Exposing the Truth about Lab-Created Diamonds


Exposing the Truth About  Lab-Created Diamonds

This is a follow-up to our previous research on lab-created diamonds. 

The mined diamond industry has once again turned up the heat on the lab-created diamond industry. This was most recently evidenced by the action of the fear-stricken John Ford and the AGTA Board of Directors to prohibit the sale of lab-created diamonds at the AGTA Gemfair Shows.

For the last few years, heated debates on the major jewelry industry discussion groups have pitted traditional mined diamond dealers against retail jewelers who have opened their doors to the created diamond market. Mined diamond dealers have posted caustic accusations that lab created diamonds are “worthless”, “garbage,” and are “not real diamonds”. Furthermore, they claim that lab-created diamonds damage the ecology by greater energy use, and anyone who sells lab created diamonds is ripping off their customers.

As a result of the ongoing, highly-venomous efforts by these traditional diamond dealers to disparage the lab created diamonds and sellers, I previously researched these claims to fact-check their accusations and have once again reviewed the facts to report now. I will start with the complaint from the mined diamond dealers that  created diamonds are not “real” diamonds. A main contention of the AGTA Board of Directors that proves to be in error.

Are lab created diamonds…real diamonds?

The problem with the first claim of created diamonds not being “real diamonds” was answered by none other than the United States Federal Trade Commission.  The US Federal Trade Commission ruled that lab-created diamonds are indeed diamonds.  This matter was reported by Forbes magazine when they wrote:

“The FTC based its decision in favor of scientific facts, not the mined-diamond industry lobby, giving consumers real information on which to make informed diamond purchasing decisions.

The ruling is simplicity itself. A diamond is a diamond no matter whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of the ground”

“The Commission no longer defines a ‘diamond’ by using the term ‘natural’ because it is no longer accurate to define diamonds as ‘natural’ when it is now possible to create products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds,” the FTC ruled. Forbes August 2018

As a result, the first contention that lab created diamonds are not real diamonds, as recently claimed by the AGTA Board of Directors, is a false accusation most likely generated by a small group of influential board members to protect their own mined-diamond dealing operations. According to the FTC, mined diamonds and lab created diamonds are both diamonds, period.

Do lab created diamonds use more energy and have more impact on the environment?

For this answer I am not going to rely on any jewelry or diamond industry sources so we can get an independent evaluation of this question. I turned to a well-respected publication “Popular Science” in their article titled: 6 Things You Should Know About Lab Diamonds.

“In March, IIa opened the world’s largest diamond-growing facility in Singapore. It’s capable of cranking out more than 300,000 carats a year, using half the energy of diamond mining. Plus, it has far less environmental impact.”

Since this issue of energy consumption and the ecological impact debate of mined-v-created diamonds seems to be a major issue, I went a step further to the research posted on the Yale University website: https://campuspress-test.yale.edu/tribune/the-science-between-synthetic-diamonds-and-their-positive-impact-on-the-environment/Yale Tribune, November 2018

“However, while one of the largest producers of natural diamonds uses about 80.3 kilowatt-hours per carat over their mining operations, lab-grown diamonds are another story. They only require about 20-28 kilowatt-hours per carat. Therefore, less energy is used when manufacturing them, so the environment is more protected through this method.

Also, they produce fewer carbon emissions compared to natural diamonds. Natural ones require heavy machinery for their production and emit more carbon, so they impact the environment more. Thus, overall, synthetic diamonds are eco-friendlier.”

Clearly, the claim that lab created diamonds are not as ecologically friendly as mined diamonds is a false claim by the earth-mined diamond industry. Independent research shows us that, in fact, the opposite is true. Lab created diamonds use far less energy to produce and have a far smaller carbon foot-print than mined diamonds.

Do lab created diamonds cost the same as a mined diamond?

Once again, I turned to independent sources, starting with the above-referenced Popular Science article where it stated:

“Lab diamonds are identical to their natural counterparts and cost 30 to 40 percent less.” Popular Science

We don’t have to rely on someone else’s resources on the issue of how much lower in price are lab created diamonds to comparable mined diamonds. For that we just need to go diamond shopping on the internet. Here are the results of two diamonds of the same quality: one lab created and one earth mined diamond, I found the following on Friday April 12, 2024.

BrillianEarth.com (lab created diamond)

1.01ct. F/VS1 Ideal Cut  Stock Number:9689684Y IGI Grading Report: US$1,320.00

JamesAllen.com  (traditional mined diamond)

1.00ct. F/VS1 Excellent Cut  SKU 20826601 IGI Grading Report US$4,930.00

The lab created diamond, of the same quality and better proportioning, is now approximately 73% less in price than a mined diamond, even greater than the original Popular Science report. According to the Federal Trade Commission both are genuine diamonds. Both are of the same quality with independent lab grading reports. But one is approximately 73% less in price than the other.

Which would you buy? Never mind, that is a rhetorical question right now. We have one more question to answer.

What about the future of the diamond industry?

This is where I first realized why the traditional mined diamond industry is in such a panic, the very future of the traditional diamond industry is in jeopardy. A few years ago, several diamond industry publications predicted the future which is the reality we see now. Looking away from the diamond industry publications and turning to the formal mining industry publications, the issue was confirmed. From MiningReview.com: Lab-created diamond jewelry market forecast to grow to US$15Bn by 2035 Jan 15, 2019

On a relative basis, gem-quality lab-created diamonds sold as jewelry have dropped in price by 30-40% over the last two-and-a-half years.

While natural diamonds currently represent an estimated 95% of the diamond jewelry market, the annual supply of natural diamonds is forecast to decline over the next four years and there is reason to believe that the trend will not significantly reverse course longer-term.

Given the scale of production capability, it is reasonable to assume that longer-term, the supply of lab-created diamonds is boundless, and the price of generic goods will be set by the lowest-cost producer

This opinion was also shared by the most trusted diamond industry publication: Idexonline.com where they published this article: ABN AMRO Diamond Outlook: Lab-Grown Stones to Enter Growth Phase Jan 16, 2019

“We think that 2019 and 2020 will be the years that lab-grown diamonds take off and move from an introduction phase (2018) to a growth phase. Lab-grown diamond producers have been able to produce larger and better-quality lab-grown diamonds.

In a few years from now it is highly uncertain if natural diamonds will hold their value as always has been assumed.”

Clearly, both the mining industry and the diamond reporting industry recognized that lab created diamonds were quickly becoming the future of the diamond industry, and that mined diamond production is on the decline.

What does the fashion industry think about created diamonds?

Let’s face it. If the consumers don’t want lab created diamonds then the whole issue is moot. To investigate this, I turned to Vogue magazine, one of the fashion world’s most trusted publications. In their article: Can Lab-Grown Diamonds Become A Girl’s Best Friend? Vogue 20 November 2018, they interviewed one of the world icons of fashion and gemstones. Here is what she said:

“It will be totally disruptive,” asserts Nadja Swarovski, matriarch of the legendary crystal manufacturer, which began cutting gemstones in 1965. “There’s that belief that diamonds are rare and precious, and I think it’s also going to be a generational thing. My mother would never buy a created diamond, but my daughters would only buy a created diamond.” 

And the article carried it one step further…

“…in a survey by market research company MVI, the percentage of consumers willing to buy an engagement ring with a lab-grown diamond is steadily increasing, rising from 55 per cent in 2016 to almost 70 per cent in 2018.” (Vogue)

So, 70% of consumers are willing to buy an engagement ring with a lab created diamond that the traditional mined diamond industry is trying to brand as “trash” “garbage” and a rip off to consumers.

Here are some of the comments from the traditional mined diamond group in the online discussions:

“”Buying a lab diamond is like buying a Fake Chanel purse vs a Real one. Same materials, not the same.”

“Lab created has no value, none. Those who sell are selling something worthless. A scourge on the industry.”

“I’d be little more than a prostitute to try and “sell” lab created crap.”

When I read these posts I could read nothing but desperation of a market segment in total spin control over a tidal wave they see coming over the horizon.

But in the cacophony of posts and responses, there was one that stood out from the rest as the voice of reason, assurance and that there is hope for the future:

“I feel like there is a place for everything… if someone wants a 1ct but cannot afford it why not offer a lab? As long as it’s disclosed, represented, and priced why not?

It is the same as if someone wants a lab ruby because it is their husband’s birthstone but they can only afford an ugly natural or a beautiful lab…

My jobs to make the world sparkle… I just make sure to do it ethically and honestly”

Now, there is someone with a healthy attitude on the gemstone market in general and one who is most likely riding that tidal wave of lab-created diamonds all the way to the bank!

Given the history of the mined diamond industry, with artificially inflated prices based on a monopolistic pricing structure controlled by a small group of people, it is no surprise that we have  edicts as we recently experienced from the AGTA Board of Directors.  

However, based on the actual science and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the fear tactics used by the AGTA are just that—fear tactics. They are efforts to control the diamond markets to protect their own interests.

Given how quickly the AGTA Gemfair Shows are losing market share, I believe all they have done is to hasten their own demise due to their own greed. All they have done is ensure a fast-growing market segment of buyers will go to other shows.

That is my opinion, I welcome you to send in yours.

Robert James FGA, GG