Sustainable Stunners: Pros and Cons of Lab-Grown Diamonds

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By Dan Decker

Place a natural diamond engagement ring beside a lab-grown diamond ring, and it’s unlikely anyone could differentiate at a glance between the two — even though one spent a millennium underground before mining, and the other took mere weeks to go from formation to jewelry case. There are many differences between these two types of diamonds — from composition and price and a myriad of ethical and environmental factors — and a lot of confusion as well.

While lab-grown diamonds can be more sustainable and affordable than natural options, many couples may hesitate to make the switch. There is something to be said about the one-of-a-kind aspect of a stone that’s been forged in the earth’s core — that’s what has made these stones so rare and valuable throughout history.

Does your commitment to sustainability have you trying to decide if a lab-grown diamond is right for you? Let’s review some of the pros and cons of these stones to help you decide.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Lab-grown diamonds are produced in a controlled environment.

Pro: While much has been done to offset the impact of diamond mining, from building schools and medical facilities to remediating environmental impacts, roughly 200 to 250 tons of earth must be mined and sifted through to find 1 carat of diamond — not to mention the water and fossil fuels required to complete the job. The process of growing diamonds does not have the same environmental impact as mining. In fact, the only resource used is electricity — which can come from renewable sources. For many, this is one of the primary selling points when it comes to the lab-grown diamond.

Con: The amount of energy that is required to create lab-grown diamonds is immense. Although many vendors are working to use alternative energy whenever possible, energy from the grid is still used and unfortunately impacts the carbon footprint required to grow these stones.

Lab-grown diamonds are less expensive than similar mined diamonds.

Pro: Due to the way a lab-grown diamond is produced, the cost can be 20 to 40 percent less than a similar mined diamond. In most instances, you can upgrade your clarity, color or maybe even the size of your diamond when you select a lab-grown diamond over a mined one.

Con: Although a lab-grown diamond typically does cost less and you get more bang for your buck, it is hard to say how the future will treat the value of these stones. As the technology gets better and more production chambers are required, the value of lab-grown diamonds may increase, stay the same or possibly decrease.

Lab-grown diamonds are not fake.

We must address the misconception that lab-grown diamonds are simulants or not “real diamonds.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. You may have also heard the term synthetic diamond and assumed this means fake. Actually, synthetic simply refers to the fact that these diamonds are man-made in a controlled environment.

A lab-grown diamond looks just like its mined counterpart. Photo: Robbins Brothers E3 Collection

Pro: There is no chemical, physical or optical difference between a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond. There is, however, a difference in where they are formed. Lab-grown diamonds are formed in a controlled environment in a lab instead of in the ground. It takes the same amount of time to create a diamond crystal in both situations, but a mined diamond takes millions of years to reach the surface through volcanic eruptions. The bottom line is that a lab-grown diamond exhibits the same exceptional beauty and brilliance as a mined diamond because it is identical in composition to a mined diamond — that’s right, identical. Not similar. Not a simulation. Not a fake.

Con: There are a lot of jewelers that do not carry lab-grown diamonds or do not have the ability to have lab-grown diamonds in their inventory — and they will argue that these are not diamonds. You may also find people who believe it’s wrong to choose a diamond that was grown in a lab instead of in nature since it goes against tradition. This is the “love is natural, shouldn’t your diamond be?” argument.

Lab-grown diamonds are all different and unique.

Since lab-grown diamonds are created by reproducing some of the same conditions that mined diamonds are exposed to, the product results in unique qualities with broad ranges in color and clarity, just like natural mined diamonds.

Pro: We find that since the conditions in which a lab-grown diamond are produced are controlled, lab-grown diamonds generally have fewer impurities, which produce high clarity grades. A reputable diamond buyer will look at each diamond for color and clarity, but just like with a mined diamond, it still lies in the hands of a skilled diamond cutter to bring out the fire, sparkle and scintillation, so cutters will focus in on the visual beauty of the diamond as well.

Con: Because a lab-grown diamond can have the same types of impurities as a natural diamond, and the beauty and brilliance of the diamond is determined by the diamond cutter’s skill, you need to see the diamonds in person to ensure you are getting a visually stunning diamond.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether a lab-grown diamond is right for you. If you’re drawn to the romance and history of a natural stone, a re-cut or pre-owned diamond can also offer a more sustainable option. Your best bet? Look at both types of diamonds, consider the pros and cons of each, and choose the one that you’ll feel comfortable wearing for the rest of your life.

Author bio: Dan Decker is the customer care manager for Robbins Brothers. With nearly 20 years at the company, he has helped thousands of customers through the engagement process, developing a deep understanding of the technical and emotional aspects of picking the perfect ring.

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