So, What Are Diamonds Made Of Exactly? And Are Synthetic Ones Real?
Diamonds are a highly valued stone, nearly revered in modern society as a symbol of love, commitment, and wealth. But what elements are diamonds made of? And how are they made?
Similar to graphite, diamonds are comprised purely of carbon. The carbon atoms in diamonds are organized as a rigid lattice, allowing less possibility of contamination and awarding it the title of the hardest known natural material.
Origin of diamond colors
While colorless diamonds are often considered the most valuable, diamonds exist in a wide range of colors due to mineral contamination or lattice deformation. For example, black diamonds come from graphite contamination, red diamonds from plastic deformation, purple from plastic deformation and hydrogen contamination, green from irradiation deformation, pink from plastic deformation, and brown, yellow, orange, and blue from nitrogen.
But when asking yourself what are diamonds made out of, carbon isn’t the only ingredient. Diamonds have three other crucial ingredients: pressure, heat, and time.
Diamond heat, pressure, & time
Diamonds are formed in the Earth’s mantle, somewhere between 1 and 3 billion years ago. Formed by heat and pressure, diamonds are then delivered to the Earth’s surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions or the movement of subduction zones that bring the diamonds up to the ocean floor. In addition to being formed deep in the Earth, diamonds can also be formed from the immense heat and pressure of asteroid strikes.
Diamonds require environments of at least 752 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius) and 434,113 pounds per square inch (30 kilobars). The most favorable diamond-forming conditions can be found about 100 miles (160 kilometers) underground.
Origin of synthetic diamonds
Due to the high cost of natural diamonds, geologists have developed methods to create synthetic diamonds. According to the American Museum of Natural History, Swedish and American researchers in the 1950s were the first to discover how to convert graphite and molten iron into diamond.
But what are man made diamonds? Although produced in a laboratory setting, man made diamonds are formed by a process similar to that of naturally formed diamonds, utilizing the application of intense heat and pressure to pure carbon. To the naked eye, synthetic diamonds are visually indistinguishable from natural diamonds, but are often 15% to 30% lower in price. When purchasing a naturally formed diamond, it is crucial to purchase a certified diamond because it is extremely difficult to differentiate real and synthetic diamonds.
Synthetic diamonds use in modern society
Although diamonds are exalted in modern society as a symbol of love and wealth, the world’s hardest natural substance is also popular outside of the fashion world. According to the Natural Museum of History, diamonds conduct heat five times faster than copper, can pass or block electrical currents, and can endure extreme temperatures and chemical exposure. Sharpened diamonds are often used as specialized drill bits used in producing microchips and semiconductors. Synthetic diamonds are great for meeting a demand for diamonds, regardless of natural or synthetic origins.
In addition to being used in technology, synthetic diamonds are sometimes preferred by jewelry seekers because of their ethical origins. Natural diamonds are veiled in a dark history of fueling wars and bloodshed while diamond mining poses a threat to the environment, leaving the earth riddled with giant diamond mining holes. In order to avoid the often unethical origins of natural diamonds, many shoppers intentionally search for synthetic diamonds.
Differences between synthetic and natural diamonds
But what are the best man made diamonds? And are man made diamonds fake? Although synthetic diamonds are not formed naturally, they have the same chemical composition and physical properties as natural diamonds, and, despite their artificial origins, are not “fake.”
Those who label synthetic diamonds as fake may be referring to simulated diamonds. Simulated diamonds–for example, cubic zirconia–do not have the same chemical composition or physical properties as real (or synthetic) diamonds and would thus be correctly referred to as “fake diamonds.”
Although identical in composition to natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds often have fewer internal flaws than natural diamonds because they are manufactured in a controlled process designed to minimize defects.
So what are diamonds made of? Simply put: carbon, heat, pressure, and time.