The technology to manufacture lab-created diamonds that are identical in composition – so indistinguishable from natural diamonds - is here to stay. A Russian company, New Diamond Technologies, has produced the largest verified lab-created diamond – a very high quality 10 Ct stone. New Diamond Technologies claims that it can produce 15 Ct and 20 Ct polished stones, that they have produced a 70 Ct piece of lab-grown diamond rough and suggest that 100 Ct lab-grown may be coming soon.
The company says that as with comparable naturals, the bigger diamonds are “really individual”. The cost of the technology to produce these stones is very large so the cost to the consumer is still very high – 80%-90% of the cost of comparable natural diamonds. To put that in perspective, a high quality 10 Ct natural diamond (E Color and VVS2 clarity) would cost somewhere around $1,000,000 and $1,300,000. This means that this lab-created stone would still cost somewhere around $800,000 to $1,170,000.
The company’s “bread and butter” 1 Ct to 3 Ct stones are sold through companies in Europe, Hong, Kong, and the US, but the company does not disclose the names of the companies selling their stones. They say that the stones are all “fully disclosed” with IGI lab reports – meaning that companies selling the stones are telling their customers that they are lab-created and providing reports confirming the origin of the stone.
This is highly likely to be a game changer in the diamond industry. Only about 2% of the natural diamonds currently mined are as high quality as these lab-created stones. So is this a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it depends on how you look at it.
This could be a really positive thing for the environment since diamond mining is typically a very destructive process – it is literally finding a needle in a haystack process that often destroys the mining area. It could be a really positive thing from a humanitarian perspective since the lust for diamonds can result in atrocious working conditions for miners – ever seen the movie “Blood Diamond”? As for price, as the technology evolves, the supply of these lab-created diamonds will increase, and the cost of production will decrease. This makes it quite possible that owning a 10 Ct lab-created diamond might become commonplace.
On the negative side it leaves the door wide open for deception, promises to devalue the natural diamond market, and creates a challenge for buyers – how can you be sure that you know exactly what you’re buying; natural or lab-created?
At K.Hollis Jewelers, we’ve been selling a lab-created diamond alternative called Diamond Hybrids for several years. They look almost exactly like a high quality natural diamond, but they don’t have the same physical composition as natural diamonds (about as hard as a sapphire instead of a diamond). Since the physical composition is different, it’s relatively easy for a jeweler to tell the difference between a natural diamond and a Diamond Hybrid. Diamond Hybrids are a fraction of the cost of their natural diamond counterparts - $400-$500 for a 1 Ct Diamond Hybrid vs. $6,000-$8,000 for a similar-looking natural diamond.
The key is to know exactly what you are buying – then the decision is yours. There is nothing inherently wrong about buying a lab-created stone – it’s just a choice - as long as you know what you’re buying. The real problem is that not everyone out there is as honest as they should be, and with new technology it is getting more difficult to distinguish natural from lab-created.
This creates greater opportunity for the thieves of this world to deceive buyers and the risk is multiplied on the internet where customers are typically buying from “faceless” companies that could be located anywhere.
At the end of the day, this is a classic “buyer beware” thing. Not that I’m the most objective guy out there since we own a jewelry store, but trustworthy local jewelers live and die on their reputation so they provide an extra layer of protection for their customers. So be careful, this new technology just made things a little tougher for you when you are buying diamonds.