Natural Diamonds

Engagement Rings And Natural Diamonds

The presentation of an engagement ring set with a natural diamond has been the ultimate symbol of love and commitment that one person could make to another for many, many years now. It was the highly successful 1947 De Beers advertising campaign that launched the slogan “A diamond is forever” which really gave rise to the commonly held view (in many western countries) that natural diamonds embody the enduring love between a couple. Over time, it has become a cultural norm that an engagement ring could be nothing other than a diamond ring.

So what was once considered to be something only to be enjoyed by very wealthy people, became something to be enjoyed by many. Although of course by necessity not everyone could afford large, good quality diamonds because they are very, very expensive. But smaller, lesser quality diamonds would also sell. DeBeers took the view that people seeing diamonds meant that they would sell more diamonds. So they marketed the idea that the amount spent on an engagement ring should be the equivalent of so many months wages (the exact number of months they recommended changed over time).

Diamond Rings as Engagement Rings first started with diamonds like this in their octahedral form

How Are Diamonds Formed in Nature?

Natural diamonds are very rare because the conditions in which they form are very specific.

A combination of both extreme heat and enormous pressure is required to bond carbon atoms together. When the atoms bond very, very tightly, diamonds are formed.

Some diamonds form just below the earth’s crust. Others are formed much lower down in the Earth’s mantle. Many years ago, extremely violent volcanic eruptions brought them to the surface of the Earth.

The eruptions were enormous. Nothing like the smaller eruptions that we see now and again in the modern age. In fact, the last kimberlite eruption (where diamonds are found within the volcanic material that reaches the surface), scientists believe happened 13 million years ago! Diamonds from these eruptions have been found in the sediment of rivers and coastlines. As the volcanic material erodes over time, diamonds are exposed.

Scientists also believe that diamonds sometimes form when asteroids strike Earth, because of the enormous heat and pressure produced when this impact occurs. Interestingly, diamonds can come from space, as they also form in some meteorites. But they are so small that we cannot use them either for industrial purposes or as gemstones.

For an insight into the different ways in which natural diamonds have formed and arrive at the earth’s surface and are mined, read this analysis in Gemological Science International.

Alternatives To Natural Diamonds

It is interesting to see what the power of advertising can do. The view that an engagement ring should have a diamond at its centre has often meant that other durable and really beautiful gemstones such as sapphires have been overlooked. Sapphire engagement rings offer something that most people seek in an engagement ring: something that is unique and special. Each and every sapphire is individual and different. So it goes without saying that a ring with a sapphire at it’s centre already goes a long way towards being pretty special, provided the sapphire has been well chosen.

Perhaps sapphire rings will rise in popularity in coming years, as diamonds become more commonplace. Or maybe it is time for another really great marketing slogan, only for sapphires instead!

Diamond Substitutes

Because of the relative rarity and cost of natural, mined diamonds, there have been attempts over the years to try to create simulants or imitations as alternatives. Remember cubic zirconias? They are still sold today in some high street jewellery shops. Moissanite is also offered as a substitute for diamonds. Both of these simulants are man made, but neither cubic zirconias or moissanite come anywhere close to a real diamond. They are comprised of different materials. The simple fact is that nothing compares to the amazing properties of pure crystalized carbon (diamond)!

The New Kid On The Block: The Rise Of Lab Grown Diamonds

That was the case, until recently. In the last few years, the development of Lab Grown Diamonds has really come ahead. Many lab diamonds have become so good that today they truly are a comparable alternative to natural mined diamonds.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds?

The chemical composition of lab grown diamonds is the same as natural diamonds. However, their growth patterns are different, as they are formed over a number of weeks rather than billions of years. This difference in the growth patterns can be seen with specialized equipment. You can see in the image above, that the shape of the natural diamond before it is cut and faceted by a diamond cutter is a octahedron. It’s growth is in 8 directions. Lab grown diamonds form in different shapes. Chemical Vapor Deposition diamonds form in cubes, with growth in one direction, whereas High Pressure High Temperature Diamonds are cuboctohedrons. Their growth is in 14 directions.

Most lab grown diamonds also undergo further treatments to improve their colour and clarity. For a fascinating read on how lab grown diamonds are made, and the treatments that improve them, have a look at this article by the International Gem Society:

Just like natural diamonds, careful selection is critical to getting a good lab grown diamond. There can be issues with the cut and the lustre, amongst other things. As with all our diamonds, whether they be natural or lab grown, we cherry pick the best from cutters all around the world. If you would like to delve further into the quality issues that we look out for, there is a lot of info on this under the Diamond Education section on our site, as well as information on Lab Grown Diamonds.

Ellissi Supplies Both Natural and Lab Grown Diamonds

At Ellissi, we custom make engagement rings and other diamond jewellery such as earrings, bracelets and pendants. We can make these with either lab grown diamonds, or natural mined diamonds. The choice is yours. And of course we are more than happy to advise on the merits of both options. Simply Contact Us to discuss your ideas.