By Calyn Jump, G.G., C.G.A, and Owner
Attending AGS Conclave is always exhilarating. I am beaming with new knowledge and dying to share! With all the buzz on the streets about lab created diamonds, I thought I would start there. I mean, who doesn’t get excited when they hear the word diamond? However, there are some differences between a lab created diamond and a natural diamond you should know before taking the plunge.
Natural diamonds are true miracles of nature and older than most life on this planet. They are between one and three billion years old and were created under rare conditions of intense temperature and pressure 100 miles below earth’s surface. Only a small quantity of natural diamonds have propelled to the surface of the earth through magma forming kimberlite pipes by volcanic eruptions 300-400 million years ago. Only about 1 in every 200 kimberlite pipes produce gem quality diamonds.
If that isn’t romantic I’m not sure what is…..
One thing we can’t dispute is natural diamonds are finite, rare and genuinely unique. To put their rarity in perspective, the total amount of one carat natural diamonds recovered annually could fit inside one exercise ball.
Comparing natural diamonds to how lab created diamonds form is quite different. Picture a warehouse with large machines in rows. Not quite as glamorous as a pristine laboratory you might have pictured right? These machines are artificially replicating a natural environment and forcing carbon atoms into a crystal structure.. In roughly two weeks these diamonds are formed and cut.
There is a lot of hype and misrepresentation surrounding lab created diamonds. In the industry we call them synthetic, because after all they are man-made. They have the same same sparkle, and same brilliance, however they aren't the same as a natural diamond.
During one of my discussions at AGS Conclave one of the instructors said “If synthetic diamonds are the same as natural diamonds then why can we tell them apart with microscopes and machines 100% of the time.” It was hard to argue with that statement. After all, I had been told by lab growers that they are identical. Wow, did this change my perspective on synthetic diamonds. Being able to look at many lab created diamonds searching for flux inclusions was like an Easter Egg hunt but low and behold I did find them. Natural diamonds would never have flux metal inside. I think I will still rely on our new trusty machine to identify them from natural diamonds just to be on the safe side.
When all is said and done, it is hard to look the other way when you go and see the size and quality you can get for much less money. Synthetic diamonds typically run about 50% - 70% less than natural diamonds. Now that catches your attention doesn’t it….! Lab created diamond value is linked to the manufacturing cost, where natural diamonds take decades to form and grow under the perfect environment of heat and pressure. For all of the elements to come together for this to happen is rare in its own right making diamonds very precious. This makes the value incomparable.
My only real concern after researching and comparing, is that we really do not know what the value of lab created diamonds will be in the future. If we take what we know from synthetic ruby, sapphire and emerald, we know that these started out as very expensive stones and now they are only worth hundreds of dollars. Will this happen to lab created diamonds? I don’t know. We do see that they are already dropping in price but where that stops I am not sure. So, if you do decide to buy them just know that you are buying something beautiful, durable and quality but it is not an investment. There might not be any trade options and the value might be less than half in a few years. If that doesn’t concern you and you want a bigger bang for you buck then we are happy to get any size, shape, or quality your heart desires.
Resources: Mobley, Grant. “Differences between lab grown and natural diamonds.” “www.naturaldiamonds.com,” October 14, 2020.
Calyn Jump is a graduate gemologist from GIA and a certified gemologist appraiser from AGS. She is also a co-owner at Naifeh Fine Jewelry and has been in the fine jewelry business for 13 years.