By Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG
Founder & Course Creator
THE GEM ACADEMY
Welcome to THE GEM ACADEMY - Advancing your knowledge about laboratory-grown diamonds. Subscribe for monthly subscriber emails and be the first to hear about the latest posts, YouTube videos, specialist online courses, and workshops.
In recent years, the jewellery industry has witnessed a significant shift with the introduction of laboratory-grown diamonds. These stones are marketed as ethical, sustainable, and more affordable alternatives to natural diamonds. While laboratory-grown diamonds may have benefits (Read this article: The Laboratory-Grown Diamond Debate: Top 5 Reasons To Buy A Laboratory-Grown Diamond), it's important to consider the bigger picture. In this article, we'll explore the top 5 reasons why you might want to think twice before buying a laboratory-grown diamond.
1. Lack of Rarity and Sentimental Value
One of the most appealing aspects of natural diamonds is their rarity. The geological forces that form diamonds deep within the Earth's crust over billions of years contribute to their allure and value. Laboratory-grown diamonds, while possessing the same essential composition structure to natural ones, lack the same geological history. And they are replicable! What existed as a minority just a few years ago are now being pumped out in the tens-of-millions of carats. As a result, they may not hold the same sentimental value that natural diamonds do.
As an owner of both, I've gotta say - laboratory-grown diamonds, though pretty, do not excite me as much. I believe the emotional trigger attached to a diamond often stems from it representing the best of raw nature, its journey through time, and how I get to enjoy all that on my finger. This certainly makes laboratory-grown diamonds less appealing for those who value the romanticism of a stone's natural origin - like me.
2. Impact on Mining Communities
Advocates of laboratory-grown diamonds often emphasise their sustainable production methods. However, this focus can overlook the impact on communities that depend on diamond mining for their livelihoods. Rather than helping - they often boycott these communities entirely. Actively discouraging people to do business with the natural diamond industry who, ironically, does the most to help. All the while whilst promoting that laboratory-grown diamonds are a solution when they are not.
In many developing countries, diamond mining is a significant source of employment and economic growth. The rise of laboratory-grown diamonds could potentially disrupt these communities and lead to job loss and economic instability, especially if demand for mined diamonds decreases significantly.
Remember: laboratory-grown diamonds are not 'mining-free'. See this article: No mining claims: Are they true for laboratory-grown diamonds? to learn more.
3. Questionable Long-Term Value
The diamond market is heavily influenced by rarity, demand, and cultural factors. Laboratory-grown diamonds, being relatively new to the scene, have a rocky track record when it comes to long-term value retention. Actually - not rocky. It's been a pretty sharp downhill trend.
Natural diamonds have demonstrated their ability to hold or appreciate in value over time, especially rare and high-quality stones. Laboratory-grown diamonds, on the other hand, afor which the majority being produced now are amazing quality, are reducing in price at rates that are surprising even the more cynical of the diamond trade. They do not exhibit the same price stability, making them less appealing to those looking for a lasting investment. It's also causing problems for those in the trade who can't shift them before they're pricing drop below their cost price - losing people money (and probably faith in the long-run).
For consumers considering purchasing a laboratory-grown diamond, I suggest you ask yourself one simple question - 'Will I be okay seeing the exact same ring in the same retail store for half the price in the near future?". If the answer is yes - crack on. All I know is that I won't be rushing to purchase any 3ct stones (or above) at this time. I'm just waiting for them to fall into my price range.
As one colleague in my industry loves to say "In a world when the price of everything is increasing - laboratory-grown diamonds, whose popularity has never been greater, are decreasing".
- Anon (Let me know if you want quote credits)
4. Energy and Environmental Concerns
While laboratory-grown diamonds are touted as a more environmentally friendly option compared to traditional mining - this is not necessarily true. As for traceability - don't make me laugh. The majority of time it is impossible to find out who created a particular stone let alone learning more about that companies environmental practices.
In general, the production of laboratory-grown diamonds is not entirely free from environmental concerns. The process of creating laboratory-grown diamonds requires significant amounts of energy, possibly sourced from non-renewable fossil fuels. The ingredients used to make a laboratory-grown diamond mostly come from natural resources. Therefore, the claim of being completely eco-friendly might not hold true in all cases - especially when one has no idea where the stones came from.
Side-note: I would not expect any product to be environmentally friendly or carbon-neutral UNLESS it was advertised as so. The fact they laboratory-grown diamonds have this reputation that many marketers continue to promote even though it may not be true for their products is the issue here.
My overall thought is: laboratory-grown diamonds have not and will not replace natural diamonds. They are just another mass produced product.
5. Misleading Marketing and Lack of Regulation
This is probably my biggest niggle about laboratory-grown diamonds. Why is so much of the marketing misleading? If the general narrative was honest and simply stated "look here - we've made laboratory-grown diamonds which are as beautiful as top-quality natural diamonds and have all the awesome durability factors that make diamond so awesome" and nothing more - I'd be happy as a clam. But that's not what is happening.
Often they are marketing as being good for the environment, better for miners, traceable, better quality than natural diamond (err... the scale goes up to D flawless for a reason, people), all of this plus the apparent attack some marketers take toward natural diamonds. This is annoying as most of it is not true or, at least, not true for the vast majority. And though I like the product (I believe diamond/laboratory-grown diamond is the best material in the world) this is the one aspect that gets my goat. Why the lack of transparency?
Other areas of marketing for laboratory-grown diamonds can paint a misleading picture of their attributes. Some consumers might be under the impression that laboratory-grown diamonds are entirely indistinguishable from natural diamonds, which is not true. Also that they are "exactly the same", which is also not true as some laboratory-grown diamonds do not test as diamond on diamond testers (which can be a bit of a shocker for consumers if they have one of these stones and get it tested later. Read my article: Laboratory-Grown diamonds That Don't Test As Diamond) and some glow orange in the dark (Also a bit of a shocker. Check out my YouTube Video).
Furthermore, the lack of industry-wide standards and regulations for labelling and marketing laboratory-grown diamonds can make it difficult for retailers to promote their products in the same way members of the trade in other parts of the world can (we're not allowed to say 'lab-grown diamonds' here in the U.K., did you know?) and this annoying for retailers and confusing for consumers. Not to mention, it makes teaching a lesson about terminology ridiculously complex (but that's just my issue). To make it worse, there doesn't seem to be many ramifications to those that don't stick to the guidelines that we do have. It can be frustrating for everyone - but all we can do, if we're a conscientious member of the trade, is lead by example (and have the occasional rant).
In conclusion, the decision to buy a diamond or laboratory-grown diamond can be a complex one that involves a consideration of personal values and long-term implications. While laboratory-grown diamonds offer certain advantages, such as lower cost compared to a comparable natural diamond (this is true as diamonds are so expensive in comparison), they also come with their share of drawbacks - such as the falling value and misleading morals.
At the end of the day, we can weigh these aspects and make an informed choice that aligns with ones personal values and priorities - or simply go for what your happy with in your budget knowing that the price of these stones are falling. Whether a natural or laboratory-grown diamond, each has a story to tell, and, hopefully, a piece of beautiful jewellery to sit within. It's up to the consumer to decide what works best for them.
To tell you where I'm at - I buy both. I love jewellery and LOVE the material diamond so laboratory-grown diamonds open up a world of 'diamond jewellery' to me that I could not afford otherwise. As someone willing to put money into multiple pieces of jewellery for fun - it works for me. So yeah, I've bought laboratory-grown diamonds and I intend to buy more. In a way, I'm not fussed by them - I do it purely for the beauty as durability. It's funny how knowing the truth about something, such as its natural/laboratory-grown origin makes you see something in a different light.
It It's important to note that I do also use all my pieces for my teaching so, in a way, I do make money off the pieces I buy despite them individually loosing value. Also, I buy laboratory-grown diamonds at wholesale price so it's not too much of a financial ask for me at this time for stones that weigh 2ct and under. When it comes to my future engagement ring, I would like go natural. With all my other rings, it has to be special somehow, right? Honestly - high quality diamonds represent the best of nature. This perfection astounds me and I would be honoured to possess such a piece.
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