Updated: Apr 12
There are a few things to consider when choosing between a lab grown or natural diamond. Here I write about, what I believe to be, the most important elements in deciding between these two gemstones.
What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds have the same chemical and physical properties as natural diamonds- the only difference is that they are man made.
They are created in a laboratory or factory under high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) just like in nature. Or they can be created using chemical vapour deposition (CVD) using a natural gas like methane and high temperature and pressure.
Lab grown diamonds have been around since the 1950’s. These synthetic diamonds have been used in technology and industrial sectors. They have been used in scalpels, X-ray radiation detectors and can cut through steel like butter!
Synthetic diamonds have recently reached mainstream jewellery and are now becoming popular for their lower price point and eco friendly label, not to mention their abundance of supply, but there are some things to consider.
What's The Difference In Lab Grown And Natural Diamonds?
At first glance, there is no difference. They have the exact same chemical composition, but there are a few important things to note in how they are manufactured, marketed and valued.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Rare?
Lab grown diamonds are massed produced. They are not rare like natural diamonds and never will be. This is absolutely fine, but remember they will never have the exclusivity or luxury label that a natural diamond carries.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Cheaper?
One benefit that I can see for the customer is the cost of a lab grown diamond. You can now get a larger diamond for your budget compared to what you can get in a natural diamond. They do not however, hold their value like a natural diamond. In a Forbes article, Jean Ghika, global director of the auction house Bonham’s says “I have yet to be convinced that there is a demand for lab grown diamonds on the secondary market”. This is something the consumer might forget to take into consideration. So if you want your diamond to keep it’s value- I would recommend investing in a natural diamond.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Sustainable?
Massive amounts of energy is needed to create one lab grown or synthetic diamond.
Looking forward, the energy source used to create these diamonds needs to be considered and the manufacturers may take steps to reduce the energy, thus making it more sustainable. Generally, these lab grown diamonds are made in countries that rely on coal or natural gas, which are two unsustainable power sources.
So, if sustainability is an important factor to you- make sure to find out if the lab grown diamond is made from 100% renewable energy- otherwise, can it really be labelled as eco friendly or sustainable ?
What Does It mean To Be Carbon Neutral ?
A company can offset its carbon emissions. This can be done through investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency or other clean, low-carbon technologies.
Off setting the carbon footprint is very easy for companies to do and it’s really a great way to give back to the planet- but companies need to be clear. The creation of the diamond is not carbon neutral - the carbon neutrality has simply been offset by a payment and the lab grown diamonds are not as “eco friendly” as you might think. Even using 100% renewable energy doesn’t equate to carbon neutrality.
Grading Lab Grown Diamonds
When it comes to grading a natural diamond, the GIA are the most respected diamond grading entity in the world, and although the GIA are now apparently grading synthetic diamonds, they are extremely hard to find. Because of this, it’s difficult to compare like for like when it comes to the colour and clarity. This is an important factor to take into consideration when choosing your diamond.
Diamond Industry Ethics
Questions have been asked about the ethics of mined diamonds ever since the release of the Blood Diamond movie in the early 2000's.
The natural diamond industry is now one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world and have made significant moves on improving workers rights, health and safety and community reinvestment. They support the communities in which they are discovered and mined, and the natural diamond mining companies are also making headway in reducing the carbon footprint of the diamond mining industry.
The Magic & Provenance Of A Natural Diamond
My personal hope is that people will consume less. Buy once, buy well as the saying goes. You don't need a lot of jewellery, but a carefully curated and considered collection will last a lifetime. I don’t necessarily think lab grown diamonds are a bad alternative. I think both natural and synthetic diamonds each have a part to play in the jewellery industry. My advice though, is do lots of research before buying either diamond, so you are fully aware of the origins and ramifications of either creating or mining for your diamond.
There is a need for more transparency, before lab grown diamonds can be called eco friendly or labelled carbon neutral. So for now, I will continue to work with natural diamonds. I will however, keep a close eye on the environmental impact and practices of factory grown diamonds.
And One Final Note...
Laboratories might be able to replicate the physical properties of a diamond, but they can not replicate the provenance and magic that only a natural diamond retains.
They have taken thousands of years to form naturally in the earth and I think that’s extremely unique and enduring.
Would you prefer lab grown or synthetic diamonds? I would love to know your thoughts. If you have any questions please do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org