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Lab-Grown Diamonds versus Natural Diamonds: Why 64Facets will always be committed to Natural Diamonds

Andrea Garcia-Ochoa Lee

Posted on September 07 2018

 

Last month in July 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their guidelines on jewelry and gemstones, known simply as “the guides”, for the first time in over 20 years.

The updated definition of diamonds, that now excludes the key term “natural”, has caused waves across the industry. Many have now interpreted this ruling to be a victory for lab-grown diamond producers, as being naturally produced is no longer considered a precondition for qualifying a diamond. However, a closer look at the updated guides suggests that lab-grown brands’ celebrations may be precipitous - lab-grown diamonds are required to explicitly state to consumers that they are manmade.

Whilst the ruling has reinvigorated the long-standing debate about whether lab-grown diamonds should be considered of the same standing as natural diamonds, 64Facets remains exclusively devoted to natural mined diamonds. This commitment derives from our unwavering belief that the beauty of a diamond ultimately lies in their earthly inception.

 

What are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

It’s helpful to know what diamonds really are to understand what a lab-grown diamond is trying to replicate. As the name would suggest, lab-grown diamonds, or cultured diamonds, are diamonds that have been produced in laboratories that mimic natural conditions to produce man-made diamonds. In simple terms, using a vacuum chamber, hydrogen gas, and 3000°C degrees, carbon atoms are deposited onto a seed to reproduce a diamond’s unique crystal structure. Although they have been around since 1953, it’s only been in recent years that brands have started to embrace lab-grown diamonds for jewelry purposes. Some of key lab-grown diamond jewelry brands include MiaDonna, Brilliant Earth, and Orro. Industry leaders De Beers also just launched their new lab-grown diamond fashion jewelry line Lightbox in May this year.

 

What’s the difference between a Natural and Lab-Grown Diamond?

First and most obviously, there’s the difference in production. Natural diamonds can take 3 billion years to form, whilst a lab-grown diamond can now be produced in a week or two. In terms of physical scientific quality, there is arguably very little distinction. It currently takes a £10,000 piece of specialized equipment to differentiate between a lab-grown diamond from its a natural equivalent. That being said, technological progress is likely to make this machinery far cheaper and more accessible in the future. Lastly, there’s the difference in price. Currently,  – lab-grown diamonds producers are pricing their diamonds at are roughly 30% to 40% cheaper than their natural diamonds counterparts. However, it’s worth noting that De Beers’  have set the prices for their Lightbox line even cheaper, with their cheapest piece priced at only $200 for a 0.25 ct diamond. This indicates that the lab-grown diamond industry is likely to see its prices decline in future and that high-end jewelers do not perceive lab grown diamonds as valuable.


So, what exactly did the FTC determine last month and what does it mean?

Whilst previously the FTC’s original definition of the diamond was “a natural mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system”, they have now chosen to remove the term “natural”. This indirectly suggests that the organization has now deemed that lab-grown diamonds to constitute real diamonds.  

However, whilst it’s this aspect the ruling that has made most of the headlines, an arguably more important change to the guidelines has been largely ignored. Although lab-grown diamond companies can now use terms such as ‘cultured’ to describe their diamonds, they are fundamentally still required to disclose that their diamonds are man-made. Lab-grown diamond brands must qualify their products as synthetically produced.

Hence, at 64Facets, we welcome these new guidelines - they’re important in ensuring that consumers are not misguided when purchasing diamond jewelry. By forcing lab-grown diamond companies to explicit distinguish themselves as man-made, consumers have clearer information to make an informed decision regarding what kind of product they want.

Uncut natural diamonds being inspected in 64Facets’ diamond cutting facility in Surat, India.


How are established mined diamond companies responding to the development of Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Currently, lab-grown diamonds only take up 1% of annual diamond sales, but this is forecast to rise in the future. Morgan Stanley have predicted that by 2020, lab-grown diamonds could count for up to 15% of the market. These forecasts have fuelled media reports that the traditional, mined diamond industry has been agitated by a new challenger, and even that some of the industry’s key players are starting to be persuaded. In particular, De Beers’ move to launch the Lightbox collection was widely reported as a sign that the industry’s biggest name was feeling the heat from lab-grown diamonds. However, in a letter to shareholders, De Beers have clarified their position against this speculation. Considering that “consumers see LGDs as pretty, fun products that are most appealing in fashion jewelry and at a price in line with other products in this part of the jewellery sector”, their new line will firmly demarcate lab-grown diamonds within the realm of fashion, not fine, jewelry. Hence, this savvy move is set to depress lab-grown diamond prices and firmly distinguish these pieces from the natural diamonds product category.


Can natural diamonds be as ethical as lab-grown diamonds?

Absolutely - contrary to popular belief, there is more accountability in the mined diamond industry than ever and this is only set to increase with the help of new technologies. In fact, less than 4% of all diamonds in the world currently are blood diamonds. Particularly since the adoption of the United Nations’ Kimberley Process Certification Scheme fifteen years ago, diamond mining has become one of most carefully regulated and monitored mining industries. It quite simply isn’t the case that natural diamonds are any less ethical than lab-grown diamonds.

At 64Facets, we only buy our rough diamonds directly from the Diamond Trading Company in Antwerp and never with private traders, unlike most brands that buy their diamonds pre-cut from middlemen. This means we never run the risk of using blood diamonds that may have become mixed in with their ethical counterparts. In addition, our vertically integrated supply chain ensures that all elements of the creation process for our pieces are done in-house. This structure enables us to set competitive prices for consumers whilst maintaining an exceptionally high level of transparency.

 

A pit at the Premier Mine, Cullinan, Gauteng, South Africa. By Paul Parsons.


Should I consider buying a lab-grown diamond?

This depends on what kind of jewelry you are looking for and what you hope to gain from it over time. Unlike natural diamonds, the value of lab-grown diamonds is highly unlikely to appreciate or even hold over time, due to their ability to be mass produced. We predict that lab-grown diamonds will add a new dimension to the fashion jewelry market by providing a high-quality gem, but they are simply not the in the same product category as fine jewelry. De Beers’ market research also found that lab-grown diamonds generally tend to be considered “least appropriate for meaningful occasions”. So if you’re looking for a fine jewelry piece that is more valuable and special, you will want to buy natural diamonds. However, if you’re looking for a great non-investment piece to add to a fun and casual collection, lab-grown diamonds are a good option to consider.


Why will 64Facets never consider using Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Since 2009, 64Facets have integrated backwards to ensure that we only ever work with rough and hence natural diamonds. This is because we believe that whilst almost any stone can sparkle, the true beauty of a diamond lies in the natural process of its creation. It is only this billion-years-old geological process that occurs instinctively within the earth, beyond the influence of mankind, that can produce a perfect diamond, with a natural glow coming from within. This beautiful glow takes more than the four Cs to be achieved; it can only be produced by the unique nature of the mine that each diamond comes from, and simply cannot be replicated in a lab. Thus, for 64Facets, the only diamond is a natural diamond.

 

64Facets’ Scallop Collection Luxury Diamond Ring.


 

Click here to find out more about what a diamond is.

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