When it comes to jewelry, many consumers believe that lab-grown diamonds don’t sparkle as brightly as their natural counterparts. But they’re wrong, according to Anubh Shah, cofounder of jewelry brand With Clarity.
He insider story of lab grown diamonds better, CMO of Forever Companies (which owns 12FIFTEEN), debunked common lab diamond misconceptions to provide a more informed perspective. Here are the key takeaways:
1. They’re real
When Meghan Markle was photographed wearing sparkling diamond earrings in January of 2019, the media focused on her choice of jewelry, rather than her clothing. It was the diamonds’ ‘birthplace’ that caught the attention of many: lab grown.
Unlike natural diamonds, which are finite and will eventually run out, lab diamonds can be endlessly reproduced. They also are chemically, structurally and optically identical to their natural counterparts.
But even with the most rigorous sustainability standards, some lab-created gems still require a tremendous amount of energy to produce. Levy recommends seeking out brands committed to clean power like VRAI or Clean Origin for more eco-friendly options.
2. They’re more affordable
The diamond-growing process for lab diamonds involves the same steps as natural diamonds, but at a fraction of the price. In fact, a lab diamond of the same cut, clarity, color, and carat grade will retail for a significantly lower price than its mined counterpart.
Additionally, lab diamonds avert specific issues found within the mined industry, including unethical labor practices and biased laws that rob source countries of their revenue share. “That’s another reason why retailers are embracing them,” says Hurwitz.
3. They’re more environmentally friendly
Unlike mined diamonds, lab created diamonds do not require mining or disturbing the natural habitat of the Earth. “Lab created diamonds also avert specific labor conflicts within the mined industry, such as unfair labor practices at the mining level and biased laws that affect source countries’ revenue share,” Bozmoski adds.
Despite these positives, lab-created diamonds still use tons of energy and need enormous factories to produce. When shopping for a lab-created diamond, look for sources that are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact.
4. They’re more durable
In a lot of ways, lab created diamonds are just like natural ones. Both are made of carbon, which makes them very hard and durable.
They also have the same physical and optical properties, and are judged by the same standards when it comes to color, clarity, cut and carat size.
But despite their popularity, there is one important difference: lab grown diamonds have very little resale value. This is because they’re mass-produced. Natural diamonds, on the other hand, hold their value forever. They’re a real investment.
5. They’re more versatile
Diamonds grown in laboratories allow for a variety of color options that can be produced consistently. Natural fancy blue and yellow diamonds are incredibly rare and expensive, but lab grown colored diamonds are a much more affordable alternative.
Also known as synthetic diamonds, lab created diamonds are made from carbon atoms in a lattice crystal structure that looks just like mined diamonds. And while some people may be able to tell the difference, most will not. Adding a lab created diamond to a piece of jewelry makes it even more meaningful.
6. They’re more ethical
Millennials and Gen Z are more concerned with the ethical ramifications of their jewelry purchases. They want their dollars to support companies and brands with values similar to their own, making lab-created diamonds a more appealing choice.
Many natural diamonds are sent to India to be cut and polished, a process that presents a high risk of silicate dust exposure that can lead to silicosis—a deadly, untreatable lung disease. While some jewelry stores spruik claims of “ethical alternatives,” this is just marketing. However, most reputable jewelry retailers now offer lab-created diamonds.
7. They’re more sustainable
In the same way that natural diamond mining damages the earth, lab-grown diamonds may leave a large carbon footprint depending on how they’re made. Many lab-grown diamond producers use fossil fuels in their factories and require constant energy throughout the day.
When shopping for a lab-grown diamond, choose an environmentally responsible jeweler that is happy to disclose the manufacturing process and where their diamonds’ carbon comes from. You might find that it leaves a significantly smaller footprint than mined diamonds. This includes avoiding sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide emissions.
8. They’re more environmentally friendly
Diamond mining has a negative impact on the environment because of its destructive land abrasion. However, lab diamonds are a more eco friendly option as they do not require land mining.
The process that takes millions of years underground can be mimicked in a factory in weeks. This makes it a more sustainable choice for consumers who are environmentally conscious.
While lab diamonds have identical physical and chemical properties to natural ones, they aren’t considered a renewable resource, so it’s important for shoppers to do their research.
9. They’re more affordable
For those shopping on a budget, lab-created diamonds are an excellent alternative. They are often half the price of a mined stone.
But this year, lab-diamond prices have fallen as rough diamonds continue to slump. Some dealers have even been advertising lab-created diamonds at 100% of Rapaport.
If you’re concerned about sustainability, look for a company that uses renewable energy sources like solar, wind or hydro power to produce its lab-created diamonds. These are known as “sustainable” lab diamonds. There are also companies that offer carbon-neutral certifications.
10. They’re more environmentally friendly
While lab diamonds do have a smaller carbon footprint than mined ones, it’s important to note that they still produce some diamond shapes greenhouse gases, especially when factories lean on fossil fuel energy.
The good news is that lab diamonds are becoming more efficient, and as they do, they’ll leave a smaller carbon footprint. But, they will never match the resale value of natural diamonds. That’s just the way it is. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s a big deal or not. For now, it is.