Diamonds are a fashionista’s best friend, a symbol of eternity, a means to seduce, show prestige, and embrace luxury. From ancient times, human beings have battled and toiled to obtain this prized gem, and indeed, few gemstones have garnered the controversy that Diamonds have.

Words Marisa Cutillas, Photography Courtesy Of Shutterstock, Wd Lab Grown Diamonds, Latitude, Pandora, Badgley Mischka

Diamonds are a fashionista’s best friend, a symbol of eternity, a means to seduce, show prestige, and embrace luxury. From ancient times, human beings have battled and toiled to obtain this prized gem, and indeed, few gemstones have garnered the controversy that Diamonds have.

Words Marisa Cutillas, Photography Courtesy Of Shutterstock, Wd Lab Grown Diamonds, Latitude, Pandora, Badgley Mischka

The Kimberly Process, an international certification that has effectively removed conflict Diamonds from the global supply, has enabled buyers to feel a little less ‘guilty’ about sporting a piece of ‘white fire’ on their finger. However, ‘eternal ice’ has continued to be out of the reach of many, with a relatively small (two-carat), quality Diamond ring (H colour, VS2 clarity) having a starting price of between €7.000 and €44.000 (as reported by specialists, DMI). Lab-grown Diamonds have arrived at the perfect time – one in which ‘high-quality fashion jewellery brands like Monica Vinader are designing ‘everyday Diamond’ collections that are elegant yet affordable. What benefits do lab-grown Diamonds have and should you consider one for your upcoming engagement, anniversary, or special occasion?

Lab-Grown Diamonds Are In Demand

The global lab-grown Diamond market size was valued at $19.3 billion in 2020 and it is projected to reach $49.9 billion by 2030. Although the main demands are from the fashion and jewellery industries, the stone has a wide variety of newer applications – including optics, electronics, and lasers. On average, buyers can look forward to paying 10 to 50 per cent less for a lab-grown Diamond than a natural one with similar characteristics. Moreover, the price of synthetic Diamonds does not increase exponentially according to carat size.

What Factors Affect A Lab Grown Diamond’S Quality And Price?

The Four Cs
Lab-grown Diamonds are graded on the same scale of Cut, Colour, Clarity, and Carat weight as mined Diamonds. The qualities that are graded are often described as ‘the Four Cs’.

Cut This category refers to the quality of a Diamond’s shape. Only round brilliant Diamonds receive official cut grades ranging from ‘ideal’ to ‘poor’.

Colour A perfect Diamond is colourless, though these sparkly gems actually come in a variety of hues that are graded by letter. Thus, D- to F-rated Diamonds are the rarest and highest quality because they are icy in appearance.

G-to H- (and I- to J-) rated Diamonds are nearly colourless, while K- is considered a budget-friendly, slightly coloured Diamond that goes well with yellow gold. There are more letters in the list but most reputed jewellers do not veer beyond transparent or near-transparent grades.

Clarity Diamond clarity involves assessing the small imperfections on the surface and within the stone. High-quality Diamonds are classified as F (flawless), IF (no internal flaws), VVS1 and VVS2 (flaws which are very difficult to see under 10x magnification), or VS1 and VS2 (inclusions that are difficult to see under 10x magnification).

Carat weight When it comes to carat weights, the science is simple. The bigger (heavier), the better. A typical engagement ring has a Diamond carat size of anywhere between 0.5 and one carat though celebrities usually sport 10 to 20 carats (Kim Kardashian’s stunner weighed 20 carats).

To give you an idea of how these categorisations work, take a brand like Cartier. This firm accepts brilliant-cut Diamonds that weigh over 0.3 carats and are classified as ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’ on the GIA scale (GIA is the largest non-profit source of gemological knowledge in the world). As for clarity, renowned jewellery houses only opt for Diamonds between F/IF and VS2. With respect to colour, the gem should have between a D and H rating. Expect to find similar standards at houses selling mined Diamonds such as Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

How Big Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

These babies go from tiny (melee) all the way to 10 carats or more. Typically, the most popular size (owing mainly to the price factor) is smaller than two carats.

How Fast Are They To Make?

Mined Diamonds take millions of years underground to form. Lab-grown Diamonds can be made in weeks.

How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?

There are two main ways that lab-grown Diamonds are made. One is the High-Pressure, High-Temperature (HPHT) technique, which is most popular in China. It involves copying the brutal force of subterranean Earth and the use of immense heat and pressure to transform carbon into a ‘Diamond seed’ (a single crystal Diamond that is about as fine as a human hair). The latter is a starter stone from which the gemstone can grow. This method is used by approximately 99 per cent of the market.
The second system (which is more innovative and requires less heat energy than the traditional method) is called Chemical Vapour Distribution. It works similarly to 3D printing in that it layers carbon on a Diamond seed in a vacuum chamber. The CVD method was actually developed by the solar energy industry, to produce polysilicon for solar panels. The LED light bulb industry also uses this method to produce light bulbs.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Environmentally Friendly And Ethical?

Lab-grown Diamonds have the potential to be sustainable, but you need to do your research to make the best choice. A report by Frost & Sullivan indicates that mined Diamonds require twice as much energy per carat as their lab-grown counterparts. They release around 58kg of carbon into the air for every carat that is produced, compared to around 20kg produced by synthetic Diamonds.

In general, of course, lab-grown Diamonds do require considerable energy to manufacture. This is because of the immense amount of heat that needs to be applied to the Diamond seed. The secret to keeping it sustainable is to buy rocks that are made with renewable energy.
As a whole, lab-grown Diamonds are considered to be more ethical and kinder. Their manufacturers typically guarantee that no animals are harmed, no groundwater is polluted or land displaced, no conflicts can possible ensue, and no local communities or wildlife are displaced.

Eco-Friendly Brands

Consider ‘Certified Climate Neutral’ to be the fifth ‘C’ to watch out for when buying Diamonds. In June, 2021, the company WD Lab Grown Diamonds launched a brand called Latitude, which is ‘Certified Climate Neutral’. The brand has fully committed to transparency, innovation, and ethics and it offers fully traceable, guaranteed conflict-free products. Another brand, Diamond Foundry, is the World’s first certified 100 per cent carbon-neutral Diamond producer.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds A Good Investment?

Lab-grown Diamonds are durable and they sparkle like mined Diamonds do. However, if you’re forking out thousands of euros for one, you may wonder if you might be better off buying ‘the real thing’. The answer can be found by turning back to the basics of investment. As is the case with all luxury goods (think an NFT by Pak or a rare basketball trading card), scarcity and uniqueness are key considerations when deciding whether or not to invest. Lab-grown Diamonds are beautiful but they are mass-produced. If you are after a rock that will really appreciate in value, invest in Tanzanites instead. This vivid blue/violet stone (almost identical in appearance, to a Sapphire) is obtained from a small mine in Tanzania that will run out of its supply in a maximum of 20 years. See our December 2021 edition for the story on Marbella’s own MJM Gems, which deals in rare gems like Tanzanites and Tsavorites.

What Is The Future Of Lab-Grown Diamonds?

After vowing to never sell synthetic Diamonds, De Beers took a 180º turn by selling a one-carat lab rock for €689 in September 2019. Considering an equivalent mined Diamond costs around £5,144, the move was quite a statement regarding the brilliant future of these gems. The brand has effectively managed to dabble in both types of Diamonds (while also maintaining its prestige) by creating two markets. The De Beers site exudes exclusivity and sophistication, selling “Nature’s rarest work of art” (mined Diamonds) while its subsidiary, Lightbox, sells an appealing array of “fun, pretty products that don’t cost much,” as stated by De Beers Group exec, Bruce Cleaver. De Beers markets its engagement rings (made with mined diamonds) under the Forevermark brand, while Lightbox is strongly centred on coloured lab-grown gems. Yes, lab-grown Diamonds come in a wide range of colours – including pink, yellow, green, black, blue, brown, and orange. Forbes called it a “disrupt yourself before you are disrupted” move and indeed, it opens De Beers’ doors to a far wider market that wishes to wear a little sparkle without paying exorbitant prices.

The future is looking rosy for lab-grown Diamonds. A recent report from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre indicates that the demand for this sustainable, affordable gemstone will increase by 15-20 per cent annually, resulting in a market comprising 17 million carats by 2030. The idea of everyday Diamonds appeals to millennials and Gen-Zers, who highly price eco-friendliness and transparency. As stated by Sidney Neuhaus (whose company, Kimaï, made Meghan Markle’s famous synthetic Diamond earrings), as long as Diamonds maintain their emotional resonance, consumers will continue to buy both natural and lab-grown Diamonds. After all, a little sparkle and fire is something we could all use in our lives.