Russia is one of the world's largest diamond producing nations, accounting for 21 percent of global raw diamond output. Russia's largest mine, Mirna (now closed), formerly produced 2 million carats per year for both personal and industrial use.
Synthetic diamonds have been produced since the early 20th century with varying degrees of success. Since the 1950s the Gemological Institute of America has begun to rate synthetic diamonds in comparison to diamonds mined from countries such as Russia.
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It is important to note that Russia is also a major producer of synthetic diamonds.
Russian Natural Diamonds
Diamonds mined in Russia are of varying quality. The Russian diamond industry is monopolized by the state, which sells the diamonds to gem cutters or to heavy industry, depending on the quality of the diamond. Russian natural diamonds are increasingly being used in jewelry, as cheaper synthetic diamonds have become dominant in industry.
Russian Synthetic Diamonds
Russia is one of the world's leading producers of synthetic diamonds. In the past, these diamonds have been unable to replicate the color and quality of natural diamonds; however, due in part to processes discovered by Russian scientists, gem grade diamonds are now produced. In the 1980s, Russian scientists created a compact machine capable of producing industrial grade diamonds cost effectively.
While Russians may have dominated early research into synthetic diamond production, American research and entrepreneurship has been making them ever more available in non-industrial markets. In 2008, researchers at Carnegie-Mellon demonstrated a process whereby synthetic diamonds matched or exceeded the quality of mined diamonds. These synthetics are significantly cheaper than Russian natural diamonds.
Cost versus Quality
Natural Russian diamonds are significantly more expensive than synthetic diamonds produced in North America. Even though the quality of synthetic diamonds is now largely indistinguishable from natural diamonds, natural diamonds from countries such as Russia are still viewed as more desirable than synthetic diamonds. Synthetic diamonds used in jewelry can be up to three times cheaper than a natural diamond of the same quality.
For industrial purposes, a synthetic diamond (either American, Russian or otherwise) is superior because it has the same physical properties at a fraction of the cost.
Natural diamonds from countries such as Russia are generally viewed as superior to synthetic diamonds from a purely aesthetic point of view. However, since synthetic diamonds are becoming cheaper, and diamond mines in Russia and elsewhere are becoming depleted, synthetic diamonds will likely become more common as jewelry as well.