This one is going to have people up in arms so lets set down the basics. There are natural diamonds (i.e. a specific crystalline structure made of carbon produced over billions of years as a result of immense temperature and pressure in the earth’s mantle), synthetic diamonds (a specific crystalline carbon structure, made by man in a lab that simulates the same temperature and pressure conditions as those under which natural diamonds are formed) and simulants (other materials such as glass, moissanite, cubic zirconia, etc. which are not made of carbon and do not have the same crystal structure–these are not diamonds). So many people, even industry professionals, confuse synthetic diamonds from simulants but we know better now don’t we?
Natural vs. Synthetic (Man-Made) Diamonds
Both are diamonds. They share the chemical properties, crystal structure, hardness (10 on the Mohs scale–the hardest amongst minerals) and refractive index (how light or radiation passes through a medium). It used to be that synthetic diamonds were created and used only for industrial purposes because manufacturers could not reproduce the high color or clarity needed for use in jewelry. Times have changed and a company called Gemesis is now leading the market in synthetic diamonds–producing colorless (and fancy yellow colored) diamonds with VS-quality or better. Furthermore, Gemesis claims that their synthetic diamond is priced anywhere from 25-50% lower than natural diamonds.
Too good to be true? Most likely. No matter how sophisticated the technology is, a diamond professional will always be able to distinguish between a natural and a synthetic diamond. The give-away is in the growth structures, types of inclusions and the diamond’s reaction to UV light. Without getting into specifics, lets just say a diamond expert worth her weight in diamond dust will be able to tell it’s a synthetic diamond upon careful inspection. No one else will know except you and your diamond guru.
What does this mean for my DMD darlings? Now, you know that I am never one to impose my preferences on others–I simply state the facts, the pros and cons and you wrinkle up your pretty little noses and figure out what works for you. Synthetics, for the most part, are under 1.5 carats (it is currently too cost-prohibitive to make larger ones for retail sales, although DeBeers once grew a 25 carat synthetic). Within that range, they will be cheaper than natural diamonds by anywhere from 25-50%. However, because they are lab-made, they will never be as valuable as a real diamond–this is largely due to the rarity of natural diamonds that is a culmination of the mind-boggling conditions under which they were formed billions of years ago, the process by which they travelled to the surface of the earth over millions of years, and the expense that was required to mine them. I liken it to wearing a dinosaur. Natural diamonds are a limited resource that will one day be depleted. As a result, a natural diamond will always continue to appreciate in value whereas a synthetic diamond will continue to decrease in value as technology becomes more advanced and lab-made diamonds become larger and more prevalent. Here is an easy peasy chart to help you decide:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a synthetic diamond. In fact, for those of you who are sensitive to conflict diamonds, this may be a good alternative (see my post about conflict-free diamonds here). I personally enjoy the idea of curating pieces that will one day be heirlooms for my hypothetical teapot-humans and if my diamonds appreciate in the meantime, I’ll take that too! However, for those instances when I’m really jones-ing for some bauble-induced arthritis, I reach for my costume jewelry–which is made of simulants such as rhinestone, Swarovski crystal, moissanite, paste, etc. More on costume jewelry later.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,