Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – and a man’s best choice when popping the question! But a push for ethically sourced diamonds in recent years has seen increased demand for lab-grown diamonds for those special occasions. According to reports, up to 75% of diamond mines in Africa are linked to militia, gangs or oppressive regimes, so it’s no surprise that concerns have been raised about the ethics of the diamond mining industry. By purchasing lab grown diamonds, buyers can get all the sparkle and scintillation they expect from a diamond, safe in the knowledge their gemstone is conflict-free.
But it may surprise you to hear that lab-grown diamonds are not a modern concept created to meet the demand for ethically sourced jewelry. They were actually first produced in 1954 by General Electric and became popular in the 1970s.
So, what are lab-grown diamonds, and how do they stack up against natural diamonds?
Did you know that the Graphite in your pencil shares the same property with a lab-grown or natural diamond?
What are lab-grown diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are grown in a lab - Obviously! - using advanced technological processes to simulate the conditions under which natural diamonds are produced. High pressure, extreme heat and carbon produce diamonds with an identical chemical structure to those formed naturally over millennia – but in a fraction of the time (7-10 days for a 1 carat diamond, such a wow). Science is fun isn’t it?
Because of this, lab-grown diamonds offer the same scintillation, sparkle and fire you would expect from a natural diamond. To the naked or untrained eye, a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond are indistinguishable. Even an expert requires specialist equipment to spot the difference.
Interesting point, some really hardcore environmentalists also have concerns with the amount of energy consumption that goes into producing Lab-grown Diamonds.
Are lab-grown diamonds more affordable than natural diamonds?
Well, the answer should be obvious. Just with anything else organic will always be more expensive than a lab produced and the same goes for diamonds. A lab-grown diamond will be cheaper than a natural diamond of equal quality and size.
Are lab-grown diamonds flawless?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that lab-grown diamonds are created perfectly. But to think of them as manufactured is to ignore the crucial fact that they are formed under the exact same conditions as natural diamonds. This means they are subject to the same inclusions – but it should also reassure you that they really are genuine diamonds. Indeed, they are evaluated, graded and certified using the same exacting standards.
Is cubic zirconia a lab-grown diamond?
That would be a HARD No. Cubic zirconia is a manmade mineral made of zirconium dioxide. It looks similar to diamonds but does not share the same chemical and physical properties. Synthetic diamonds do not display the same sparkle, scintillation and fire as diamonds and can usually be distinguished from lab-grown and natural diamonds with the naked eye.
Will a lab-grown diamond last as long as a natural diamond?
This is a very good question. A lab-grown diamond will last as long as a naturally produced diamond and will provide luxury and elegance for a lifetime without clouding. That said, if you’re looking for an investment piece, it’s worth noting that the disparity in the resale value of lab-grown diamonds is wider than that of the original purchase price. But if you’re buying a diamond simply for its beautiful aesthetics, you’ll get more for your money by choosing lab-grown over natural.
Are lab-grown diamonds the only way to ensure conflict-free stones?
Absolutely not! The push for ethical diamonds is not a new campaign. In 2003, the Kimberley Process was introduced as an international initiative to help tackle the problem of conflict-diamonds trading. The joint initiative has over 50 participants, including Canada. Canada also has its own stringent monitoring system which exceeds the requirements of the Kimberley Process. Canadian diamonds are strictly monitored by a government system to guarantee they are 100% Canadian in origin – that means mined, cut, and polished in Canada.
So, should I choose natural diamond or lab-grown?
Which you opt for is entirely your decision and will be based on your own preferences or those of the recipient. There is no doubt that a natural diamond, formed over millions of years and plucked from the earth before being cut to perfection, brings with it an air of romance. Natural diamonds are a joy to receive and to own. It is always a pleasure to hold in our hand something of such natural radiance and to get that feeling that, not only is this a piece of the earth that has been so long in the making, but it is something that will last for your lifetime and beyond.
As we have discovered, a lab-grown diamond will enjoy the same longevity but does not always bring with it the same sense of nostalgia. If, however, your primary focus when choosing your gemstone is one based on ethics, you may want to choose a lab-grown diamond.
The truth is that unless you are a gemologist with all the correct equipment, distinguishing a lab-grown diamond from a natural diamond is a near impossible task. For pure aesthetics and to obtain the beautiful scintillation, sparkle and fire we all think of when we envisage diamond jewelry, there is no discernible difference between the two.
So, if budget is a major factor in your decision, you can decide to save money by opting for a lab-grown diamond of your desired size and quality for around half the price – or choose to spend the full amount you have put aside for this most precious of gifts but get more bling for your buck.
Whichever you choose, there is no doubt that you are buying an heirloom. This piece of jewelry will be handed down from generation to generation. Every piece of diamond jewelry tells its own story. When you give the gift of diamonds, you write your story into the history of your family. So, choose wisely. Choose the diamond that represents you and your loved one best.
Beth Behfar, Jewelry Blogger