Disrupt: interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem. Drastically alter or destroy the structure of (something).
Are synthetics destroying the diamond market? No. Are they disrupting or causing problems? Again, not so much. Are they altering it? Sure. Diamonds are as old as time, and the diamond trade nearly as ancient. It’s been adapting and flexing to change for time immemorial. Synthetic diamonds are certainly making a stir - but is it a tsunami or simply a wave?
Real Still Matters
Synthetic diamonds have a place in the jewelry market; it’s just not the same place that mined diamonds occupy. Manufactured stones come in at lower price points, appealing to those who value a similar aesthetic and appeal without the attendant price tag. There is nothing “wrong” with lab-grown diamonds; in fact, they are quite beautiful and can be integral in gorgeous custom and commercial pieces.
Caveat: there is nothing wrong with synthetics if that’s what you know you’re buying. Too often, unscrupulous or unknowledgeable suppliers mix lab-grown and mined and bill them out as pure natural stones. This is dishonest, unethical, and, frankly, a cheat. If you’re buying manufactured, fine. But you should know it and pay the appropriate price.
Synthetics are simply not real mined diamonds. Customers need to be aware of this critical fact. And for many, it is a deal-breaker when it comes to important pieces like engagement rings or anniversary bands.
According to research conducted by the Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA), “When evaluating luxury purchases, [consumers] seek items that are genuine, unique… not mass-produced, and have inherent meaning and value.” The vast majority (89%) of people surveyed by the DPA said that authenticity is an essential element in their purchase decision.
Each piece has a narrative: a halo engagement ring encircled with melee diamonds may tell the tale of a suitor who wants to give his beloved the treasure she deserves. A pair of drop earrings may remind a spouse of her vows years after they were spoken. A pendant may reiterate the value a child places in his/her mother.
The materials used to create these pieces also tell a story. When it comes to synthetic diamonds, the tale is one of scientific advancements and lab technology. Interesting, to be sure, and quite remarkable.
But the story of a diamond is one for the ages: deep, deep below the earth’s surface, carbon-containing minerals are exposed to tremendous heat and pressure. Over a billion, two billion, three billion years, a simple element transforms into a priceless stone.
The symbolism is undoubtedly alluring; diamonds convey the sense of timelessness, of commitment that knows no bounds, of the beauty that comes from trials and tribulations. As Thomas Gelb, a Diamond Asset Advisors gemologist, puts it, “Natural diamonds are billion-year old precious gems which have inherent and symbolic value. As undifferentiated industrial products, synthetic diamonds will never catch consumer's’ imagination in the same way.”
Value is a manmade construct. But we tend to assign greater value to those objects that we deem most rare and sought-after. A beautiful diamond with exceptional color, clarity, cut, and carat is always going to appeal to consumers. It’s not a trick of consumerism; it is a fact of supply-demand. Lab-grown diamonds can be manufactured in hours; a mined diamond takes billions of years to reach perfection.
Are synthetic diamonds disrupting the market? The answer is no. They’re creating a parallel market among different consumers - those who value different characteristics when it comes to diamonds. This is fine. This is the nature of the business. Diamonds, however, have enduring appeal for the pieces that matter. The engagement rings. The anniversary bands. The birthday bracelets. The Mother’s Day earrings. When it comes to heirlooms and treasures, there is no substitute.