Lab grown diamonds are generating increasing excitement among celebrities and jewellery-lovers. Natural diamonds are produced deep in the Earth over billions of years. Machines generating the same level of extreme heat and pressure can create lab grown diamonds in a fraction of the time.
But should you choose a lab grown diamond for your next piece, rather than opting for a natural gemstone? Here are some of the benefits – and potential pitfalls – you might consider.
- A lab grown diamond might be cheaper
Manufacturers have been creating diamonds in laboratories for more than 60 years. Until recently this has had little effect on the natural diamond market. But recent advances in technology mean production costs have dropped and this has had an effect on retail pricing.
Like natural diamonds, these manufactured gems are valued by the four Cs: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.
The retail price of gem-quality lab grown diamonds has nearly halved in the past two years, while wholesale prices have dropped threefold. Prices are expected to decrease even further as production efficiencies increase and new competitors enter the market.
Prices vary and the markets fluctuate, but a lab grown diamond is likely to cost around 30 percent less than its natural equivalent. That means if you are considering investing in a piece of diamond jewellery, you should spend less if the stone was produced in a laboratory.
However, critics including Jean Ghika, Global Director of Jewellery for Bonhams, have warned that a lab grown diamond is unlikely to be a good investment. These stones do not seem to retain value in the same way as their natural counterparts. So, while your manufactured stone may sparkle just as well as natural gem, its value could well drop after you have purchased it. That is certainly worth considering if you are thinking about buying a piece of diamond jewellery for yourself or a loved one.
- It may be better for the environment
Perhaps the biggest driver for the growth of the lab grown market is the fact these stones are thought to be more environmentally sustainable than natural diamonds. Some have raised concerns about the environmental impact of diamond mining. Research suggests that around 250 tonnes of earth is moved for every carat of diamond mined.
However, the jury is out on whether a natural or lab grown diamond is better for the environment. Some research has suggested that manufacturing a diamond generates three times more carbon than mining one. On the other hand, another study found that mined diamonds require twice as much energy per carat than lab grown diamonds.
It seems it is difficult to compare the two but you may want to look into this further if environmental sustainability is a priority for you. This might also include researching an individual manufacturer’s own credentials.
- They are growing in popularity
If you choose a lab grown diamond, you are in good company. A recent survey carried out in the states suggested that 70 percent of Millennials would choose a lab grown diamond engagement ring.
Growing numbers of celebrities are being photographed wearing these manufactured stones. Hollywood star Penelope Cruz launched a new range of lab grown diamond jewellery on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. An ambassador for these manufactured gems, she created the collection with jewellery designer Atelier Swarovski.
The lab grown diamond market received another boost when Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, announced her engagement to fans on Instagram. Her stunning ring featured a lab grown diamond set in recycled rose gold.
Meanwhile the Diamond Foundry, a lab grown diamond manufacturer which claims to be carbon neutral, boasts Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its investors.
Diamond is one of the strongest materials in the world. Most diamonds do not end up in earrings, watches or necklaces. The stones’ hardness makes them ideally suited for use in cutting or drilling machinery. In fact, lab grown diamonds were first developed for industrial use.
These dazzling gems‘ durability has always been part of their appeal. It is one of the reasons why they symbolise eternal love. A key concern for anyone considering a lab grown diamond is likely to be whether it will be as strong as a naturally-formed stone.
Research published in the Review of Scientific Instruments found that lab grown diamonds are ten times more durable than conventional diamonds. Other experts have said there is no difference between the two. Whichever type if diamond you choose, you can rest assured that it will be built to last.
- They sparkle just the same
Whether they are formed deep in the Earth over billions or years or within weeks in a laboratory, these stones are all real diamonds. They should not be confused with imitation diamonds, such as rhinestones and cubic zirconia.
Manufactured diamonds are structurally and chemically identical to their natural equivalent. Even gemologists cannot tell them apart.
If you buy a good quality lab grown diamond, you will not be compromising on aesthetics. It will sparkle and catch the light in exactly the same way as a conventional diamond.
However, that is not to say that a lab grown diamond is exactly the same as a naturally formed diamond. That is because our fascination with diamonds has always been about more than their aesthetic qualities. For many, it is the fact that they were formed over billions of years up to 200 miles underground that makes them so captivating.
For some, a gemstone grown by a machine in a laboratory will never hold the same romantic appeal. For others, a laboratory grown stone offers better tractability, environmental credentials and price. It is a very personal choice.
While lab grown diamonds are generating excitement and gaining traction in the market, will they ever replace natural rocks? It is hard to say for sure. However, we know that many people love these stones because they are created by nature. And that is something the manufacturing process can never replicate.
Whether your diamond is natural or manufactured, you will want to protect it. At TH March we offer a range of specialist jewellery insurance, including our diamond ring insurance.