It’s hard not to throw a rock (no pun intended) without hearing about the hot topic of lab diamonds in the jewelry industry. Whether it is the disruptive launch of Diamond Foundry or the “Real is Rare” movement this discussion is making national headlines. Because it is our duty to make sure we are keeping up with the diamond news we wanted to break it down for you. So we tapped an industry expert from Little Bird Engagement Ring Consultants to help understand what all the hoopla is about.
First what is a lab diamond?
A lab diamond is a genuine diamond that is man-made in a lab. They are also called synthetic diamonds and these diamonds are in fact the real-deal, sharing the same diamond crystal lattice structure as the earth-mined diamonds.
What makes lab diamonds different than earth mined diamonds?
Their origins are different. Here’s one way to think about it: some diamonds are mined from tundras in Canada using hefty machinery, other diamonds are mined from alluvial deposits in places like Africa using simpler tools and equipment, and then there are diamonds that are grown in a lab. There are many ways to produce a diamond, regardless of the origin. Once cut, it’s all the same rock.
Are there different ways of making a lab diamond?
Lab created synthetic diamonds can be made in two main ways. One method is high-pressure high-temperature (also known as the HPHT process). This is when engineers make something of a diamond/carbon soup and then using high heat and high pressure they are able to create single diamond crystals. The other way is via chemical vapor deposition (known as CVD). This process takes a tiny seed of a diamond crystal and then grows that diamond layer by layer in a chamber.
Do lab diamonds cost less than earth mined diamonds?
Things are changing in the industry right now. However, currently lab diamonds are about 20-40% less expensive depending the the combination of size, color and clarity achieved in a single rough. If a lab produces a large piece of rough in the VS or higher clarity range that is also D-F in color, it’s a huge feat and is therefore pretty rare. A diamond like that will be closer in price to an earth mined diamond, as the rule of rarity still affects the price tag regardless of whether the diamond is lab created or mined.
Who is a lab diamond for?
Lab created diamond engagement rings are popular for some of the main reasons that antique engagement rings are popular. 1. They are considered more ethical. The center stone wasn’t newly mined, contributing to current mining operations. 2. They are considered unique as compared to traditionally mined diamond rings, and 3. Sometimes you can get a bit more bang for your buck.
More and more Little Bird clients are saying they are open to at least learning more about lab created diamonds as a potential option. Historically the topic of lab created diamonds was often a turn-off for folks who were in the early stages of engagement ring selection. About 5 years ago we would have told you that lab created diamonds were most popular among the science-y types as well as people with who had high concerns over the social and environmental standards of the traditional diamond industry.
That said, somehow things are shifting. Perhaps more people are becoming interested and more comfortable with the products of technological advancements. In addition, the concept that we will need to make more responsible choices environmentally and socially is spreading deeper into the broad consumer base. Things are shifting and the lab created diamond is getting much more attention than it was in the past.
Do you think lab diamonds will be become more popular?
We do. Of course, there will always be a place for traditional diamonds and gemstones mined from the earth. However, the idea that we can grow diamonds to be cut into the exact shape and size we desire is very attractive especially in this time where we all want more control over the things we consume. Customization is the next frontier and lab created diamonds certainly meet that trend more than halfway. Unique shapes and cuts are starting to emerge along with fresh engagement ring silhouettes. It will be interesting to see this trend evolve as consumers start to push the boundaries of what they deem attractive as far as shape, cut and color.
Where do you think is the best places to shop for a lab diamond?
The engagement ring selection process requires picking a center gemstone as well as a setting — so it’s a two-part situation. For many reasons, it’s ideal to purchase a center stone and a setting from the same source. With that in mind, any jeweler can source a lab made diamond these days. So if you’ve found a designer you love, then the best place to source your lab made diamond is through them.
Tell us about the "Real Is Rare" movement and what does it mean to consumers?
The slogan “Real Is Rare” has been attached to the industry conversation as to whether or not synthetics are a good choice for consumers. Here’s the deal: slogans really aren’t our thing. The point of a slogan is to push a consumer in one direction or another. This one suggests that there is a right way to select a center stone (go for rare and real!). Our goal is to help our clients uncover what ultimately resonates with them and their partner. We spend a lot of time shutting out the noise of industry slogans and loud sales pitches so we can help our clients focus on what they truly want and what’s important to them. Little Bird fully supports our clients who are interested in traditionally mined diamonds just as much as we root for our clients who have chosen lab created diamond center stones. Or sapphires or emeralds or rubies or morganites or moonstones, or no stones at all for that matter! All are completely valid options in our view. You won’t find us pushing the agenda of any one sector of the diamond and jewelry industries. We were founded to help real people make heartfelt selections. Those heartfelt selections tend to be based on the unique values that a couple shares. Love! There’s no correct gem that represents love.
Want to learn more from Little Bird? Check out this interview together...