Lab grown diamonds: an update
We’ve been offering lab grown diamonds now for around eighteen months. As we mentioned in our initial blog series about lab grown diamonds, we expected this new market to be very fast-moving, so what’s been happening?
Firstly, customer reception to them has been amazing. While they aren’t for everybody, all sorts of different people have decided to go lab grown, from young couples who are looking for the most ethical choice for their engagement ring to octogenarians buying the big diamond studs they have always promised themselves. Some customers who already own spectacular diamonds are buying them as “dress jewellery” when cubic zirconia doesn’t feel special enough. There certainly doesn’t seem to be a typical laboratory grown diamond buyer.
We anticipated that prices would come down a little and this has been true, especially in larger sizes. Initially, in the summer of 2021, we stocked up to 1.00ct stones because we felt that was where lab grown diamonds represented the best value; going up to 2.00ct was showing as much as a 400% increase in price which was hard to justify. In natural stones the huge increase in price as you move upwards in size reflects the comparable rarity of such stones, especially in fine qualities where large sizes are indeed rare. For lab grown diamonds the increase is not so easy to understand, but it is in part down to the difficulty of producing such stones. In theory, you can simply leave the growing diamond crystal in the machine for longer to increase its size. However, this is not as simple as it sounds! The longer the crystal is left to grow, the greater chance of inclusions forming, perhaps as small pieces of metallic debris from the crucible or small feathers (internal fractures) in the stone, which would be unsightly and decrease the value. Additionally, time is (as they say) money and production costs will be increased as the crystal is given more time to grow. Therefore, there is some justification for some increase in the ‘per carat’ price as the stone increases in size, but just not as much as 400%!
Today there is only a small price ‘per carat’ premium on 2.00ct and even 3.00ct stones, so we’re now happy to recommend these and have expanded our collection accordingly. 4.00ct diamonds are creeping down too and there are odd bargains to be had. However, stones of 5.00ct and up are still substantially more; the cheapest 5.00ct diamond was three times the price of a comparable 4.00ct stone at time of writing (December 2022). The production of larger stones continues to be refined, meaning there’s a good chance that these sizes could decrease in price considerably. Our advice is that if you are in the market for one, to wait a while if you can or at least let us research for you again when you’re ready.
Average production quality has also improved; eighteen months ago, D/E colour and VS+ clarity diamonds commanded a massive premium but today the premium for these finest grades is comparatively small and they look excellent value. This improvement has also allowed us to find ideal sets of diamonds like the ones in the ring pictured below. All are D colour and VVS2 clarity with perfectly matched proportions.
As with the premium paid for larger sizes, in natural diamonds the increased price reflects the comparative scarcity of fine quality stones; only a very small proportion of diamonds are of fine colour and clarity. The crystals form in highly volatile conditions and undergo quite a journey to get to the surface; their inclusions reflect their story. In lab grown diamonds a much greater proportion of stones achieve higher grades. These stones are grown in much more stable and controlled conditions so there is less opportunity for inclusions to form. Those that do can sometimes be quite different to those seen in natural stones: for instance, instead of natural mineral crystals such as garnet you might see fragments of flux or metal from the crucible in which the crystal grows.
We initially introduced laboratory grown diamonds in simple single stone rings, but we have now expanded our range to include classic diamond pendants and earrings plus a few slightly fancier designs. Most of our eternity rings can also be produced in laboratory grown diamonds alongside three grades of natural diamond too.
Finally, we have also dipped our toe into fancy coloured laboratory grown diamonds with a couple pieces using pink stones. Natural pink diamonds are extraordinarily rare and only a handful of them are found each year. This scarcity has only increased recently as the main source of pink hues, the Argyle mine in Australia, has closed. Laboratory grown diamonds have brought this rarest of colours into the realms of affordability for more people. It will be fascinating to see how popular these usually rare hues become and how their market develops.
Lab grown diamonds are still a relatively new product with availability and pricing still changing at a fast pace. We will continue to keep an eye on how things move and develop our ranges accordingly. We have been excited to see that lab grown diamonds sit well alongside our classic natural diamond offering and we are happy to talk to you about the similarities and differences between them if you are unsure which way to go. You can view our lab grown diamond jewellery here.
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