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If you’re shopping for diamonds, then you’re likely aware of the great debate of lab-grown vs. natural diamonds.
Here at Roman Malakov, we get asked a lot of questions about lab diamonds vs. real diamonds, and we want to shed some light on the subject. Take a look at our comparison of the two, including their differences and the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing one or the other.
Natural diamonds refer to those formed underneath the earth’s surface over millions or billions of years. They are created naturally by Mother Nature through a process of high pressure and high temperatures. Once the diamonds are formed miles beneath the surface, they come closer to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions.
Diamonds are generally mined from one of two places: kimberlite formations or riverbeds on the ocean floor. The two different mining processes are quite different from each other, but both bring about unique natural diamonds. These diamonds then get cut into various shapes and polished before making their way into jewelry stores.
Natural diamonds are made up of carbon, though they may also have trace amounts of other materials in them due to the area in which they were formed. What’s more, natural diamonds may have inclusions or varying levels of color and clarity based on the way they formed and the other minerals and elements present at that time.
If you’ve found yourself asking, “What is a lab-grown diamond?” you’re not alone. Relatively new to the general public, lab-grown diamonds are also referred to as man-made or synthetic diamonds.
These stones are made in a lab over the course of about one month. They can be formed in one of two ways. The first is called HPHT, or high pressure and high temperature. This method mimics the formation process of natural diamonds by putting carbon under high pressure and high temperatures to bring about a synthetic diamond. The second formation process is called CVD, or chemical vapor deposition. This process begins with a sort of diamond “seed,” and it breaks down a carbon-rich gas into individual molecules that are layered upon the diamond seed. Both of these processes are easily controlled and create diamonds that are chemically identical to those formed naturally.
If you were to look at two diamonds, one natural and one synthetic, you wouldn’t be able to identify which one is which. Even experienced jewelers and gemologists cannot tell the difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds without advanced equipment. So, if they look nearly identical to each other, what are the differences?
Making a decision between the two diamond types will come down to a few things: sourcing, impact, price, value, and uniqueness.
The first argument for lab-grown diamonds is often about the environmental impact and ethical sourcing of natural diamonds. While the diamond industry has had a history of questionable sourcing relationships, the vast majority of those issues have been resolved. Diamond buyers no longer purchase stones from questionable sellers and miners, and the industry is quite intentional about ensuring that the rights of all diamond workers are respected and upheld. This isn’t to say there are no issues whatsoever, but as far as professional diamond buyers go, they do everything in their power to ensure the ethical sourcing of their stones.
Another aspect of the sourcing question is the diamond industry’s impact on the world. Ideally, it would be nice to avoid the environmental and human rights issues sometimes associated with diamond mining. But buyers must also consider the socioeconomic impact that these diamond mines have on their communities. Diamond mining corporations employ around 10 million people worldwide, and the well-being of families and entire communities relies on the diamond industry. If everyone stopped buying natural diamonds, these communities could face financial troubles.
Price is one big consideration of those looking to buy a diamond. Consumers often try to find the best and largest stone within their budget, often balancing the 4Cs of diamonds to optimize their spending. Because of the way diamonds are created, the price difference between lab-grown vs. natural diamonds is undeniable. Although prices are fluid, lab-grown stones typically cost around 30% less than natural stones.
While the price of natural stones is higher, they also retain their value much better. In fact, lab-grown diamonds maintain almost no value whatsoever, and if you were to resell a lab-grown stone, you would get only pennies on the dollar. Natural stones, on the other hand, retain about 50% of their value for many years.
They say you can’t put a price on beauty and uniqueness, but natural stones say otherwise. Diamonds that are formed by the earth over millions or billions of years are special. They have a distinctiveness and extraordinary quality that cannot be recreated in a lab or found anywhere else. Diamonds have had an exclusivity to them for decades, and lab-created diamonds simply don’t hold the same weight nor have the same sentiment as naturally-formed diamonds.
Here at Roman Malakov in NYC’s Diamond District, we feel very strongly that natural diamonds are the way to go, which is why we only sell natural diamonds in our store. We believe in supporting the diamond mining communities and are very aware of the dangers of removing the mining industry from those towns. We know that mining towns rely on the income from the mines to support their schools, hospitals, governments, families, and more. We want to continuously contribute to the world in a positive way by supporting these communities that provide us with beautiful natural diamonds.
While we recognize the impressive technology that has allowed scientists to create lab-grown diamonds, we don’t feel like they have the same caliber as natural diamonds created by the earth. Additionally, we want you to feel that your diamond purchase is a wise investment and that your stone maintains its resale value.
Natural diamonds are finite, meaning eventually, there will be no more left in the ground. This makes them incredibly special. People have loved diamonds for decades and they continue to love them and desire to own them. Consumers are searching for beautiful things that are rare and authentic, and diamonds offer exactly that.
When comparing natural vs. lab-grown diamonds, the disadvantages of synthetic diamonds cannot be overlooked. Although they are chemically the same as natural diamonds, they lack the emotional punch that naturally-formed diamonds maintain. Natural diamonds are luxurious and are meant to be exclusive, but lab-created diamonds make this cherished stone feel cheaper and accessible to everyone. After all, diamonds are meant to be elite, and removing that rarity takes a lot away from the significance of the stone.
Additionally, the socioeconomic impact of lab-grown vs. natural diamonds shouldn’t be ignored. Lab-created diamonds take money away from the communities that rely on diamond mining, and if too many people opt for synthetic diamonds, these mining towns will be in deep distress. The large corporations that run these institutions will likely not be fazed, but the small communities, families, and individual workers in these areas will suffer great consequences if more people go the synthetic diamond route
Another significant disadvantage of lab-created diamonds is their value. While the price is much lower than their natural counterparts, the maintained value is next to nothing. In fact, experts claim that the value basically diminishes to nothing immediately after people purchase man-made diamonds. You may not think that matters as you don’t intend to sell your diamond, but it’s always wise to have some value behind your investment.
If you’re trying to make a decision about purchasing a lab-grown or natural diamond, we understand that it can be difficult. It’s important to research and weigh the pros and cons of each option. While we stand firm in our approach to the great lab-grown vs. natural diamond debate, we recognize that not everyone shares our values and beliefs.
If you’d like to learn more about why we believe natural diamonds are best and explore the diamonds we sell, we would love to talk with you more. You can book an appointment with Roman Malakov for an online or in-person consultation or visit our store in New York City’s Diamond District. You can also read more about what our patrons have said about their experience with us so that you can look forward to a fantastic experience with our professional jewelers.