A lot of things about modern life might feel backward, but there’s no denying that technology seems to be moving at the speed of light. For better or worse, the way we think about creating food, clothes, and culture is constantly changing before our very eyes. Case in point: the classic diamond.
Once a precious commodity requiring the blood, sweat, and tears of mine workers in horrifying conditions, today the same glittering stone can be created using completely artificial means. Like the Beyond Burger before it, the lab-grown diamond uses the same chemistry of a rock found in the rough and compressed under extreme pressure. But while a lab-grown burger can taste, look, and even bleed like meat, a lab-grown diamond can go one step further. Man-made diamonds created in a lab can actually counteract the natural scarcity of certain colors and types of stone, such as bright purples and yellows that originate from naturally-occuring chemicals like boron and nitrogen. Whether or not you’re a fan of colored stones, you’ve got to admit that there’s something cool about being able to create stones by hand that were once considered some of the rarest commodities on the planet.
Lab-grown stones don’t just look like the real thing, either: they are the real thing. Using a vacuum to mimic the natural circumstances under which diamonds are created, the same sparkly stones can be created in weeks rather than over the course of billions (yes, billions) of years. In the lab, carbon is pressurized to create a diamond “seed,” which is then compressed and sealed in a vacuum to create a brand new diamond in less than a month. Beats waiting around for the next big bang, we think you’ll agree.
It might seem like buying a man-made diamond is somehow less authentic (or less valuable) than a diamond mined from the earth, but look, if Leo DiCaprio is happy with it, that’s good enough for us. If you’re still bothered by the idea, think about it this way: if we can subvert the way we think about diamonds as symbols of wealth, power, and status, maybe we can start making up for the harm the industry has inflicted on entire countries. We live in an age when Millenials are being accused of single-handedly killing the diamond industry, as if it were a thing that needed to be saved in the first place. Whatever happens, we know the diamond-mining business isn’t going to go quietly into that good night, especially with monopolistic entities like De Beers desperately lashing out against all the progress lab-grown stones have made. But if we know anything about change, it’s that it’s a force that can only be delayed, never stopped for good.
Just imagine a future where diamonds aren’t just conflict-free, but actually accessible to everyone, including the people who used to put their lives on the line just to unearth these rare gems? What a shiny, sparkly world that would be.