Diamonds 101

It’s hard to get an unbiased take on lab-grown diamonds. They’ve been popping up recently as a new option all over.

When you ask someone who sells lab-grown diamonds… it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Ask a jeweler who doesn’t sell it, and you’ll probably hear all about how it’s an absolute waste of money.

So what’s the real deal?

Here at Rare Carat, we’re not a retailer (we don’t care where you buy since we do not make a commission) - so here’s our take on the facts. The pros, the cons, everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

On our search, you can search across retailers for lab grown diamonds or natural diamonds by the way - we’re here to help, regardless of where you want to buy.

Anyways, getting right down to it… Should you buy a lab grown diamond?

Here are the must-knows about buying a lab grown diamond:

Pros & Cons of Lab Grown Diamonds

The Pros

  1. You’ll get a bigger diamond for the same budget. They are less expensive than natural diamonds for the same quality.
  2. They will look the same - and they are chemically the same. Just made in a different way.
  3. Some think of them as more ethical (though ‘blood diamonds’ are uncommon these days)
  4. Some consider them more eco-friendly (though it still takes a lot of energy to make, and that energy can come from icky sources)

The Cons

  1. The resale value is more uncertain - so if that matters you may want to go with natural. Natural diamonds have been around for decades and have largely held value. You should expect your natural diamond to sell for less than retail value, but that value at wholesale has largely held steady. In the last few years, lab-grown has come into existence, supply and production has increased, causing prices to fall. We expect this trend to continue.
  2. Perception matters. If this is a surprise proposal you may want to consider whether your soon-to-be-fiancee would be ok with a lab-grown diamond… or would she think it’s ‘not the real deal’.
  3. Not the norm. At least today, the large majority of people still buy natural diamonds for their engagement ring.

Frequently asked questions:

It’s pretty new in the diamond industry, so we get all kinds of questions. Here’s our FAQ on the matter:

Can you tell the difference between lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds?

Nope… unless you have lab equipment. They will look exactly the same to anyone looking at them. Physically, they are the same. Side by side, you are not going to see any difference with the naked eye - nor will her judgey friend or your soon-to-be mother in law.

However, if you ever take it to a jeweler or send it in to get certified, equipment will be able to tell the difference.

Are lab grown diamonds eco friendly? Are they ethical?

Yes, they are ethical. There’s some debate on eco-friendly since it does take a lot of energy to make them. So it depends on the source of the energy. Although in terms of eco-friendliness, obviously mining a diamond has significant environmental implications (like anything you mine from the Earth).

Natural diamonds have a pretty unfortunate history where blood diamonds were present. Since then, there has been an international effort to get these out of the supply chain (called the Kimberley Process) - some activists argue the process is not effective enough, and on the other end, some argue that mining provides livelihoods and export income for these countries… Regardless, all retailers listed on Rare Carat must have conflict-free policies, and we’re working with companies like Everledger so you can see the origin of your natural diamond.

Where should I buy lab grown diamonds?

You can search across lab grown retailers on Rare Carat. But regardless of where you buy, GIA gemologists are available to help you .

Do the 4 C’s apply to lab grown diamonds? How do I value lab grown diamonds?

Lab created diamonds are grown in a lab, not by nature - but it’s still the same chemical structure. Lab grown diamonds can have inclusions just like natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds can be flawless, but like natural diamonds, most are not. So you can go ahead and look for the same things (carats, cut, color, clarity).

It is harder for the lab grown process to make bigger and higher quality diamonds - so like natural, these are more rare.

In terms of the 4 Cs,

The larger the carat size,

The higher the color,

The higher the clarity,

And the higher the cut,

… the rarer and more expensive.

Do lab grown diamonds have resale value? Are lab grown diamonds a good investment?

Great question. It’s hard to see into the future, but in general, our honest opinion is not as much as natural diamonds.

When you go to sell a natural diamond, you are probably going to see a haircut on the retail value you spent. This is because the diamond wholesaler then has to go back and find a retailer to buy it, the retailer has to stock it and add a margin for their services. Depending on how much you shopped around & whether you ended up buying at a branded jewelers, we’d expect you get something in the range of 40-75% of what you bought it for. (Branded jewelers will charge a higher margin so you’ll get less back). However, that underlying wholesale value has largely held steady over the years, and that is what is considered when buying a diamond back from a consumer.

On the other hand, valuing lab grown diamonds is tough, because wholesale prices have been falling in the last few years as more supply has come into the diamond industry. Our general opinion is that we expect them to fall more over the next few months or years as more supply becomes available, before diamond prices settle down.

Lab created diamonds should definitely be less expensive than a natural diamond of the same quality.

How are lab created diamonds made exactly?

There are two ways you can create a diamond in a lab: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD diamonds) and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT). Jewelers don’t usually specify which method was used when selling lab created diamonds.

The HPHT method is the closest to the natural process - it crystallizes carbon through (wait for it) high pressure and high temperatures. This is similar to the heat and pressure deep within the Earth. Fun fact: General Electric was the first to successfully grow diamonds in 1954 using this method (besides Mother Nature who precedes them by just a couple millenia).

The CVD method uses a ‘diamond seed’ to grow a larger diamond. The carbon atoms collect similar to how snowflakes come together to form snow. It’s a less expensive process because it works at lower temperatures and pressures, and uses smaller and less expensive equipment. It’s more common in the lab grown diamond industry.

How is this different to diamond simulants and synthetics?

‘Synthetic diamond’ usually refers to a lab grown diamond. And yes lab grown diamonds are ‘real diamonds’. They are chemically the same. Synthetic doesn’t sound as nice so not used as much. A ‘simulant’ usually refers to something like a moissanite or cubic zirconia. These are not chemically diamonds, but kinda look like a real diamond.

Does GIA certify lab grown diamonds?

They technically do, though the reports are slightly different - but we rarely see a GIA-graded lab-grown diamond. We offer searches across IGI, GCAL and HRD certificates.

Our advice

In our opinion, three things matter when deciding between a natural, mined diamond and lab created diamond:

  1. Your budget
  2. Her preferences
  3. Whether you care about resale value

A natural diamond is still the safe choice that the majority of people choose, and women are less likely to object to. While you will never resell it for more than you paid, you’ll roughly see prices in line for the same diamond next year, and the diamond should store the majority of its value into the future.

On the other hand, if you want to be 100% sure it is conflict free or need a big diamond with a small budget - and it won’t bother you when you see the equivalent diamond selling for less next year - go lab-grown, provided you’re confident she’ll be okay with it. For some people, it can feel like it’s not the ‘real deal’ - a.k.a. fake Prada. Perception matters.

And bear the retailer’s incentives in mind. Lab grown diamonds generally have a larger margin, so if you’re in a store that has both options - they’ll often push you towards lab grown.

There is no one-size fits all answer here. If you want to talk it out, our gemologists have one rule: tell you what they would tell their best friend, so just chat us now.

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