If you’re ring shopping, you might find that the options – and price ranges – for diamond jewelry are dizzying. The color, carat, clarity, and cut of the gem can all affect significantly affect the price. To add to this, conventional wisdom says that you should look to spend at least three months’ salary on the stone.
Increasingly common on the market, lab-grown or synthetic diamonds are perfect replicas of nature’s diamonds, but they’re grown in a laboratory instead of being mined from the earth. Furthermore, as they are 20-40% cheaper than natural diamonds, they might help you get the ring you want without having to break the bank.
These are materials that mimic the look of a diamond but are not diamonds. These stones will probably be cubic zirconia or moissanite, both of which have their own chemical composition that doesn’t match real diamonds. While these options are economical, anyone with a sharp eye can tell them apart from the real thing and they may not wear as well as a real diamond. They do have that diamond sparkle, but if you’re looking for a diamond, a simulant is not it.
These artificially created diamonds are both chemically and visually indistinguishable from the real thing – even a jeweler would need to use specialized equipment to tell the difference. While they’re less expensive than natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds in exotic colors can be especially economical: some colors that are hard to find in nature are easy to create in a lab, making for a steep price difference.
These are the diamonds that you think of when you hear the word diamonds. They’re created by nature and are mined from the earth in a variety of sizes, colors, and qualities.
The seller should clearly tell you what they’re offering. Simulant diamonds will be labeled as the type of stone that they are, and you might be able to tell the difference yourself if you know what to look for.
While lab-created and mined diamonds don’t have the same visual differentiation, any reputable seller should still clearly identify the diamond’s origin. If you’re not entirely sure, ask what kind of diamond you’re looking at and ask to see some certification too.
The US gem industry has safeguards to ensure that the diamonds being sold in the country are not blood diamonds. However, the non-conflict certification process has been criticized as ineffective, and can still allow for diamonds that fund war crimes or human rights abuses.
Therefore, as a result, some jewelers have begun selling “ethical” diamonds ensuring that the workers were compensated fairly and that the environment wasn’t harmed by their mining. However, this term and certification is not yet standardized across the industry, so it might not mean much.
However, buying a lab-created diamond completely avoids this ethical quagmire. No lab-created diamonds are blood diamonds and, for those who are concerned about the environment, they don’t have the negative environmental impact that mining for real diamonds has.
Lab-diamonds, as has already been mentioned, are indistinguishable from real diamonds, cheaper and have not funded conflict. So that leaves one huge question: Why wouldn’t you want to buy a lab-created diamond? There are a few reasons why a man-made diamond might not be the right choice for you, both practical and sentimental.
Size: Synthetic diamonds come in a range of sizes, but you cannot yet get them in the variety of sizes that you can get a mined diamond. Synthetic stones usually go up to about 1.5 carats, though you can sometimes find them larger for a cost.
Color: Natural diamonds come in a wide range of colors, beyond white, including yellow, blue, purple, green, pink, red, and orange. While some of these colors are rarer – and thus more expensive – many simply don’t exist in synthetic diamonds. Blue, yellow, and pink are common colors in synthetic diamonds and are likely to be less expensive than their mined counterparts, but other colors are harder or impossible to find.
The “romance” factor: There’s a sentimental factor to buying a natural diamond that could be millions of years old, and it might just not feel the same to buy a loved one a diamond that was grown in a lab just a few months before.
What you decide to buy really comes down to what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to pay. If you’re aiming for something economical, a synthetic diamond can be a great buy as long as they’re available in the color and size that you’re interested in. However, if the style you’re looking for isn’t available synthetically, a natural diamond is probably your only option. Still, with the variety available in man-made diamonds, there’s a very good chance that you will be able to find something to suit if you cannot afford a natural diamond.
Diamonds - especially high-end ones - are something you will want to see in person before you buy. So, the first step to buying the right stone should be calling around your local jewelers to see which ones offer what you're looking for, whether it's man-made, ethical, or natural.
If you're having difficulty finding synthetic gems locally, you can usually buy them directly from the manufacturer, or contact them to find the dealer closest to you.