The days of debt for Diamonds are coming to a close … and hallelujah! That’s how I started my marriage nearly twenty years ago. Technology makes it possible for you to have real diamond made in laboratory for far less than you might think.
So, are synthetic diamonds actually better than real diamonds? Synthetic Diamonds literally are real diamonds in every sense. Like diamonds mined from the earth, they’re made entirely of Carbon. They look absolutely identical, so even professionals can’t visibly tell them apart, but man made diamonds are even harder than traditional diamonds, and WAY cheaper!
There’s a lot that you need to know about man made diamonds, in order to feel completely certain that they’re the right choice for you. Let’s dive right in to the details.
How Synthetic Diamonds are Made
There are a number of different methods that can be used, but the two most common for jewelry applications are the HPHT (high-pressure high-temperature) method, and the CVD (chemical vapor deposition) method. HPHT remains the most popular, and traditional, method used.
The HPHT method involves placing a carbon “seed” in a chamber, and then applying intense heat and pressure to mimic the same process that the earth takes approximately 3 million years to complete in just weeks!
The CVD process involves the placement of a seed crystal into a vacuum chamber. A Carbon rich gas, like Methane, is then pumped into the chamber where high temperatures or microwaves break the gas down so that the Carbon atoms can then land and build up kind of like piling snow. It’s an accumulation process.
Of the two common methods for producing man made diamonds, CVD is the most cost effective. HPHT requires a lot of electricity and incredibly expensive equipment to create the extreme heat and pressure required.
CVD utilizes moderate temperatures and low pressure, so utilities, equipment, and maintenance are less expensive, which is why CVD Diamonds also typically are a bit less than HPHT Diamonds.
Created Diamonds are Visibly Identical to Mined Diamonds
Have you ever known twins that looks so identical that you couldn’t tell them apart? How about twins that are so identical that their own family couldn’t tell them apart without conducting some fancy electronic test each time? It’s hard to imagine, but that’s exactly how similar today’s man-made diamonds are to mined diamonds. Even a trained professional can’t distinguish them based on visible appearance…even under magnification.
Lab grown diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically identical to diamonds mined from the earth. No one looking down at the ring on your finger, including a jeweler or gemologist, would be able to tell if it’s a mined diamond or a lab diamond regardless of how closely they looked, lighting angle, or even using a loupe for magnification. They look absolutely indistinguishable once they’ve both been cut and polished.
The Only Way to Distinguish a Man Made Diamond
Since even a trained eye can’t distinguish today’s lab-created diamonds from mined diamonds, an electronic device called a DiamondView tester was developed. It uses UV light to pick up on minute impurities in lab created diamonds, like nickel or nitrogen (among others).
Also, as diamonds crystallize, they form a grain (very similar to the grain in wood). Lab made diamonds tend to have a different grain pattern than natural diamonds. This is something that’s completely impossible to see, even under magnification, but it’s discoverable through testing with DiamondView equipment.
Lab-Grown Diamonds Never Get Cloudy or Change Color
As we earth-grown diamonds, lab-grown diamonds come in a variety of shades. Some are clear, while others have some degree of coloring (often a shade of yellow or brown). Color for lab diamonds is graded using same system that’s in place for mined diamonds.
Cultured diamonds will never cloud or experience change of color or appearance. As with below-ground diamonds, you should carefully clean your above-ground diamond regularly in order to keep dirt and oils form temporarily muting its shine. If cared for, these rings will retain their beauty indefinitely, and can be handed down to future generations.
Lab-Created Diamonds are Much Cheaper
As technological advances have made man-made diamonds much better, they’ve also gotten way cheaper. In 2016, for example, a major price shift began to take place. The price of lab created diamonds dropped by about 30%. Prices have continued to decrease as new efficiencies are realized and competitive forces play out.
The best way to accurately illustrate the potential cost difference between various laboratory-diamonds and mined diamonds of similar quality, is to provide some current comparisons. I found well established and reputable retailers offering various types of round cut, 1 carat stones. Color and all other details were kept as consistent as possible too. The prices shown below reflect the loose diamond alone (no band included).
- Mined Diamond = $8,912
- HPHT Diamond = $2,772
- CVD Diamond = $2,200
The HPHT diamond is 69% less expensive than a comparable mined diamond. The CVD Diamond is 75% cheaper than the mined diamond. Those are significant savings! It’s also interesting to note, that the CVD diamond is 21% cheaper than the HPHT diamond.
Keep in mind that none of these diamonds can be distinguished from each other with the naked eye. They’re chemically and visually identical in every way. A trained professional with specialized equipment would have to examine them in a lab to determine if each stone was a mined diamond, or a lab-created diamond.
In light of that, It’s no wonder that over the past few years, there’s been a major shift in demand for lab created diamonds. It’s a trend that isn’t likely to reverse anytime soon.
MVI Marketing conducted a study in 2018, which found that roughly 70 percent of Millennials would consider purchasing a lab-created diamond for their engagement ring. The results from this most recent survey, represented a 13% jump over findings from just a year earlier. The volume of Google searches for lab-grown diamonds has also nearly tripled over the past ten years.
Some predict that the adoption trend will continue to accelerate over the next two years, and the lab-created diamond market could grow to be roughly 10 times as large as it currently is by the end of 2020.
Common Names for Lab-Created Diamonds
These gems are known by a variety of names. Many still know them and refer to them as synthetic diamonds or simulated diamonds. They’re also referred to as a…
- Laboratory Diamond
- Lab Diamond
- Cultured Diamond
- Manufactured Diamond
- Created Diamond
- Cultivated Diamond
- Above-ground Diamond
- Man-made Diamond.
The stones can also be called HPHT diamonds or CVD diamonds based on the manufacturing method used to create the stone.
Above-Ground Diamonds Are Even Harder Than Mined Diamonds
Today’s cultured diamonds are every bit as strong and durable as those that are mined from the earth. In terms of hardness, lab produced diamonds are generally even harder than their earth-produced counterparts.
Diamonds are incredibly hard. In fact, they’re the hardest naturally occurring mineral on earth. That hardness makes them incredibly scratch resistant. Scratch resistance means that even with occasional bumps and scrapes, they can continue to look new and unscathed for generations. Today’s cultured diamonds are even harder than traditional mined stones. Since lab-grown diamonds can now surpass mined diamonds in this characteristic, they’re even less likely to be damaged through scratching than a much more expensive natural diamond.
Lab Diamonds are Getting Bigger and Better
As you would expect, you can find the full range of sizes available in lab-grown diamonds. If you’re looking for a small man-made diamond engagement ring, you can get it. If you’re looking for something much bigger (multiple carats), those also exist.
In early 2015, there was a 10.02 carat colorless diamond that was manufactured through HPHT. Near the start of 2018, a 6 carat lab grown diamond was created using CVD. It was both round, and colorless. In late 2021, IGI Graded a 14.6 carat Lab-Grown Diamond (a new record) that was also created through the CVD method. Both HPHT and CVD are continually advancing and celebrating new achievements.
Marketers Made Me Do It
Would you feel embarrassed for others to know that you’re wearing a man-made diamond? If there’s any part of you that feels you might, then the massive amounts of money spent by the diamond industry on both subtle and overt marketing to shape public opinion have worked as planned.
They’ve spent untold millions of dollars convincing us that diamonds are a hallmark of real love. If you don’t propose with an impressive diamond, you’re either a worthless bum, or you don’t love her as much as the guy that hands her a 1 carat rock (“ahhh…true love”). It’s actually silly.
If diamonds had anything to do with the quality of a relationship, then Hollywood would be the poster child for marital bliss. They’re anything but. Diamonds don’t improve your relationship or say ANYTHING about the quality of your love.
If that’s true, then why do we spend $6,000 on average in the US buying a diamond engagement ring when there are beautiful alternatives that cost much less? Often, it’s because of social expectation that has been built through relentless marketing efforts.
Synthetic Diamonds Under Siege
The diamond industry has relentlessly attacked man made diamonds through legal actions, well funded marketing efforts, and even trying to limit their distribution options to protect their profits. They have wanted you to believe that lab created diamonds really aren’t diamonds at all. They called man made diamonds “Synthetic” in an effort to shape opinion.
In fairness, the man-made diamonds haven’t always been what they are today. The distinctions between lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds used to be much greater. Recent technological advances have completely erased that differentiation based on appearance and quality. Today’s lab-grown diamonds are absolutely identical both visibly and chemically.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
The term “Synthetic Diamond” implies that the stones grown in labs aren’t actually diamonds…just fakes. The reality is something quite different. Despite the best efforts of lobbyists, that was made painfully clear in early 2018 when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their position on lab-created diamonds.
They essentially confirmed that man-made diamonds literally are diamonds, that are no different than those pulled out of the ground. They clarified that it would be deceptive advertising for someone to use the term “synthetic” to imply that a competitor’s diamonds weren’t real because they were lab created.
They stated that the term ‘synthetic’ isn’t applicable or appropriate for lab made diamonds since “the term is often interpreted as being ‘artificial’ when in fact man-made diamonds are not artificial.”
In the wake of the FTC announcement, “above ground” or “cultured” became acceptable terms to use (among others), as more accurate replacements for “synthetic.” Many people still call above-ground diamonds synthetic diamonds out of ignorance or habit. With time, the commonly used terms will likely naturally gravitate away from that inaccurate descriptor.
In 2018, De Beers did the unthinkable…they threw in the towel and changed their position regarding the sale of manufactured diamonds. CNN ran the headline, “De Beers admits defeat over man-made diamonds.” De Beers apparently decided on an, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” strategy, because they soon announced plans to start manufacturing the very man-made diamonds that they had been fighting against previously.
The rest of the mined diamond industry was, and still is, shocked and outraged. It was the equivalent of a striking factory worker betraying his picketing co-workers by crossing the picket line to work as a “scab”. They were supposed to be a united front. That move was egg on the face of the entire natural-diamond industry.
Lab Made Diamonds are Real Gems
The 2018 FTC release on above-ground diamonds showed that facts and terminology matter. The department of the Federal government that’s in charge of correcting false and misleading advertising practices, said that lab-grown diamonds are considered gems. That’s a fact that many had disputed.
They also clarified that man-made diamonds weren’t fake diamonds (as the diamond industry wanted you to believe). In fact, they are as real as those pulled from the earth. They’re actual gems.
Lab-Grown Diamonds are More Socially Responsible
Diamonds set on a ring are beautiful, but the hidden journey that brings the gem to market is sometimes very ugly. Vigilante groups that want to buy weapons, fund wars, challenge governments, and commit genocide have often loved the diamond industry.
They can take over a mine and force slave labor at the barrel of a gun. Those who aren’t successful in finding a reasonable amount of gems, or that refuse to work, are hurt, maimed, or killed. When these diamonds are purchased, the money raised, further arms the militants and funds attacks other tribes, groups, and governments. The extreme violence directly linked to these practices is well documented and widely known. It was because of these common practices that the term “Blood Diamond” came to be. Blood Diamonds are also frequently referred to as a “Conflict Diamond.”
Hollywood produced a film called Blood Diamond in 2006, that shined a light on the atrocities that have been made in the name of diamonds. When we purchase a shiny new diamond ring at our local jewelry store, we have absolutely no idea if the gem we’re purchasing as a symbol of our love is a Blood Diamond.
The United Nations has warned that measures put in place over the past decade or so to keep Blood Diamonds out of our supply chain have been largely ineffective. Determined organizations continually find new avenues around well-intentioned sanctions and legal red tape.
Lab-grown diamonds, and other diamond alternatives, are the solution to the issue Blood Diamonds. It’s one way that you can be absolutely certain that your joyful moment wasn’t brought to you through the pain and suffering of others in a far distant land.
Man-Made Diamonds Can Retain the Right Kind of Value
Neil Beaty, a veteran jewelry appraiser said “Diamonds as an investment almost always fail. People don’t think of diamonds as a consumer purchase…they are.”
Diamonds are a lot like new cars. Their value plummets the moment you buy them. You can’t turn around and resell the diamond you just bought at retail for retail prices. If you were able to get 70% of your money back at that point, you’d be lucky.
But won’t diamonds appreciate over time? Hard to say. The fact that De Beers, the company that owns most diamond mines just got into the business of lab-grown diamonds says something about the their expectation of future trends. As people continue to embrace man-made diamonds, demand for mined diamonds may really fall off. A diamond ring really should be viewed a sunk cost, not an investment.
If you’re shopping for an engagement or wedding ring, the last thing you want to consider is resale value? It’s a bad sign if that’s a focus, isn’t it? You certainly hope that you won’t need, or want, to resell your ring. A diamond engagement ring isn’t supposed to be part of your investment plan. There are far better vehicles for future growth than an expensive rock that’s publicly worn on your finger. It’s really not safe or smart when you think about it.
According to a recent study, the average engagement ring purchased in the state of California is over $10,000. If you’re considering similar rings, it means that roughly $10,000 could be taken out of circulation and parked on a hand…potentially for decades. From a financial perspective how smart is that?
The value that you want your ring to have is sentimental value. It’s the value of love and fond memories. When that ring is handed down to your children, they would never want to sell it, regardless of monetary value. That’s what makes a beautiful ring priceless.
If you buy into the big expensive diamonds = love lie, then once the jeweler slides your credit card for the hefty charge and you present the ring, you’re done. How long will marriages last if the expression of love doesn’t go well beyond the diamond? Buying a big diamond engagement ring or wedding ring is actually, very often, a selfish action.
Why selfish? Because consciously or subconsciously, they worry what others might think of them if the ring isn’t big enough and it’s driving their decisions. Buying the big ring makes them feel safe from judgement, perhaps envied, and more likely to get praise. In that context, it’s a self-serving gift.
Again, if bigger diamonds equated to depth of love, true commitment, or strength of relationship, then a greater percentage of the celebrities in Hollywood would be major marital role models. Marketers have sold us a bill of goods!
The resale value of your rings shouldn’t even be considered. If it is, I would beg to not to get married just yet. Take more time. You need certainty that the relationship is going to endure.
Hopefully when you marry well, and work hard at your marriage, you’ll have the kind of happy, loving, home life that causes your ring to be a treasured (almost sacred) keepsake that your loved ones would never think to part with at any price. The fact that a lab-grown diamond can remain beautiful for untold generations, just like a mined diamond, only ads to the charm of the keepsake. It means that the sentimental value attached to that symbol of your love can endure indefinitely.
Will GIA issue Certificates for HPHT and CVD Diamonds?
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) will grade, and issue certificates for, HPHT diamonds. At this time, they they aren’t grading or offering certificates on any CVD diamonds.
What are the Best Lab Created Diamonds?
Diamonds created through the HPHT method are most common. It’s the process that’s used to produce the largest diamonds right now. It’s also a method that’s used most often for adding color to man made or mined diamonds. The CVD method requires far less energy, so they’re less expensive to produce and purchase. Both types of lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical composition, durability, and optical qualities as mined diamonds.
I light of all that, there isn’t one method that has a strong and obvious lead over the other. Since CVD diamonds are least expensive, they might be the best opportunity in lab grown diamonds, but you’ll find a much stronger selection of available generated diamonds when you by an HPHT.
Are Colored Diamonds Man Made?
Colored diamonds are lab created much of the time, but not always. Many mined diamonds have a yellow or brown tint. Lab grown come out in a range of colors too. When a mined diamond needs to go from yellow-ish to blue, for example, an HPHT process is often used to make that transition.