5 facts you must know about lab-grown diamonds
Are you one of the 66% of millennials considering to buy lab-grown diamonds?
You might be! According to MVI Marketing's recent study.
But the problem is...
Lab-grown diamonds are confusing to understand.
And on top of that, it's difficult to find the information you need to shop confidently.
So today, I’ll go over the 5 most popular questions that I constantly hear when it comes to lab-grown diamonds.
Click on any of the questions below to jump straight to the answer.
Here we go...
#1: Lab-grown diamonds ARE real diamonds.
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.
The same logic applies to lab-grown diamonds (also known as lab-created or man-made diamonds).
If it looks like a diamond, sparkles like a diamond, then it's probably a diamond.
So, what makes lab-grown diamonds real diamonds?
The answer is the composition.
A diamond is a three-dimensional structure of carbon molecules, making it the hardest substance on Earth.
In my exclusive interview with Diamond Foundry, I spoke with Ye-Hui Goldenson, Director of Public Relations and Communications at the company.
Diamond Foundry is the first certified carbon neutral diamond producer in the world.
Caprio is an investor
in Diamond Foundry.
“The most important point is that lab-grown diamonds are atomically identical to mined diamonds,” Ye-Hui mentioned when discussing the topic of consumer education.
There is also misinformation going around about the longevity of lab-grown diamonds.
The most common misconception is that they are not forever.
Does this mean that the lab-grown diamond engagement ring that you buy will fade in color?
Or worse, crumble in your hands over time?! 😨
The color and clarity of laboratory diamonds will not change over time - they are diamonds, just like those that come from the mines, Ye-hui commented.
In fact, colorless lab-grown diamonds are typically Type IIa (pronounced two-a) diamonds.
These are very rare in nature!
Why, you may ask?
Well, according to GIA, diamonds that are Type IIa are chemically the most pure. Only 2% of diamonds produced by Earth are Type IIa.
But if all this talk about lab-grown diamonds is still making your head itch,
Then check out how they're made.
This should give you a better understanding on everything I discussed so far. And it's interesting too!
There are two methods of creating a diamond in a laboratory...
The first method I will talk about is called HPHT, standing for high pressure, high temperature.
The HPHT growing method
This was the first adopted method, developed by General Electric in 1954. However, GE's purpose for creating diamonds was for industrial purposes.
Only recently has the HPHT method developed to produce clean diamonds that fit the standards of jewelry quality.
How is this done?
Generally speaking, a tiny diamond seed is placed inside a chamber where high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) is applied to this seed.
I won't bore you with more technical jargon, so scroll down to the animation below.
Click through each step to see how HPHT diamonds are made.
A tiny diamond (the seed) is carefully placed inside a capsule, followed by metallic flux and then graphite powder.
The capsule is then place inside the chamber reactor and surrounded by metal anvils from all sides and angles.
With the chamber sealed, the temperature is cranked up as the anvils are squeezing the capsule inside with immense pressure.
The graphite powder dissolves into the metal flux and then carbon molecules start crystallizing on the diamond seed.
The HPHT grown diamond is cut, shaped and polished. And is ready to be set in a beautiful engagement ring.
The second and more popular method is called CVD. And this stands for chemical vapor desposition.
The CVD growing method
Lurking in the background during the 50’s was the Chemical Vapor Desposition method (CVD) of growing diamonds.
You will probably hear a lot about CVD lab-grown diamonds today.
This method is becoming very popular as technological innovations are improving every day.
CVD diamond growth does not only involve diamond seeds and high temperature, but also low pressure chambers, gases and microwave beams.
Check out the step-by-step animation below to see how CVD diamonds are made.
An extremely thin square diamond plate is placed inside the CVD chamber. This thin diamond sliver will be used as the growth seed.
The CVD chamber is sealed. The temperature is cranked up and a vacuum is created inside the chamber.
A methane gas is released into the chamber and gets blasted by a microwave beam, releasing the carbon atoms from the gas.
Layer-by-layer, the carbon atoms start attaching themselves to the square diamond plate. The result, diamond mineral growth.
The CVD grown diamond is cut, shaped and polished. And is ready to be set in a beautiful engagement ring.
#2: Alert: Huge Savings.
Looking to buy a diamond engagement ring, but don't want to break the bank?
If you’re considering the lab-grown option, then be prepared to save about 40-50%, compared to a mined diamond of the same quality and size.
That’s a pretty big price difference!
To put all of this into perspective, imagine yourself at the jewelry store.
You're there because you want to propose to the only person you allow to call you “Cupcake”...
The jeweler tells you to look at the $10,000 mined-diamond engagement ring,
But you look at the lab-grown diamond engagement ring for $5,000,
Now back to the mined diamond ring...
Now back to the lab-grown diamond ring...
Luckily, you planned the perfect destination proposal.
Look down at your wallet, now look up.
Where are you?
With your current-fiancée drinking piña coladas at the Maldives!
How did you get there?
Because you saved big-time by going with the lab-grown option.
Oh, how her friends are going to be jealous!
Yup, you guessed it. This is my take on the famous Old Spice commercial.
Like my parody?
Give me a like.
So why are they lab-grown diamonds cheaper?
It's difficult to pinpoint to every factor and how they influence price.
But this is what we know so far...
The technology behind lab-grown diamonds, mainly via the CVD method, is improving every day and it's been kept quiet by the people behind it.
Although the main methods of lab-grown diamond production are open to the public, minor differences in the process can have a significant impact on the energy consumption in production.
Lab-grown diamonds are more affordable primarily because of their supply chain.
Mining a diamond from the ground and getting it on your fiancée's (or your) finger involves A LOT of people.
And they all need to get paid!
Check out how the supply chain for mined diamonds looks like:
Image source: Bain & Company
As you can see, it's quite the complex chart.
Morgan Stanley answered the question best in its analysis.
Why are lab-grown more affordable than mined diamonds?
"This is in part because lab-grown diamond producers are a fragmented, independent channel, while the mined diamond industry is highly consolidated and coordinated, in terms of supply, distribution, marketing and pricing.
The labs aren’t just competing with the mined diamond industry, but also with each other for market share."
Lucky for you and me, lab-grown diamonds are affected by the forces of the free market.
Choosing lab-grown means affordable rings if you're looking to propose (or if you're looking for some cool bling to rock!)
#3: Buying Lab-grown Diamonds.
With all this talk about savings, you're probably interested in going lab-grown with your next diamond purchase by now.
If you're not, consider the environmental benefits too.
Although jewelry made with lab-grown diamonds is slowly making its way to brick-and-motar stores.
The accessibility to these diamonds via the internet is growing fast.
And by fast, I mean really fast.
This means more variety and styles for you to choose from.
But as the old saying goes, purchase from reputable sellers.
Here is a list of some big brick-and-motar retailers that are offering jewelry made with lab-grown diamonds. Check out your neighborhood for more options.
Are you a jewelry store owner and don't see your business above?
If you carry lab-grown diamonds, use the comment section at the end of this blog. Include your store name, city and state.
Don't see any brick-and-motar jewelry stores in your neighborhood? Or you insist on shopping online? Don't worry!
Here are some online stores that have an established name in the industry.
Click on any of the names above to visit the website.
Please note, none of the companies mentioned in this blog are affiliated with me or Pure at Birth, LLC.
So, here's the low-down on how to protect yourself from misrepresentation or fraud while shopping online.
1. Take a screenshot of the product page of the diamond ring you decide to purchase before you complete checkout.
Why do this before checkout? Because if you buy the last one ring in stock, you might not find the page again!
2. Use a credit card at checkout.
If you have a credit card, use it instead of a debit card!
Credit cards give you the most protection since you're using your bank's money, not yours.
Now, I am not implying that online companies will scam you.
However, there is a but...
In the event were there is an honest mistake or a misrepresentation of what you ordered vs. what you received... you'll benefit as a customer from having leverage.
Credit cards also give you the same protection in brick-and-motar retail stores, so keep this is mind.
3. Verify your order. Make sure what you purchased is what you received.
#4: Ask Questions and Demand Answers.
Now, you might feel confident shopping for lab-grown diamonds. But hear me out on this first!
In Instore Mag’s annual jewelers 2018 Big Survey:
- 21% have complete disdain for lab-grown diamonds.
- 29% didn’t even want to consider carrying lab-diamonds.
- Only 10% of jewelers aggressively promote the lab-grown substitute.
This means 1 out of 5 jewelers have a strong dislike for the lab-grown alternative.
I can only make assumptions. My guess is that it all comes down to profits.
Lab-grown diamonds pose a big threat to jewelers, who typically are stocked with mined diamond jewelry.
But savings aren't your only benefit of buying man-made diamonds. Check out this infographic about the environmental benefits of lab-grown diamonds.
Let's face it, the jewelry industry is having a hard time accepting lab-grown diamonds.
And because of that, here are some questions you should be asking your jeweler, as well as some insider tips.
After all, you don't want to come home with buyer's remorse or worst of all, get overcharged.
Buying Question #1: Is the lab-grown diamond certified?
Just like mined diamonds, it's important to have them certified. Why?
Because you want to be certain that you are buying a lab-grown. And another reason is because you want to know the quality of the diamond.
Diamond quality, behind carat weight, is the most important factor for determining the price you will pay. I will come back to this later.
Here are a few popular gemological laboratories that certify laboratory created diamonds:
Most of the certified lab-grown diamonds that you will see on the market are graded by IGI.
GIA, the household name in diamond grading, does not grade lab-grown diamonds with the same scale that they use for mined diamonds.
A diamond’s certificate will be used to price the diamond. The certificate describes the grading of a diamond, which is based on the 4Cs, AKA the most important qualities.
I recommend you look for lab-grown diamonds certified by either IGI or GCAL. Or any other lab that gives you specific color and clarity grades. With specific gradings on the 4Cs, you will know what you're be charged for.
Watch the video below to brush up on the 4Cs of diamond grading.
At the moment, GIA laboratory diamond reports are not suitable to be used for pricing lab-grown diamonds via Rapaport (the industry's price guide). GIA's current lab-grown diamond color and clarity grading scale is too vague.
So, to be on the safe side of getting what you paid for, make sure your lab-grown diamond certificate is detailed and graded on the same scale as mined diamonds are.
Buying Question #2 Can you test the diamond?
Don’t be shy to ask your jeweler to test the diamond in front of you.
How do you test for a lab-grown diamond?
With diamond testing equipment and some experience.
Generally speaking, you should familiarize yourself with the two types of diamond testing tools. They are readily available and affordable.
The first tool that verifies diamonds, both mined and lab-grown, from diamond simulants, such as cubic zirconia (CZ) and moissanite. When the jeweler tests your lab-grown diamond, the device should read "diamond."
Make sure the diamond is wiped clean of any oils or fingerprints before testing, which may lead to an incorrect reading.
This first tool is typically a handheld device. Every jeweler should have one.
Here's how it looks like.
Another tool uses UV light to detect Type IIa diamonds which is slightly more expensive, but still affordable enough for your jeweler to carry.
Watch this video of a Presidium tool screening for Type IIa diamonds.
(Recall me mentioning that most lab-grown diamonds are Type IIa diamonds.)
Just because a diamond tests as Type IIa, doesn't mean it's lab-grown. Mined Type IIa diamonds exist, but they are rare. This is what makes Type IIa diamonds desirable.
However, if the price you are getting for this diamond is in the range of lab-grown prices and diamond testing equipment tests "diamond." Then you can be confident you are getting a genuine lab-grown diamond.
Finally, to confirm that your lab-grown diamond is not a mined diamond will require a special tool that verifies lab-grown diamonds. It's called DiamondView. Unfortunately, this tool is very expensive.
The current price of the DiamondView is equivalent to that of a brand new luxury car. So only some diamond laboratories carry this tool at the moment.
The way this machine tests for lab-grown diamonds is by examining at the growth patterns of the crystal structure.
Earth-mined diamonds have stress marks in their crystal structure, while lab-grown diamonds have more consistency in their structure.
#5: The Resale Value of Lab-grown Diamonds is Unknown
This is the most difficult question to answer. And selling your diamond is probably the last thing on your mind now, but you may worry about this someday (hopefully not).
Here's the short answer...
How will lab-grown diamonds hold their resale value? Nobody really knows. 🤔
Although lab-grown diamond technology has been around since 1954, innovations in technology have led quality lab-grown diamonds to be commercially available to the public in the recent years.
However, as technology advances, the cost of producing lab-grown diamonds should theoretically come down in price.
So, if you purchase a lab-grown diamond today, it should go down in price in the future until supply and demand reach equilibrium. Right now, the equilibrium point is impossible to predict.
Can I protect my investment by purchasing an earth-mined diamond?
Unless you're purchasing a diamond (one that is hopefully ethically sourced) in excess of about 5 carats with superior characteristics and color, you'll have a tough time getting your money back. (And superior quality 5 carat diamonds are very, very expensive.)
Besides paying retail value, the adoption of lab-grown diamonds by consumers may also affect the price of earth-mined diamonds.
If shoppers see lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds as interchangeable, then by 2030 there should be an estimated 20-30% drop in the price of mined diamonds, according to Bain and Company's 2018 diamond report.
To keep the long story short and without getting into dry economic jargon, if you're considering proposing with a beautiful 1 carat diamond ring, the resale value will always be lower than what you originally paid.
Just like when you buy a car or a new TV. The retail price is always more than the resale value.
So, purchase the engagement ring to make your future fiancée happy! That, after all, is the main goal, right?
Wrapping it up!
In today’s blog I introduced you to the 5 most popular questions that many people have about lab-grown diamonds.
And answered them.
You should now know the following about lab-grown diamonds:
Want to brush-up on any of these sections?
Click on the points above.
Are you itching your head about something I haven't covered?
Comment to let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.
Lastly, I would like to thank every person who helped make this blog possible, especially the Reddit community.