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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fake Diamonds

Diamonds, they say, are forever, but now you can get one that is considerably younger. Synthetic diamonds - made not by thousands of years of underground compression, but four days in a lab - are the latest sparklers to hit the market. They retail for 75 per cent less than those dug from the earth, but unlike cubic zirconia or moissanite, they're real.

"We essentially create the environment in which diamonds grow by emulating what occurs below the earth's surface in a laboratory setting," said Clark McEwen, chief operating officer for Gemesis, the Florida company devoted to growing gem-quality diamonds. "There are no differences. They are made from exactly the same material that natural diamonds are made from." Gemesis' synthetics are made using the tiny shard of a real diamond, which grows, molecule by molecule, after carbon and nitrogen are added under extreme heat and pressure. Even the Gemological Institute of America recognises these diamonds as authentic.

Although synthetic diamonds have been grown for industrial purposes for years, these diamonds are big enough to be cut, set and adorned. But there's a catch - they only come in yellow and orange. In order to make a clear, colourless diamond, nitrogen would have to be removed, but that would make everything unstable and too imperfect to work with.

The attraction for cost conscious consumers is obvious, said Ben Burne, of Solaura, the brand name of jewellery made from Gemesis stones. "We're making diamonds more accessible to the general public," he says. "Most people can't afford to buy a natural, one-carat stone for $20,000, but now they can buy the same size and colour stone that's man-made for $6000."



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