One of the most controversial issues in the diamond business today is not real vs. fake. It is not authentic vs. impostor. It is not genuine vs. counterfeit. It’s not shine vs. sham. It is lab grown vs. natural diamonds. To the naked eye, diamonds grown in laboratories are indistinguishable from natural stones. The issue isn’t whether or not they are “real.” They are. It is that consumers should be — deserve to be — fully aware of what they are purchasing.

Karen Rosengart analyzes a diamond to determine if it is lab grown or natural

I am asked constantly about whether or not I sell lab grown diamonds. I also am asked constantly about my thoughts on the issue. I want to be clear—I am in the business of selling only 100% natural diamonds. For me, selling lab grown stones would be even more controversial, as I truly believe in the natural product I’m selling and the value behind it. In addition, by not selling lab growns, my clients can trust that there will never be any inadvertent mixing of manufactured and mined in the diamonds they purchase from me. Mixing lab grown with natural loose and melee diamonds is dishonest, unethical, and, ultimately, erodes the trust that underpins supplier/buyer relationships.

I have decided to never entertain selling lab grown, as one of the most important differences is that they have little-to-no resale value at all. Most clients who are interested in buying them explain to me that they will never resell the stones, so it does not make a difference to them. I feel strongly about what I sell, and I feel strongly about being able to proudly stand behind my product. It's important to get the best product for the best price, and lab grown stones do not offer any of that to me or my clients.

Synthetic Diamonds | K. Rosengart

Lab Grown vs. Natural: 8 Key Differences Exposed

The word "diamond" comes from the Greek word "adamas" meaning invincible or indestructible. In a side-by-side comparison of lab grown vs. natural diamonds, it's easy to see why the value of the natural stones is near-indestructible.

Lab Grown

Natural

  1. Mass produced and lower priced – manufactured in labs in 2-3 weeks to offer consumers a cost savings of 30-50% per ct
  1. Unique and rare – mined from the Earth’s crust (87 to 188 miles below the surface) after forming for 1 to 3.3 billion years
  1. No trade-in value or second-hand market
  1. Retain value and can be sold years later
  1. Man-made disclaimer included on GIA grading report
  1. No man-made disclaimer included on GIA grading report
  1. Made of carbon, but flux-metal inclusions are common because of the alloy used in some lab growth processes
  1. Made of only one element – carbon
  1. Produced by CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) or HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) growth processes and may include post-growth treatments to change the color
  1. No chemical processes are required to release natural diamonds from the ore
  1. Lab growth requires massive amounts of energy to manufacture (heat)
  1. Diamond mining uses less energy
  1. Excessive heat requires large amounts of water to keep from overheating
  1. Water management strategies are incorporated to preserve natural resources
  1. FTC has issued letters not allowing labs to use terms like environmentally friendly or sustainable
  1. Wind power is used in mines when possible to minimize the carbon footprint and closed mines are often turned into reservoirs

As a businesswoman, I have my opinion about only wanting to only sell 100% natural diamonds, but it is hard to ignore the fact that natural stones have been around for a very long time and are widely known as the universal symbol of eternal love and commitment. That alone makes them even more valuable in my eyes.

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Making a Diamond: Lab vs. Nature

In labs, carbon atoms in high-pressure, high-temperature chambers are exposed to conditions designed to mimic those of the Earth’s crust. The resulting stones have identical molecular and chemical structures as mined diamonds. Labs can create diamonds, including fancy shapes like oval, emerald, and cushion, in just hours or days.

In nature, materials containing carbon in the Earth's crust are exposed to tremendous pressure. Eventually, over billions of years, this creates the precious stones we know and love; diamonds are then forced up and close to the surface with the help of volcanic eruptions. There is no doubt that nature has perfected this process, while scientists seek to recreate it on a much, much faster timeline. 

Again, the issue at hand isn’t the quality or aesthetic value of lab grown diamonds; even geologists would be hard-pressed to distinguish between a manufactured and mined stone. The problem is when suppliers attempt to pass lab grown stones off as natural stones or they mix them in orders of loose and melee diamonds.

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The Risk to Your Business

The bottom line (which affects your bottom line) is that diamonds grown in labs have a much lower price tag. Consumers still largely prefer natural stones, and they are willing to pay the premium price. Now imagine what happens when you purchase “natural” loose stones, design and finish pieces, sell them to your customers -- and then find out the diamonds were lab grown, which cost and are worth significantly less.

The supplier, whether intentionally or inadvertently, misled you and priced your order incorrectly, and inappropriately. This means you passed those price points onto your customer. This has the opportunity to damage your brand irrevocably.

This is why it is so critical to have an effective process by which to identify lab grown diamonds. The Gem and Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) aims to ensure consumer confidence by providing members with specialized machines that distinguish between natural and lab grown. GJEPC also wants to implement clear standards when it comes to synthetic stones and import/export codes. One step is to eliminate lab grown stones from shipments of natural stones.

In the jewelry industry, trust is paramount. When customers have confidence in you, they have confidence in their pieces -- and feel comfortable that they have paid appropriately. Without this basic tenet, that relationship is damaged. Being able to accurately, and quickly, identify lab grown diamonds isn’t only a technical process, it is one that is essential to your name and reputation.

At K Rosengart, we value the trust you place in us. Our promise to you is to deliver the finest natural loose and melee diamonds in the industry. Every time. Without worry, and without compromise.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.