Diamonds have been sought after & loved for at least two millennia. However, the systematic & focused approach to diamond mining only began during the latter part of the 19th century. Diamonds are rare. Most are found in a geological formation, known as a kimberlite pipe. Only a few of these pipes’ bare diamonds in reliable density. The result is diamond mining that is more difficult & expensive.
Moreover, most diamonds extracted from the earth are considered low-grade industrial diamonds. Only a tiny fraction of these are gem-quality. Even then, only a small percentage of these are inclusion free & very white. It is this rarity that makes diamonds so valuable & thus so expensive.
Over the course of 150 years, diamond mining has had many knock-on effects. Such as social, economic & ecological changes. Which the diamond industry has been addressing, because of consumer demand & expectation. The Kimberly process was enacted in in 2003.
Ensuring consumers that their diamonds are not tainted with the energy of human rights abuses. Modern mines, such as those in Canada, take massive engineering steps to minimize their ecological impact. It is understandable that diamond’s allure is not shared by everyone. Clients often ask me about white gemstone options that are alternatives to natural diamonds. The reasons cited for wanting alternatives vary. Ranging from price concerns, environmental concerns, or esthetics. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to choose from.
Lab Grown Diamonds
Lab Grown Diamonds have become increasingly more popular, accepted & accessible. A diamond grown using the HPHT or CVD process, is a diamond by any & all metrics. Like most gemstones, a diamond is simply a crystal. This process of crystallization can be repeated in an industrial laboratory.
As you may imagine, diamonds fabrication is neither easy nor inexpensive. While significantly less expensive than natural diamonds, lab diamonds are by no means cheap. However, they do offer the genuine brilliance & sparkle without the baggage.
Moissanite is a naturally occurring gem, first discovered in 1893. However, it is so rare that the natural version is not commercially viable or available. In the 1990’s it was synthesized, storming the jewelry market as the ultimate diamond substitute. Moissanite has several positive points in its favor. For one, its white brilliance comes very close to that of diamond. Its fire (the colorful dispersion of light) exceeds that of diamond.
While not quite as hard as diamond. It generally reads 9.25 on the Mohs scale, making it slightly higher than sapphire. Its price is much less expensive that comparable diamonds. Its production in the laboratory has a lower carbon footprint than that of lab grown diamonds. Moissanite is doubly refractive, which makes it very easy to identify under standard magnification. Which attests to this gem’s stand-alone beauty above & beyond that of a simulant.
Cubic Zirconia is a very popular, inexpensive diamond simulant. Its production became commercially viable in the 1970’s. By the early 1980’s, it massively overtook all previous diamond simulants in the jewelry market. With a Mohs hardness of 8-8.5.
This makes them easy & stable to work with when setting into jewelry. The material is very cheap. It is stable at extremely high temperatures. It has good brilliance & strong fire. All these properties make Cubic Zirconia ideal for pave simulation & for making very sparkly inexpensive jewels.
White Sapphire is a natural gemstone alternative. Most people associate sapphire with its classic blue color. When in fact, it occurs naturally in all colors (except red), including beautiful clear white. This gem has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it ideal as a center stone. White sapphires are rare. It comes in a wide range of prices, depending on the quality of the individual stone. Nonetheless, even in its finest presentation, it costs significantly less than a diamond.