Marilyn may have had that last part right! We agree: diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. But diamonds can be pricey (for good reason, as we’ll outline below!) Their alternative, lab-grown diamonds, can be a good option, but it really depends on what you want to get out of your jewellery piece.
First, let’s look at why diamonds are priced the way they are in the first place.
Diamonds: why the high price?
The high price of mined natural diamonds is due to a few factors:
- Diamonds are a limited natural resource that takes billions of years to form, and diamond production is decreasing as mines essentially run out of diamonds to mine;
- They’re a finite natural resource, and one that is highly coveted (we can thank the famous ‘A Diamond is Forever’ campaign by De Beers for pushing up consumer demand for diamonds in the mid 20th century. The logic of supply and demand determines their price.
- Mining diamonds is an enormously expensive business: all the specialised equipment, the workforce and the processing involved in extracting diamonds from rough.
What are lab-grown diamonds and are they ‘real diamonds’?
Lab-grown diamonds are just that: they are, for all intents and purposes, real diamonds, except for the fact that they are grown in a lab instead of mined from the earth. Lab-grown diamonds share the same properties as natural diamonds: the same chemical properties, weight and hardness.
There is a very small chemical difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds however: a tiny amount of nitrogen exists in lab-grown diamonds whereas this is not the case in natural diamonds.
You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a naturally grown diamond with the naked eye. However, a trained gemologist, using specialised equipment, could discern between the two, by looking at the slight differences between the chemical stuctures in each.
How to decide whether lab-grown or natural diamonds are better for your jewellery piece?
It comes down to what your requirements are when looking for a new item of jewellery: investing in a piece that retains value in the long term, or achieving a similar look, but at an initially lower entry price.
Here are some considerations that will help you weigh up your decision between lab-grown and natural diamonds:
You will always have a more valuable piece of jewellery when you invest in a natural diamond. This is because stock in natural diamonds is finite: what’s currently on earth and in the ground is all we’re going ever to have.
Generally, natural diamonds retain about half of their original value after purchase, whereas lab-grown diamonds retain far less value if any. Why? Because lab-grown diamonds can be created in the lab in just weeks, whereas natural diamonds take billions of years to form naturally.
Entry prices for lab-grown diamonds can be up to 40% less dear than natural diamonds. The supply of lab-grown diamonds is actually increasing, pushing the price even further down. In other words, a lab-grown diamond that might cost you $1,000 today will likely cost much less than that in a few years’ time.
If future resale value isn’t as important to you, lab-grown diamonds may be an attractive option if you have a smaller budget for your fine jewellery.
Natural diamonds are more expensive but remember, they retain their value (and sometimes grow in value) over time.
Ethical and Environmental Concerns
This can be a tricky area to navigate.
Ethics-wise, on the one hand, naturally mined diamonds have historically had a reputation for funding conflicts in areas where they’re mined.
On the other hand, efforts are being made to make the mining of diamonds more ethical. There are benefits to supporting the natural diamond industry as well, as many workers in less developed countries rely on consumers of fine jewellery for their livelihoods. Leading diamond miners such as Rio Tinto and De Beers have social investment programs that inject much-needed funding into the economies where they mine diamonds.
Environmentally, lab-grown diamonds don’t cause the same level of impact on the environment as natural diamonds do. However, improvements are being made by the natural diamond mining industry to lessen the environmental impact of mining.
De Beers developed CarbonVaultTM, a research programme that aims to capture and store carbon in their mining operations.
Ultimately, the choice between natural and lab-grown diamonds is a personal one and one to make when you weigh up what’s important to you.
Which do we work with?
We work with both natural and lab-grown diamonds, and can help you make the decision on what’s best for your jewellery piece. Get in touch with us to talk through your piece.