While we think diamonds are beautiful and a great choice when you’re looking to make a high-end jewellery purchase, we don’t buy into the marketing that De Beers has rammed down our throats for a century, convincing people that you must buy a mined diamond when you get engaged. We’d like to introduce you to a more affordable and ethical option: Lab Diamonds.
Our goal is to help give you a balanced view of what is available now that the diamond industry is being forced to change through consumers appetite for ethical products, which are kinder to the environment. Lab grown, or synthetic, diamonds have become increasingly popular as the cruel and outdated practices of mined diamonds are revealed, and the public becomes more aware of the damage the industry causes. We aim to help people who are looking at buying a diamond to have a thorough understanding of the choices available and get the biggest brightest diamond that their budget will allow and help you avoid any rocks or shoals along the way.
IS CREATED/LAB DIAMOND A NEW PHENOMENON?
Diamonds were first created in a lab at General Electric in the 1950’s and the ability to grow diamonds is one of the most precise and difficult manufacturing techniques that humans have ever achieved. It took almost 60 years of effort to develop the precision to grow gemstone quality diamonds.
The purpose and main goal of the lab grown diamond industry is not to grow diamond gemstones. In fact, the main reason that this industry exists is to grow functional diamonds for industrial, computational, health care, and scientific applications.
However, over the past few decades, methods have been perfected, but only in the last few years has it been possible to produce large white gem-quality diamonds that meet or surpass natural diamonds in terms of desirability and beauty. So while lab-grown diamonds aren’t a new phenomenon, they have become viable for fine jewellery only recently.
WHAT ARE LAB DIAMONDS?
Lab-created diamonds (which have also been referred to as lab-grown diamonds, synthetic diamonds, artificial diamonds, cultivated diamonds or cultured diamonds) are man-made diamonds that mirror real, natural diamonds. Because they actually consist of carbon atoms structures, lab-grown diamonds display the same chemical and optical characteristics of a natural diamond crystal produced by the geological processes of Mother Nature.
Lab diamonds have the exact same scintillation, flash, fire, and brilliance as mined diamonds and do not fade or change colour over time.
Man-made diamonds are graded on the exact same criteria as mined diamonds by the same independent gemmological laboratories that grade Earth-extracted diamonds.
The first type of lab-grown diamond that was developed was created using the High Pressure High Temperature method. The newer and now more favoured method for creating lab-grown diamonds, is CVD, Chemical Vapour Deposition. Both methods are grown from a carbon base and need a huge amount of energy to create a diamond that is identical in every respect to a mined diamond. They normally retail for around 60-70% of an equivalent mined diamond, and the environmental cost, though not as significant as a mined diamond, is still relatively high, because of the energy used during the manufacturing processes.
High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT)
HPHT diamond growth occurs within massive pressure cookers. Small diamond seeds are placed into a growth cell and graphite is inserted on top of the diamond seeds. The pressure cooker is heated to 1500°C and pressurised to approximately 70,000 times the pressure at sea level.
At this extreme temperature and pressure, the graphite in the growth cell is melted into liquid carbon and then carefully cooled into the strongest form of carbon: a diamond crystal.
Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD)
CVD diamond growth occurs within vacuum plasma reactors. Thin diamond plates are placed in a growth cell and hydrocarbon gas is injected into the reactor. High power microwaves break apart the molecules of the gas, and the carbon atoms precipitate onto the diamond plates, vertically growing the diamond atom by atom.
The resulting CVD diamonds are often subjected to extreme pressure to ‘compress’ the diamond. This additional step improves the quality of the diamond crystal, giving the diamond better colour and light performance.
How to Tell the Difference Between Lab-Created Diamonds and Real Diamonds
You can’t tell the difference between lab-created diamonds and real diamonds without specialised equipment, even if you’re a professional gemmologist. The best way to tell the difference between lab-grown diamonds and real diamonds is to look at the grading report.
If a professional gemmologist is determining if a diamond is real or lab-grown, they use magnification to look at the nature of the inclusions. The inclusions in a natural diamond appear slightly different than in a lab-created diamond. There are sometimes also differences in how the diamond reflects light compared with a synthetic diamond.
In general, though, when looking at a lab-created diamond next to a real diamond, you can’t distinguish the two.
Are they Flawless?
Because the growth process is similar to natural diamond growth, there are still variations in colour and clarity of lab created diamonds. In other words, not all lab grown diamonds are colourless and flawless and the same types of inclusions and imperfections present in mined diamonds can also occur in lab diamonds. If the diamond crystal grows too fast, there can be minuscule cracks (feathers) in the diamond. There can also be small inclusions of trace elements or other growth defects that cause the diamond to be near – colourless or slightly included.
Are lab diamonds cheap to manufacture?
This is the most common misconception and is completely false. De Beers self-reported costs to mine diamonds was $104 per carat (for rough diamonds) in 2015. The marginal cost to grow each diamond in a laboratory is many times the cost for De Beers and other mining operations to dig diamonds out of the Earth, even if you ignore the fixed costs of the machinery required to culture diamonds in a lab. The costs to cut, polish, and grade diamonds is exactly the same, regardless of the origin: grown or mined.
Will Lab diamonds flood the market?
There are approximately 25 million carats of diamond gemstones that are mined, cut, and polished every year, with billions of carats more in existing mines. De Beers estimates its current diamond reserves at 479.7 million carats. To build production facilities large enough to generate one percent of the current mined supply would take hundreds of millions of dollars of capital expenditure to build the facility and tens of millions of dollars a year to run the facility. It will take many years before lab diamonds are anything but an extremely small portion of the total diamond market.
ARE LAB-CREATED DIAMONDS WORTH ANYTHING COMPARED TO MINED DIAMONDS?
This is the million dollar question that is not so easy to answer. In short, you shouldn’t view any diamond, mined or lab created as an investment and the only sure way you will get your money back is if you claimed on your insurance policy.
It is a myth that has been put about by the marketing departments of diamond cartels, to build an empire for the people who control the diamond industry. The only diamonds that will hold great value are the genuinely rare ones, which could be very large flawless diamonds, or rare coloured diamonds that are found in small quantities. The truth is with mined diamonds, you purchase at retail price and sell at wholesale price, and if you can sell it at all, you will only get a fraction of what you paid for it. Most diamonds are neither rare, nor valuable and are certainly no investment.
We were approached by a friend who wanted to know how much she could get for her mined diamond ring as she had recently broken up with her husband. It was a lovely 1.86 carat mined diamond bought with a high price tag of £16500. Having been in the industry for almost 10 years, we have connections in the mined diamond industry and as a favour, we asked our contacts that purchase diamonds how much they’d offer for it. They loved the diamond and were willing to pay £4500 for it. That is 72% of the original price.
Lab diamonds, no matter the price, have no resale value and no jeweller will buy it back. On the one hand, you can look at it that an Earth-mined diamond will lose more than 60% of it’s value more or less immediately after purchase but a lab-created diamond will lose all of it’s value. But on the other hand, a lab-created diamond will start off being a lot cheaper than a comparable natural diamond.
So, from a ‘value’ perspective, you would need to be buying man made diamonds at a massive discount to justify giving up the value retention of natural diamonds.
This is one of those difficult calls that everyone needs to make for themselves.
Lab-grown diamonds are generally sold through the same channels as mined diamonds, and priced according to the mined-diamond pricing strategy, which is not as ethical as one would hope.
Rather than bringing them to the consumer at a retail cost based on research, development and production, the price is discounted back from the Diamond Pricing Index which is a pricing structure that is managed and dictated by the mined diamond cartel.
SO, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE IQ DIAMOND AND OTHER LAB GROWN DIAMONDS?
Here at Ethica Diamonds, we have opted in favour of the IQ Diamond as it delivers a beautiful product that is not only ethically sound in the way that it is manufactured, but is not tied to the diamond industry pricing schedule ether. It is independently priced, based on the cost of production and research and development, rather than being artificially inflated. Therefore, we are able to bring them to the customer at a fair price.
The IQ Diamond has been created by a university who are market leaders in gemstone science, combining the latest technology together with the least impact on the environment.
It is man made product that is grown much the same way as CVD, under strict conditions, but takes less of the manufacturing time and therefore uses less energy.
It is then cut and fully faceted to exact diamond proportions, giving it incredible depth and beauty.
What are type IIA? (type two A)
The most famous and brilliant natural diamonds in the world are IIA.
The Koh-I-Noor, The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (Krupp), The Regent Diamond and The Star of The South are all famous Type IIA diamonds.
Only the best 1 to 2% of mined diamonds can be called Type IIA. As natural diamonds rise toward the surface of the Earth from the depths, they are usually deformed or form imperfectly taking on certain impurities. Type IIA stones are almost entirely devoid of these imperfections and deformations.
Every IQ Diamond is consistently VVS1 in clarity and E colour. This gemstone is an exceptional engineered diamond that has the toughness, longevity, brilliance and independent grading which exactly matches that of pure diamonds and is chemically and physically very similar. Every gemstone is cut to ideal standards, or Hearts and Arrows cut in the case of round brilliants, which is the best cut available.
This stone truly radiates the same sparkle and brilliance as the most desirable type IIA.
It is also independently certified by a trusted global research institute and each stone is laser marked for identification and verification purposes. The certificates that we provide are also a trusted means of insuring any piece of our jewellery.
You can read more about the IQ Diamond here: