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What's the Deal with Lab-Grown Diamonds?

HPHT Lab-Grown Rough Diamond crystal

Natural Octahedral Diamond Crystal

I have seen a lot of lab-grown diamonds lately, so I want to address some of the questions I am often asked.

Is it a real diamond?

In a word, yes. Chemically, optically, and mineralogically, it is a diamond. However, if you see the word diamond, it denotes a natural diamond. Lab-grown diamonds must always indicate that they are lab-grown.

Why are they so much less expensive than natural diamonds?

Basic supply and demand. If the laboratories are making more and more of them, the demand can always be met-- sometimes with a surplus-- making them quite affordable. Typically, a lab-grown diamond is about one-third the retail price of its natural counterpart.

Lab-grown diamonds are much greener than natural diamonds, right?

This one is debatable. While it's true that diamond (and all mineral) mining does open the earth and can cause damage, there are quite a few initiatives in place to minimize the impact of diamond mining. On the other hand, it takes incredible amounts of electricity to grow lab-grown diamonds which can mean using quite a lot of fossil fuels.

Okay, but are they more ethical?

Again, debatable. I say this because about ten million people worldwide are supported by the diamond industry, creating $16 Billion annually for employees, communities, and the environment, 80% of which is retained by the local communities from which the diamonds are mined. The Kimberly Process has all but eliminated conflict diamonds and the industry has grown to include business and environmental ethics. In some diamond-producing countries, healthcare and schooling are paid for entirely with diamond proceeds as well.

Can you tell the difference?

I can. Not only are all lab-grown diamonds required to have a laser inscription, but I also have a diamond segregator in-office. That, along with microscope inspection, determines origin.

Can other people tell the difference?

To the eye, lab-grown diamonds look just like all other diamonds. When you're choosing a stone, you need to look for the same Cs as always since lab-grown diamonds are graded on the same scale as natural diamonds. If you have chosen a lab-grown diamond to allow yourself to choose a larger diamond in your budget, no one will know the difference unless you tell them or they have the diamond under magnification and read the inscription.

Do I have to tell my fiancee it's a lab-grown diamond?

Absolutely. Starting a marriage with a lie will not work. Someone like me will be the one to deliver the news during an appraisal, and that will NOT go over well (believe me, I know). Lab-grown diamonds are perfectly acceptable as an engagement ring, and a great choice for many reasons; however, you both need to be on the same page.

Can I trade-in, trade-up, or resell?

Typically, no. Because lab-grown diamonds are what is defined as an infinite resource (more are being made) rather than a finite resource like natural diamonds (there are only so many), they don't hold value the way natural diamonds do. Because of this, very few retailers are allowing for trading in or trading up. That said, sometimes people decide they would like to purchase a larger, natural diamond later and reset the lab-grown stone into a pendant or right-hand ring, or match with another lab-grown diamond for earrings.

As far as reselling, there will always be a possibility of a market if you can find an individual to purchase your piece should the need arise, but you won't be able to sell it to a jeweler like you could a natural diamond piece.

How do you determine appraisal value?

As with all diamonds, there is an established wholesale list. With the nature of lab-grown diamonds, it is very possible the replacement value could decrease over time. If your piece is a branded piece (Brilliant Earth, Lightbox, Clean Origin, etc), a comparable will be pulled to ensure the up-to-date replacement value is correct as the value is determined by the MSRP for a similar piece and is often different from established pricing.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions!

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