The diamond industry has been heavily dependent on the limitations of technology since its inception hundreds of years ago. Mining, cutting and polishing of diamonds cannot be accomplished without the use of very complex machinery. The optics employed to observe and then grade diamond quality is also an undeniable feat of precise science. In recent years, chemistry has even opened an avenue for synthetic diamonds – better known as Cubic zirconia- to enter the market and offer some buyers a cost effective diamond replica. Modern technology has allowed us to accomplish extraordinary things. Today, it’s possible to not only replicate many naturally occurring phenomena in labs but essentially duplicate them under certain circumstances. Scientists have recently adapted techniques that mimic the same conditions under which diamonds are formed in nature, allowing us to manufacture lab-grown diamonds that appear and behave pretty much identically to the diamonds which occur naturally. The comparative cost of production versus mining offers buyers yet another budget-friendly option for their diamond engagement rings. We’ll take you through the process of making lab grown diamonds, analyze how they compare to natural diamonds aesthetically, and finally look at the cost of purchasing engagement rings with lab grown diamonds as their centerpiece.
Let’s start with understanding how diamonds occur in nature. The process isn’t complicated, just painstakingly slow. Most of the diamonds on the market today have taken several billion years to form deep within the surface of the Earth in beds of rock called kimberlite. A diamond is purely made up of carbon molecules, forced together by extreme heat and pressure throughout all these years. At times, tiny molecules of nitrogen or other substances do end up within the diamond, creating the imperfections we call inclusions that in turn impact the way light passes through them. Therefore, the most expensive diamonds on the market are the big chunks of almost pure carbon which have very few, very small inclusions. Lab-grown gemstones simply mimic these conditions, compressing carbon under similar heat and pressure, only in much less time. Compared to the billions of years it takes a diamond to form naturally, labs accomplish it in less than a month.
The industry for lab-grown diamonds in Montreal is fairly thin, therefore we tend to look towards the United States for the best examples of those stones. The Gem Certification and Assurance Lab (GCAL) is the organization with the most precise grading system as it analyzes all lab-grown diamonds under specialized machinery in order to provide a guarantee of quality comparable to what is produced by the GIA. The best specimens of both lab-grown and naturally occurring diamonds are impossible to tell apart with the naked eye, even under most optics. It’s only with these very specialized machines that one can actually tell the difference. Consequently, they tend to behave the same as far as light reflection and long-term durability. The noticeable differences, according to gemologists, occur in the lower grades of lab-grown diamonds. These show more color and inclusions than the lower grades of those which occur in nature. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same. We would expect to see little difference since they are made from the same materials under the same circumstances. That’s what’s so revolutionary about these diamonds. You can buy a diamond engagement ring with a lab-grown stone as its centerpiece and it will look just as magnificent. Unlike cubic zirconia (CZ), which is made by combining zirconium and oxygen, these lab grown diamonds are duplicates and not replicas! CZ is much less durable and does not reflect light in nearly the same ways, whereas lab-grown diamonds are in fact real diamonds.
Considering the amount of time involved in producing our own diamonds, it’s only natural that they will sell for less. This new industry is actually not only efficient but comparatively sustainable when you dig a bit and learn that it takes about 100 000 tons of displaced rock to mine a single 1.00 carat D/flawless grade diamond from beneath the Earth’s surface. So how does all this apply to engagement rings? Up front, you’re looking at paying about 30% less for the stone itself. Since the diamonds are the most expensive component of engagement rings, you could see how this significantly cuts your cost. Although natural diamonds follow a relatively stable market, the future of lab-grown diamonds is still unknown. However, since the quantity of diamonds we can produce is essentially unlimited it would be safe to assume that the purchase price would decrease as the technology to produce them becomes more available. Insuring diamond engagement rings costs the same amount, regardless of whether the diamonds are man-made or naturally occurring.
At this point, you can probably conclude that it comes down to a question of budget and personal preference. If your engagement ring is a symbol of something precious, built through the patience of nature and limited in abundance, then go all natural. If you’re more practical, environmentally conscious and want to respect tradition but don’t whole-heartedly believe that it’s the most important thing in the world.. Well then, a lab-made diamond will be most likely meet all of your needs. Whether you choose the rare and mysterious natural diamond or the impressive man-made duplicate, nobody else will know the difference. Not unless they’re carrying a diamond lab in their back pocket.