What is a diamond?
Diamonds are a mineral composed of pure carbon. They are generally naturally created by high heat and pressure which are then transferred to the Earth's surface through volcanic eruptions and have the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any known natural material.
The cut of a diamond is one of the '4 Cs' that contributes to it's value. A well cut diamond (ideal cut) allows light to enter and pass back through and exit without allowing much of it to escape through the back of the stone giving it the classic sparkle and brilliance that diamonds are known for, making them unsurpassed as gems. Clarity, Carat weight and Colour are the remaining Cs that determine its value.
For centuries diamonds have been a symbol of status and wealth and, still today, it’s accepted that diamonds have substantial value. Consumers continuously wanting to own and wear diamonds have created a market where prices remain steady and, apart from the odd economic blip, continue to rise.
Simulated diamonds (stones that look like diamonds, Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite etc.) have been around for some time, but man has never really managed to crack the recipe to produce a true stone until now. Advancements in technology mean that, where diamonds were previously only mined or sourced from river beds etc, they can now successfully be grown in a lab from a donor seed of another diamond and the process is so good, that the only way to determine the difference between a lab grown and natural stone is by the use of specialist equipment.
The whole subject of whether lab grown diamonds are environmentally friendly is debateable due to the amount of energy consumed in producing the stones, but it's safe to say that the notion that they are 'conflict free' is confidently true.
Why pay more for a diamond when you can get an equivalent or better stone for less money?
This is where the subject of clever marketing comes back in to play as the diamond industry has built up a pretty good desire for diamonds amongst consumers over the years. Popular songs have been written and jingles have been played in adverts for decades, all helping to convince men and women that a diamond is forever and that all engagement rings should contain a diamond, or that two months wages is the amount that should be paid for a diamond ring. But, times are changing and so are the ways that consumers 'feel' about diamonds.
You'll always get the market full of people that think only natural stones are 'true' diamonds but, at the other end of the scale is the new consumer that see lab created diamonds as equal in all respects and that they can have better quality without compromising on quality at a cheaper price.
Not everyone can afford the real thing in many aspects, especially jewellery, and many don't value brand labels or feel the need to be seen in the latest 'Pandiffany' or 'Trollbo' when a cheaper version is just as good and quite probably made in the same factory under a different name. Diamonds fall under this ideology also, so I think we can assume that lab grown diamonds are here to stay.
How do we see the value of lab created diamonds in the future and how will it affect sales of natural diamonds?
Only time will tell on this; as technology advances further and lab created stones become easier and faster to create, in theory, they should become even cheaper and that, in turn could have an impact on natural stones making them cheaper to compete with lab created. There's no way of knowing how low they can go but, if you buy a stone for it's beauty and sentiment, that shouldn't worry you too much anyway.
Buying diamonds and jewellery is a very personal and intimate choice and there is no right or wrong approach whether it has a natural or lab created stone in it, your happiness is the only important aspect.
Author: Alan Hardwick
The Guild of Jewellery Designers