When it comes to comparing earth mined diamonds and lab grown diamonds, many earth mined diamond jewelers and industry professionals incorrectly report the "differences" between the two products. In reality, they’re nearly identical, with the primary differences being origin and cost. We're debunking 5 myths when comparing earth-mined diamonds and lab grown diamonds to clarify the common misconceptions within the diamond industry.
Myth 1: Earth Mined Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds have Different Emotional Values
“For life’s most important moments, only something real, rare and precious will do, whether it’s a gift for oneself or a loved one.” (Harper's Bazaar)
Getting engaged is such a special moment in any relationship, and receiving your dream engagement ring is often a crucial part of that. For many individuals, the impact of their choices is very important to them, and they prefer to choose a ring or diamond that is totally conflict-free and has a better overall impact on the world we live in. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, millennials, in particular, are asking the important questions when it comes to purchasing engagement rings, such as “are they the so called “blood diamonds,” produced with child labor? Do their profits subsidize wars and terrorists? And what about the tons of earth that have to be moved and massive craters bored to get at them?” The San Francisco Chronicle says that as millennials approach the age of engagement and marriage, they are demanding answers to those questions. Socially conscious, they insist on knowing the provenance of what they eat and wear, and how it’s made. The way the diamond or engagement ring was created in no way reflects the love and commitment between a couple. If anything, it would make the experience that much more meaningful knowing that there are no negative effects of the engagement ring.
Myth 2: Earth Mined Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds have Different Financial Values
“The increasing rarity of natural diamonds and growing demand will protect the financial value of natural diamonds over the long-term.” (Harper's Bazaar)
Generally, lab grown diamonds cost up to approximately 40% less than their earth mined diamond equivalent. However, if you’re purchasing lab grown diamonds for a few hundred dollars a carat, it’s most likely that they are not lab grown diamonds, but another stone such as cubic zirconia. The average 1.0 carat lab created diamond should range between $2,500-$4,500. Many critics will say the lab grown diamond market is oversaturated with companies and variety of stones, but the demand for ethical diamond alternatives is strong right now. Customers desire the less expensive, ethical, conflict free alternative. They want the option that provides them with the best value, peace of mind, and beauty.
Myth 3: Earth Mined Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds are Actually Different Products
“The quick, artificial growth process of LGDs leaves marks and defects inside the stone. They often need to be treated for color to correct distortions created during the industrial production process.” (Harper's Bazaar)
In response to the critique regarding the ‘artificial growth process’ of laboratory-grown diamonds, this process just replicates the earth’s process. When we spoke with Tom Chatham, the former CEO of Chatham Created Gems, he said that "the crystal growth is not based on any living or organic process but is governed by the laws of chemistry, most of which we have no control over. The organization of atoms into a single crystal is a natural act, unassisted by man, outside of creating the environment under which it will hopefully take place. There is a natural attraction of atoms under certain conditions. If those conditions are not in this preordained corridor of natural law, nothing happens, or something happens you don't want. Bottom line here is this: Man does not assemble the atomic structure of any gemstone, but creates the proper environment in which natural chemistry works."
Earth mined diamonds have imperfections, as do lab grown diamonds. It is part of what makes each stone unique. We do not create the inclusions, they are present as part of the growth process. The lab grown diamond would be far less realistic if these characteristics were missing. Regarding being treated for color to correct distortions, it's common knowledge that earth-mined diamonds are regularly treated to change color and to improve natural inclusions. Regarding how both types of diamonds are graded, lab-grown diamonds and earth-mined diamonds are graded the exact same way and with the same grading scale.
Myth 4: Earth Mined Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds have Different Environmental Impacts
“The negative environmental impact of lab grown diamonds is significant. Unlike natural diamonds, which were created under natural heat and pressure over billions of years, laboratory grown diamond manufacturing requires the use of massive amounts of energy over just a few weeks.” (Harper's Bazaar)
The environmental impact of manufacturing and producing lab grown diamonds is significantly less than the impact of earth mined diamonds, purely down to the accessibility of creating them, the lesser amount of water usage and air pollution, and the fact that they are completely free of any negative humanitarian impacts. According to The Greener Diamond, in order to find a simple 1.0ct earth mined diamond, nearly 1,750 tons of earth needs to be extracted. In 1920, the average diamond center stone size for an engagement ring was 0.30ct. In today’s market, that average has jumped up to a 1.25ct diamond center stone. According to the 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment by Frost and Sullivan, the water needed to create lab grown diamonds is 7 x less than the water needed to excavate earth mined diamonds; 70 liters per carat for lab-grown versus 480 liters per carat for earth mined. Additionally for air pollution, lab grown diamonds produce 0.028 grams of carbon emissions per carat, whereas earth mined diamonds produce 37,000 grams per carat.
Myth 5: Earth Mined Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds have Different Origins
“The supply of retrievable diamonds is limited to a very small, discrete number of remote locations, including Siberia and the Northwest Territories of Canada. On the other hand, the majority of lab grown diamonds are created in factories in India and China.” (Harper's Bazaar)
Lab grown diamond manufacturers can create headquarters or production plants anywhere in the world. Meaning, they can avoid areas of controversy such as Sierra Leone or Liberia where diamond mining is a huge issue. To mine diamonds, you go where the diamonds are. These areas are getting hit so hard with extraction, and by the time those mined diamonds get to the consumers, they have touched so many hands the point of origin becomes fuzzy.
TIME.com recently wrote an article discussing blood diamonds and the trade of earth mined diamonds before they even reach the customer's hands. In regards to specific practices in high production mining sites like the Congo, "diamond industry experts like to say a packet of diamonds will change hands on average eight to ten times between the country of export and its final destination. The reality is that diamonds from the mines outside Tshikapa (the Congo) are likely to change hands eight to ten times before they even leave the province for the capital, Kinshasa, the only place where Congolese diamonds can be certified for export. Kindamba’s diamonds will be sold at least twice before they reach a licensed buyer where a representative from the Ministry of Mines can assess the value and furnish the official form required to obtain the Kimberley certificate. On the line noting the location of the mine, it will simply say Tshikapa."
At MiaDonna, we disclose the origin of every lab grown diamond sold.
There will always be controversy and disagreements when comparing lab grown diamonds and earth-mined diamonds, but ultimately, it comes down to the buyer’s (and wearer’s!) preferences and personal opinions. We are the early adopters of lab grown diamonds and we paved the way for the industry to shift towards creating lab grown diamonds and we like to believe everyone has access to knowledge to make an informed decision themselves. We at MiaDonna are always happy to discuss and answer questions regarding lab grown diamonds! Learn more about lab grown diamonds.