TIME diamonds

Now You Can Make Diamonds in a Microwave

A collection of natural diamonds are seen laid in rows on a
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A collection of natural diamonds.

The process takes several weeks

Diamonds really are forever, now that we can manufacture them.

There’s a growing market for man-made jewels grown in science labs, Bloomberg reports. The diamonds are made by placing a carbon seed in a microwave chamber and superheating the substance into a plasma ball, which crystallizes into the much-desired jewels. Experts can only tell the difference between the manufactured diamonds and traditionally mined ones using a machine.

The man-made diamonds are starting to be sold by retailers such as Wal-Mart, although they still make up just a small fraction of total diamond sales. In 2014, an estimated 360,000 carats of lab-grown diamonds were manufactured while about 146 million carats of natural gems were mined. The number of man-made diamonds is expected to reach 20 million carats by 2026. (One carat = 0.2 grams).

Diamond industry heavyweights such as De Beers say they have nothing to fear from startups pushing lab-produced gems. The company told Bloomberg that the “formation,” “history,” and “emotional significance” of mined diamonds make them unique.

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