Lab-grown diamonds, often referred to as synthetic diamonds, have been quietly transforming the world of fine jewellery. These remarkable gems are gaining popularity among jewelry designers, luxury brands, and even notable figures, including royalty. But what sets lab-grown diamonds apart from their natural counterparts, and why should you be intrigued by them?
Lab-grown diamonds can be up to 30%-40% more affordable than their natural counterparts.
Verifying the value of your diamond jewellery has become more critical than ever.
The Rise of Lab-Grown Diamonds
The embrace of lab-grown diamonds can be attributed to several compelling factors. These synthetic diamonds boast the same chemical composition, physical attributes, and visual allure as natural diamonds. They are crafted more swiftly and are arguably produced in a more ethical and environmentally responsible manner. Not to mention, they come at a fraction of the cost. Lab-grown diamonds can be up to 30%-40% more affordable than their natural counterparts, making them an attractive option for many.
The journey to create lab-grown diamonds traces back to the 1700s. However, it wasn’t until 1971 that the first gem-quality synthetic diamond was realized. Initially, these diamonds were deemed too costly and lacked the high-quality grades in the four C’s—cut, carat (size), color, and clarity—to compete with natural stones. But since then, the manufacturing process has seen significant advancements, culminating in the creation of gems that are officially recognised as diamonds and readily available in the market.
Understanding Lab-Grown Diamonds
Both natural and lab-grown diamonds are composed of the same material: pure carbon. However, their origins and formation processes differ significantly. Natural diamonds take between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years to form and are created at depths between 150 and 250 kilometers (93 and 155 miles) within the Earth’s mantle. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are produced in a matter of weeks in controlled laboratory environments.
Two prevalent methods used to create lab-grown diamonds are High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). The specific properties of lab-grown diamonds depend on the manufacturing method employed. These synthetic diamonds can exhibit superior hardness and come in a range of colors, including clear white, yellow, brown, blue, green, and orange.
The Ethical Imperative
One driving force behind the rise of lab-grown diamonds is the depletion of global natural diamond reserves. As these reserves dwindle, the jewellery industry is increasingly embracing lab-grown diamonds on a grand commercial scale. For example, De Beers, the world’s largest diamond miner, introduced its own synthetic diamond brand, Lightbox Jewellery, in 2018. Moreover, watch companies such as Tag Heuer have launched new models featuring lab-grown diamonds, and Breitling has committed to phasing out mined diamonds by 2024 in favour of more sustainable production methods.
Distinguishing Between Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds
Differentiating between natural and lab-grown diamonds can be remarkably challenging because both are chemically and optically identical. Traditional gemological techniques and old-style “diamond detectors” struggle to tell them apart. Most natural diamonds have internal flaws that occurred during their formation, while synthetics tend to be cleaner. The controlled process used to create lab-grown diamonds minimises defects, resulting in fewer flaws within the crystal structure.
To accurately distinguish between the two, specialised equipment is often required. This means that the gem must be sent to a certified laboratory for analysis. However, for most lab-grown diamonds over 0.20 carats, it’s standard practice to provide a certificate from a recognised, authorised, independent gemological laboratory. Such certificates verify the gem’s origin, quality, and characteristics. Just as natural diamonds are examined and graded based on their attributes, so too are lab-grown diamonds, providing a certificate akin to what you would expect for a natural diamond.
Implications for Jewellery Owners
Lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly accessible. With natural diamond reserves diminishing and the visual distinctions between the two almost imperceptible, verifying the value of your diamond jewellery becomes more critical than ever. Consider that a 1-carat lab-grown diamond can be valued at around £6,750, while a 1-carat natural diamond might fetch approximately £26,000—a significant difference.
The consequence of this economic disparity is that a significant portion of jewelry and watches may be underinsured, with expectations that over 50% of these pieces are undervalued. Consequently, insurers may request documentation, such as a certificate, before adding diamonds to a policy or processing a claim.
Why the concern? As the cost of living rises, the risk of high net worth individuals becoming targets for theft is also on the upswing. This scenario makes safeguarding your valuables all the more crucial
- Regular Valuation and Adequate Insurance: Whether your diamonds are natural or lab-grown, ensure that any jewellery or watches featuring these gems are regularly valued and insured appropriately.
- Certification: Obtain an authorised certificate from a trusted valuations company. These certificates provide clear descriptions of your item, including the materials and stones used, cut, color, clarity, and carat.
- Safe Storage: Ensure that your jewellery and watches are stored in an appropriate, cash-rated safe. The installation should be handled by an approved and recognised business.
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