Laboratory grown or synthetic diamonds are a relatively new product to the jewellery market. Diamond has been synthesised for decades, but the quality of material produced was suitable only for industrial uses and it is only in recent years that stones of sufficient quality for jewellery have been produced consistently and economically enough to be brought to the market.
Lab grown diamonds are chemically identical to their natural counterparts and have mostly identical properties, including the incredible lustre and brilliance and extreme hardness that natural diamonds are famous for. They don't look or feel any different to natural diamonds and modern stones of fine quality are virtually impossible to distinguish from natural diamonds without advanced testing equipment.
We buy our diamonds from trusted sources and most of the stones (both natural and lab grown) we use that are larger than 0.25ct are supplied with a diamond grading report or certificate from an independent laboratory such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or International Gemological Institute (IGI). The diamonds themselves are laser inscribed with the report number on the girdle to ensure they match up. Lab grown diamonds are clearly marked with LG or lab grown alongside the report number to make them easily identifiable.
The principal difference between natural and lab grown diamonds is in the way that they come into being. While natural diamonds occurred under natural forces deep within the earth millions of years ago, lab grown stones are created in factories, combining the required raw materials using machinery that can simulate the extreme temperatures and pressures necessary. New methods and techniques for the manufacture of lab grown diamonds continue to emerge, allowing finer quality stones to be produced more easily and at less expense. In recent years the creation of diamonds suitable for jewellery via chemical vapour deposition at lower temperatures and very low pressure has revolutionised production, with much lower costs and high quality stones.
We have recently noticed an increasing interest in lab grown diamonds amongst customers. Although a relatively new product, they are rapidly increasing in availability and are being heavily marketed to price-conscious and ethically aware consumers. This appears to be a long-term trend rather than a short-term fashion and we have widened our network of diamond suppliers to enable us to offer lab-grown stones when requested. When researching these products one of the things our jewellers and gemmologists have noticed is how much the information available to the public is dominated by the vested interests of the company supplying the information, weighted towards natural or lab grown diamonds as required. Although traditionally a stockist of natural diamonds we have tried to keep an open mind and balance the ‘pros and cons’ of the two products against each other as we consider the various aspects that may lead you to choose one over the other. Over the next few weeks our blogs will explore the ecological, humanitarian and value considerations that may impact upon your choice.