The desire to create “something from nothing” is not new. The legendary process of alchemy was born of man’s desire to produce gold from ordinary lead. The inclination to create Diamonds was no different. Physicists and chemists have been trying to imitate the conditions under which Diamonds grow inside the Earth for well over a hundred years. Men like James Ballantyne Hannay and Ferdinand Frédéric Henri Moissan began their experiments as early as 1879. They claimed successes that were later debunked by Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, who replicated their experiments in the 1920s but was unable to reproduce any results. He developed processes of his own, however, and was able to create what he believed to be the first Lab-Grown Diamonds. These stones were not gem quality, nor were they intended to be. The idea was to answer the question of “Can it be done?”
Once it was discovered to even be possible, the next phase was to design a method that would make Diamonds worthy of consumer purchase. It took decades just to refine a method that produced consistent results. As with mined Diamonds, more than 90% of all created Diamonds are used for industrial purposes. The industrial Diamonds were slowly coming along, inhibited by The Great Depression and World War II. General Electric resumed their Diamond project in 1951, a decade after it had begun, and in 1954 achieved success by producing the first commercially viable created Diamonds for commercial abrasives and the like.
It took almost 20 more years to grow Diamond crystals of gem quality. In 1970, the project GE had begun saw its labors come to fruition. At that time, a week-long growth process produced jewelry quality Diamonds of 1 carat (5mm), though these Diamonds were not “colorless”. The method employed thin (about the width of a hair) pieces of Diamond as “seeds” with which to grow larger crystals under ideal, stable conditions. At first the only gem-quality Diamonds were the fancy colors of blue or yellow; these colors were side-effects of the impurities of certain elements during the process, just like their introduction in the natural growth that takes place in the crust of the Earth: boron for blue and nitrogen for yellow. Other colors like pink and green are obtained through irradiation. Jewelry worthy colorless (“white”) Diamonds have only entered the market in the few years, as the technology to produce them as colorless has only been developed recently.