A diamond is a mineral consisting of at least 99.5% pure carbon. Carbon atoms arrange in a particular lattice structure to give diamonds their strength. Diamonds are most commonly used in jewellery and are prized for their superior hardness and sparkle. They are the hardest of all the gemstones, thus making them the most durable. Other fascinating uses for diamonds include the drill bits for many medical and dental tools.
Diamonds are either formed naturally or grown in a laboratory.
Natural diamonds are formed in the earth’s core over millions of years. In order for a diamond crystal to form, the right combination of heat, pressure, elements and host-rocks must all combine in perfect synergy for it to form. Through tectonic plate movements in the earth, the rough diamond crystals rise higher up from the earth’s core in order for them to be mined. Once a natural diamond has been mined and deemed acceptable for use in jewellery, it is then cut and polished by hand to fashion them into the finished gems we see in jewellery stores today.
Research, development and technology have allowed for this process to be replicated in a controlled laboratory which achieves amazing results. Lab-grown diamonds are formed in a specially pressurised chamber that re-creates the conditions in nature to allow diamonds to form. Initially, a “seed” or “host” diamond crystal is implanted in the chamber and the combination of heat, pressure and the elements allow for the seed/host to grow into a larger crystal that can then be used in jewellery. Once the lab-grown crystal has finished growing, they are then cut and polished by hand, just like their natural counterparts. You would be surprised to know that lab-grown diamonds are commonly formed within 4 weeks, not 4 million years!
Yes. Lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds share the same chemical and physical properties: they both have the same hardness, sparkle, durability and light performance. The only difference is how they are formed: one comes from the earth and one comes from a laboratory.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a lab-grown diamond? You could significantly over-pay for them if they are not disclosed properly at the point of sale. It is hard to differentiate between natural and lab-grown diamonds – this determination is done in diamond grading laboratories with specialised testing equipment. Lab-grown diamonds are much cheaper than their natural counterparts (up to 75% cheaper) because there is much less investment cost in growing them versus mining them out of the earth. They are an excellent way to ensure that your diamond is conflict-free and also result in a much lower carbon foot-print on the environment because there is no mining of the earth’s soil to get to them and no harmful chemicals are used to eliminate the other rock elements that are found around the natural rough diamond crystals.
With a natural diamond, you own a piece of the earth and one of nature’s gifts that can be passed on from generation to generation. High global demand and limited supply has meant that historically, natural diamonds have gained value over time. When purchasing ethically sourced natural diamonds, you are supporting human, social and economic development in the 3rd world through employment and training. Unfortunately though, despite international efforts to clean up the natural diamond industry, smuggling of conflict-zone diamonds and blending them with “legitimate” parcels still goes on. Unless the seller has a fully documented chain of custody that can be verified from the mine to the market, it is almost impossible to determine where an origin of a natural diamond has come from.
Regardless of origin, either mined or man-made, all diamonds are priced using an internationally accepted pricing system known as the Rapaport pricing method. This system determines both wholesale and retail pricing.
Although lab-grown diamonds are steadily gaining popularity, they may not be the best investment if your intention is to eventually re-sell. Much like cars, diamonds depreciate in value the moment you walk out of the jewellery store. As a general rule, most jewellers do not purchase man-made stones, but we are seeing a new trend emerge in the online marketplace, where lab-grown diamonds can be re-sold. We encourage customers to keep in mind that these lab-grown alternatives are still quite new on the market so we need more time to see how this develops, just as we once did with natural, earth-mined diamonds. Generally speaking, natural diamonds have a higher re-sale value because they cost more to begin with.
Most importantly, if it is an engagement ring you are purchasing, take the time to enjoy this exciting period and make the right decision, because with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of love, it will be a once in a lifetime purchase!