as real – optically, physically and chemically – as the crystallised carbon creations found inside the Earth, which can take centuries to form and millions of dirhams to extract.
“Growing diamonds works a bit like a greenhouse. We start by planting diamond seeds, which are simply carbon fragments of pre-existing diamonds, inside a growth chamber. The conditions are replicated for the seeds to undergo natural crystallisation, with the same heat, pressure and other elements found under the Earth’s surface, resulting in coloured or colourless type IIa diamonds. The whole process takes up to 12 weeks.”
Type IIa is the rarest and purest grade of diamond. The Koh-i-Noor, Cullinan and Elizabeth Taylor (formerly Krupp) diamonds are some of the most famous examples of type IIa or Golconda diamonds – a categorisation that counts towards their high value and that is based on their rarity and a low presence of nitrogen impurities. “The diamond mines no longer produce type IIa diamonds, which are said to constitute only 2 per cent of total diamonds produced by mines across the world,” says Mehta.
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