Dueling Diamonds

Natural diamonds have a “new” rival.

By: Colton Bartel

For centuries, diamonds have been a symbol of wealth and status, some calling them the most valuable of all things in this world. Royal families have passed them on to their heirs as symbols of power, they are tradition to give as a symbol of commitment and love and now there is a new competitor for its spot on the top: lab-grown diamonds!

Yes, I said lab grown. Lab grown, or synthetic, diamonds are actually not a new thing. In fact, the first diamonds to be synthesized made their appearance in the mid-1950s. The problems at that time were the cost of production, poor atmospheric control and, well, it just took months to grow them. Just like anything else, technology has improved and has now made lab-grown stones a viable and cost-effective practice.

With diamond deposits being depleted and the world as a whole becoming more conscious of the environment, the timing for lab-grown diamonds couldn’t have been more perfect. This millennial generation not only loves technology, but is increasingly more aware of protecting our natural surroundings.

Many want to continue with tradition and seal the deal with their loved ones using diamond jewelry, but usually have some reservations because of an eco-friendly mindset. Lately, those millennials are asking for other synthetic diamond simulants like moissanite and cubic zirconia (CZ) to avoid buying a natural diamond.

The drawback with both of these options is simple: They aren’t diamonds, and though they may look similar, they just don’t have the same exact appeal or look. On top of that, few people are proud to show off their CZ or moissanite ring because they know that it’s just not “real” and don’t want to admit it. So exactly how do lab-grown diamonds fix this problem? The answer is simpler than you would think.

Lab-grown diamonds are actually diamonds. They aren’t CZ or any other simulant; they are in absolutely, every manner, diamonds! Stones produced in a lab exhibit identical properties of their natural counterpart with only one difference: location. Obviously, natural stones are mined out of the earth, while lab-grown stones are just that: grown in a lab. The elements used in the growth process are the exact same as natural and result in identical, crystal structure, optical, density and hardness properties.

At one time, there was a way to separate natural from lab-grown diamonds using magnification and UV light. However, growers have refined the process so well that the diamonds can only be separated now by certain diamond labs like GIA.

Prior to this new wave of stones, lab-grown diamonds traditionally were not very white and most often were tinted with brown or yellow due to nitrogen in the atmosphere and how difficult it was to keep it out of the growing process. Growers now have all but entirely eliminated the color in many of the stones they produce, and therefore are able to offer D, E and F color stones (D-F grades are considered colorless). Another improvement was the near elimination of inclusions and fluorescence, which were the factors used to most easily separate natural and lab stones.

Though all of these factors are well and good, the biggest improvement was growing time. Early stones took months to grow and usually were still quite small. Now stones over two carats are common. Not only does this speed equate to larger stones and more production, but also the reduction of costs, which is reflected all the way to the consumer.

Our store has had the privilege of being one of the first in the country to offer these new lab-grown diamonds, and what we noticed right away was their affordability. If all things are equal, lab grown stones now average about half the price of natural diamonds! Never has something like this happened before in the diamond industry. Not only are they half the price, but many are cut better than most of the natural diamonds in the market today, making them look even more beautiful. Most of the lab-grown diamonds that we carry are actually Super Ideal cuts.

So you may be asking, “What is the drawback here?” We really can’t think of one! It’s required that these stones be sold as “lab grown,” but other than that, everything about them is diamond. No more embarrassment when talking to your friends about your engagement ring being CZ or moissanite. Instead, you can show off a bigger and more beautiful diamond, and be proud to do so!

Colton Bartel, G.G., A.J.P., is a 2007 GIA graduate gemologist and accredited jewelry professional in residence, as well as jewelry designer for Susann’s Custom Jewelers. For more information or to see lab-grown diamonds, please contact Bartel at 361-991-7565, visit Susann’s online at www.susanns-jewelers.com or on Facebook or stop by 4254 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas

Photos courtesy of Colton Bartel and GIA