A Buyer’s Guide to Lab Created/Synthetic Diamonds

Lab grown diamonds, also referred to as synthetic diamonds, are created by man to copy the exact qualities and properties of a natural diamond. Vendors selling lab grown diamonds tend to drive home the idea that they are ethical, cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to natural diamonds.

Before purchasing a lab grown diamond, it is important to explore these claims and fully understand what you are getting yourself into by choosing a synthetic diamond.

What is a Synthetic Diamond?

Lab grown diamonds are distinctly different from imitation diamonds or diamond simulants. Simulants (such as Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia) are materials with similar optical characteristics but deviate from the true appearance and chemical structure of a natural diamonds. However, synthetic diamonds are fake diamonds, with identical chemical properties and characteristics to a real naturally formed diamond.

There are two processes for creating a lab grown diamond: High Pressure High Temperature Diamonds (HPHT) and Chemical Vapour Deposition Diamonds (CVD). The methods are complex, but creation time takes anywhere from two weeks to two months – entirely removed from the millions of years it takes natural diamonds to form within the earth.

It is impossible to tell a synthetic diamond from a natural diamond by eye, using a jewelers loupe or a thermal diamond tester. Even jewelers, and indeed, lesser labs will struggle to identify a lab grown diamond from a natural one. Top labs such as the GIA know the exact identifying markers that give away a lab grown diamond’s creation and which process was used. This is another reason why a proper lab report is essential, whether you are buying lab grown or natural diamonds.

Why Are Synthetic Diamonds So Cheap?

The price of lab grown diamonds both excites and unnerves customers. A lab grown diamond and a natural diamond with the same qualities will display a big difference in price. This can lead to concerns by customers that the diamond isn’t real.

If you are buying from a reliable vendor of synthetic diamonds, this need not be a concern. The diamonds will indeed look exactly like a natural diamond. But before you get too excited, you need to understand exactly what you are paying for.

Imagine an original piece of fine art work. The brushstrokes, textures and hours gone into creating it. Imagine now that the image is reproduced over and over again. The factory image looks the same, but the creation and rarity have been removed. Though not a perfect analogy, this is similar to natural and synthetic diamonds. It is easy to think of lab grown diamonds as good value, but with more and more vendors entering the market, the price of lab grown diamonds has dropped dramatically over the past few years while the natural diamond market continues increasing. In 2017, lab grown diamonds were being sold for almost 25% more than natural diamonds. Today, synthetic diamond prices have plummeted by 30% and natural diamonds are now the more expensive stone.

Image Courtesy BetterDiamondInitiative.org

There is no resale value in a lab grown diamond. Though you may enter the buying experience with no intentions of resale, circumstances change. Whether lab grown or natural, it is imperative that buyers understand the importance of trade-up and resale options. You can learn why this is so crucial in my trade-up guide.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds an Ethical Choice?

A huge part of the appeal of lab grown diamonds hinges on their claims of ethical, eco-friendly diamonds. This is problematic. It is capitalizing on the dark history of natural diamonds, an industry that has been entirely changed over the last few decades.

Reputable vendors of natural diamonds will all be involved in the Kimberley Process. Introduced in 2003 to reduce the flow of conflict diamonds and put an end to the sale of them, the Kimberley Process along with other social initiative schemes have changed the face of the diamond mining industry, allowing customers to shop with a clean conscience.

Lab grown diamonds are not ethical and eco-friendly, they are essentially printing diamonds and tricking customers into thinking they are more ethical. It’s a front which is robbing the livelihoods of hard working Africans. Is that ethical? These diamonds also require huge amounts of energy to create, whereas diamond mines are very small and precise. Don’t compare them to other types of mining as it’s very different!

Be conscious of any synthetic diamond vendor using false claims or scare tactics to cast a bad light on the natural mining industry.

As an example, you can refer to Whiteflash’s Social Responsibility pages for a wonderful summary of how natural diamond vendors are giving back to the mining communities and James Allen’s Conflict-Free Diamonds – Our Guarantee here.

Should I Buy a Lab Grown Diamond?

I would suggest a lab grown diamond would be suitable for buyers who:

  • Are enchanted with the scientific and mechanical process of their production
  • Are on a modest budget but looking for a large diamond
  • Have fallen in love with a particular synthetic diamond, being sold by a trusted vendor
  • Have found a seller with proven eco and ethical credibility
  • Are not concerned with low resale value

When we talk about a low resale value, you would be looking to get around $100 for a synthetic diamond purchased for around $2,000. If you are someone who let’s business drive the buying decision, this is likely to be a huge consideration. While I reject the romanticised fluffery of some diamond marketing campaigns, the link between diamonds, romance, status and rarity is intrinsic and has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. This is proven in the market stability of natural diamonds VS synthetics.

Whether you’re buying with your head or your heart, use a discerning eye when deciding which diamond vendor is right for you. You can read my Brilliant Earth review for a detailed look at the perks and pitfalls of one of the biggest synthetic diamond vendors around. I would also read my review on James Allen who stock synthetic diamonds. If you’re looking for the best of the best “real” diamonds, then I’d suggest reading my Whiteflash Review.

 

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