Well, it’s official.
Whether a diamond is grown in a laboratory, or mined from the earth, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that a diamond is a diamond, no matter where it was formed.
In the jewelry industry, we’ve been watching big diamond suppliers, such as De Beers, marketing these new, lab-grown diamonds as a fashion piece, less ‘precious’ than traditional mined diamonds. But the reality is these laboratory diamonds have the exact same chemical make-up as mined diamonds. In fact, we’ve been selling high quality, lab grown diamonds for our custom diamond engagement rings in our Dublin, Ohio store for about a year now. They look exactly the same as mined diamonds, AND they cost 20-30 percent less, on average. Kind of a big deal!
It helps to know, first off, who De Beers is. According to Wikipedia, “De Beers Group is an international corporation that specializes in diamond exploration, diamond mining, diamond retail, diamond trading and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors. The company is currently active in open-pit, large-scale alluvial, coastal and deep sea mining. It operates in 35 countries and mining takes place in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Canada. Until the start of the 21st century, De Beers effectively had total control over the diamond market as a monopoly. Competition has since dismantled the complete monopoly, though the De Beers Group still sells approximately 35% of the world’s rough diamond production through its global sight holder and auction sales businesses.”
So what De Beers says about lab grown diamonds may be, shall we say, a little biased?
There’s been so much talk about these diamonds. Are they imitation? Are they expensive? Will they turn my finger green? All valid questions. Let’s look at the facts.
What exactly IS a lab grown diamond?
Well, most diamonds (both those made below ground and above ground) are 99.95% carbon. The other .05% can include trace elements, or impurities. That’s fancy talk for junk atoms that are not part of the diamond’s normal chemistry.
The only difference, then, between a lab grown diamond, and one mined from the earth, is HOW it came to be.
Mined diamonds are extracted from the earth, using heavy machinery and significant disruption to the environment. Until recently, this was the only way to get a diamond.
The process of making a diamond in the lab is pretty cool.
First, a diamond seed (which is also made in the lab) is placed in a Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) chamber. It sounds like a Star Trek episode, but actually, the CVD is kind of like a greenhouse. That’s where the diamond will grown. And, just like mined diamonds, the quality of the diamonds can vary. A high quality diamond seed will make high quality diamonds!
Next, hydrogen is pumped into the chamber and ignited. Kind of like a mini Big Bang Theory. Methane (CH4) is then introduced (“nice to meet you, diamond seed”) and the diamond begins to grow, in layers. It takes about 12 weeks to make the diamond crystal.
After the growth period, a piece of diamond “rough” is made. It’s not all pretty and sparkly at this point. This is where both mined and lab grown diamonds are treated the same. Rough is, well, rough. It needs to be cut and polished.
As with all diamonds, cutting and polishing are where skill plays a part in the beauty of the gemstone. Good cutters can find the beauty in the rough stone, and literally, bring it out. It’s super cool to watch!
After the rough is cut into shapes like round, oval, cushion, pear, etc…, they are laboratory graded and laser inscribed with a number, which will give the consumer all of the details on their stone. It’s a pedigree.
According to Forbes Magazine, “The FTC based its decision in favor of scientific facts, not the mined-diamond industry lobby, giving consumers real information on which to make informed diamond purchasing decisions.”
This is great news for the newest diamond purchasers – the millennial’s.
We’ve found that our younger customers like the idea of laboratory grown diamonds because they have less of an impact on the environment. They don’t have to worry about conflicts and ruining the earth. Plus, coming out of college with student debt, the price point is very appealing! And since they ARE a real diamond, they get all of the beauty and benefits of a gemstone that can withstand everyday wear and tear.
Some jewelers may think that lab grown diamonds are bad for the jewelry industry. But you can’t hold back technology – people deserve to know that they have a legitimate option in diamonds.
Our family has been in the jewelry industry for over 90 years, but we’ve evolved the business by using cutting edge technology, like computer aided design and 3D printers, to create custom jewelry. This technology has helped us make an even better piece of jewelry, at a lower price, than Grandpa was able to do. So technology is a definite plus!
It doesn’t matter where it came from – chemically, physically and optically, mined and lab grown diamonds are the exact same, and we’re pleased we can offer both to our customers.