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  • Writer's pictureValerieBound

Diamonds grown in a lab – do you care?

Lately, I have been sitting on the sidelines watching everyone in the the jewelry industry completely freak out! Why are they so riled up, you ask? Well, De Beers (worldwide diamond cartel) said they’re going to be selling lab grown diamonds. What???!!! To be fair, this announcement is HUGE. Anytime De Beers says they’re going to make a move, they’re big enough that you want to be paying attention. With their resources, they can completely take over or disrupt things. So let’s break down this diamonds from a lab thing and see if it’s the big deal that everyone is making it out to be.

Here we go.

Blame the Millennials

Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds. Everyone has one, YOU probably have one. It’s probably the stone in your wedding ring, if you’re a married lady. But that’s changing. Diamond sales have been declining for years. I have several friends who have not chosen a diamond for their wedding ring. And it was done very deliberately. Everyone has been blaming the millennials (those pesky 18 to 34 year olds). People say they’re not getting married as much, and when they do, they’re older. They also value experiences more than things.

People not buying diamonds is a big deal for De Beers, and anyone else who sells diamonds. Remember that they need to create demand for their product.

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So why move into diamonds from a lab? Turns out they’re much more affordable for the consumer, and the consumer these days is cheap individual (sorry, millennials, my research says you save your dollars for tech, not jewelry).

Oh, the hypocrisy!

The reason I find all this so laughable is because De Beers has been completely and totally AGAINST lab grown diamonds for YEARS! They were the people saying lab grown diamonds weren’t the real thing, and that your diamond wasn’t as valuable unless it came from a mine. Recall that just two short years ago, De Beers launched their “Real is Rare” campaign. This campaign was a big resource investment for De Beers, apparently they got feedback from 75,000 millennials.

The campaign still seems to be going strong. Just this month, one of my magazines had an ad from the Real is Rare campaign. Here’s the text:

Karen & Robson have been together for eight years. Her diamond has spent two billion years beneath the earth’s surface and two years on her finger. Real is Rare. Real is a diamond.

<img class=" wp-image-4507 lazyload" src="" alt="Another example from the &quot;Real is Rare&quot; campaign" width="386" height="500" srcset=" 612w, 232w" sizes="(max-width: 386px) 100vw, 386px" /> Another example from the “Real is Rare” campaign

The campaign even has its own website – – which I find fascinating. The website has no mention anywhere of De Beers and is largely filled with stories about Hollywood folks wearing diamonds, why you need a diamond for your next event, and basically how diamonds are perfect for everything. Going on a picnic? Don’t forget your diamonds!

So right now you have two campaigns – one that says diamonds are real and rare, and the other that wants you to buy their cheaper diamonds from the lab. Hmm……….. I’m confused.

Lab Diamonds are not new

The jewelry industry prefers the term “synthetic diamonds.” Saying something is lab-grown just doesn’t convey the same mystique. Even though lab grown diamonds have been around since the 1940’s, they haven’t had an easy road. The first lab diamonds were small. Tiny. Not big enough for jewelry.

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Small diamonds have been used in industry for quite a while. Because they are so hard, little tiny bits of diamonds are used in cutting, polishing, and drilling tools. And in sound systems, because they can vibrate at high speeds without breaking or affecting sound quality.

Good quality synthetic diamonds for jewelry have been around since the late 1980’s. But they have never really caught on in a big way with the public. Even now, it’s estimated they make up only 1% of all diamonds sold! However, today a lot of people are concerned about the ethics of mining diamonds. The fact that miners work under poor conditions, that children are working in mines, the environmental impacts of mining, and blood diamonds that are used to fund wars…. All that stuff you hear about in the news registers with consumers. You don’t need to mine diamonds if you can make them in a lab. And guess what? It’s a lot cheaper too!

<img class=" wp-image-4520 lazyload" src="" alt="blood diamonds" width="376" height="501" srcset=" 800w, 225w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 376px) 100vw, 376px" /> This cover story was only three years ago, showing that all the issues around diamond mining are still very present.

What’s so special about these lab diamonds?

You probably didn’t realize (I sure didn’t!) that De Beers has been making their own synthetic diamonds for years now. They are actually the world’s leading producer of synthetic diamonds for industry. Who knew?! Apparently they want to stay on top of the differences between natural and synthetic diamonds. I guess they figure it helps them tell consumers if they’re buying a real diamond from a mine, or a fake one grown in a lab!

I should point out here that lab grown diamonds are chemically identical to mined diamonds. Diamonds are pure carbon, whether they are synthetic or natural. They’re not moissanite or cubic zirconia or other diamond imitations. How they make them is actually very similar to how they make cultured pearls. With pearls, you put a piece of grit in an oyster, and a pearl grows around it. With diamonds, you start with a baby carbon seed, superheat it, and voila! Ten weeks later, you have a diamond! And yes, you can tell slight differences when you put the diamond under a microscope, but the average person would have no idea.

De Beers’ new company is Lightbox. The diamonds will have a laser inscribed logo (invisible to the naked eye). They are being marketed as affordable and fun, something to wear every day!

<img class="wp-image-4528 lazyload" src="" alt="Lightbox diamonds" width="500" height="426" srcset=" 900w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> Lightbox ad featuring their affordability

Even though I believe diamonds look best when they’re colorless, I do think the Lightbox ones are pretty!

<img class=" wp-image-4530 lazyload" src="" alt="Lab-grown diamonds from Lightbox" width="501" height="282" srcset=" 1280w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 1080w" sizes="(max-width: 501px) 100vw, 501px" /> Lab-grown diamonds from Lightbox

If you can’t tell the difference……

This whole debate about whether synthetic diamonds are less valuable reminds me of cultured pearls versus natural pearls. They’re both real pearls. Again, chemically identical. Or think of plants. Roses, for example. You have roses that grow in the wild, and roses that are cultivated in a greenhouse. And They’re both still roses.

It’s all about how things are marketed, and how things are perceived, because that will determine how much people will pay. Right now, these Lightbox diamonds are being marketed for your daughter’s sweet sixteen, or as a graduation gift. They’re targeting the $1000 and under gifting folks. So, not your wedding ring. For that, you need a real diamond. You know, one from the earth.

Check out this text directly from the Lightbox website:

Lab-grown diamonds share the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as rare, natural diamonds. But the process needed to create them is different from nature, so while they are neither as valuable or precious, they are just as sparkly.

I take issue with the line about how they “are neither as valuable or precious.” That’s may be what De Beers wants you to believe, but ultimately it’s up to consumers to decide.

Demand for lab-grown diamonds has gone up, and that trend is expected to continue. De Beers wants to get in on that action, but still wants to keep the market strong for mine diamonds. In my view, they want to have it both ways.

What about you?

I personally do not care if my diamond came from a lab or a mine. It’s a diamond. Sparkly and beautiful, just as it should be. I would buy a lab diamond in a heartbeat and not feel like I was getting something “less than.”

But jewelry is very personal to everyone. What about you? Would you buy a lab grown diamond? Would you want it to be cheaper? Let me know in the comments.


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