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How is the Lab Grown Diamonds?


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I was advised by one of my closest friends to use lab-grown diamond rings instead of natural diamonds. He said there is no big difference and it will save huge costs.  Jack - the friend who suggested to me - sent me a link https://liviadiamonds.com/lab-grown-diamonds/ and told me to see some sample rings there.

My question is, Is it true that there is no big difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds? I think this is not right. Please advise me on what I need to do? I realized the cost-saving part but still not getting the difference clearly.

Thank You

Edited by smanja
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Hi there! Welcome to Diamond Review!

It depends on what you (and your friend) mean by "big difference".

Chemically and physically, there is very little difference: a synthetic diamond is a diamond. There is just enough difference to tell synthetic and natural apart using sophisticated and expensive laboratory equipment... including well-trained gemmologists in the "sophisticated and expensive" part. Just do not confuse a synthetic diamond with a simulant like CZ or moissanite.

(Incidentally, I quite strongly object to the term "lab-grown" which has become standard; it tries to peddle something that isn't true. It would have been true for the first few years of research into synthesis; nowadays synthetic diamonds retailed as gems are not grown in labs; they are made - synthesized - in factories. Synthesis is not a dirty term and is significantly more accurate. Unlike the emotionally charged "dirt-diamond" term that the site you linked uses for natural stones - hypocritically, I may add, since they don't have a problem in supplying the "dirt" if that's what you want.)

Retail price-wise there is a significant (colourless/near colourless) to huge difference (blue stones of any size and larger colourless and yellow stones).

In terms of other attributes, there are some interesting differences:

* Environmental impact: it is higher for natural diamonds, but synthetics still require a lot of energy to be produced. In fact, about as much energy to produce them with current technologies as what is required to extract them. The key difference is that mining produces several tonnes of rock spoils and huge holes in the ground, as well as requiring a lot of energy for every carat of diamond.

* Marketing and assortment. There is a far less developed choice of producers and retailers for synthetics, which makes finding "what you want" sometimes difficult. Stone size is also an issue - until relatively recently, finding stones larger than 1 carat was difficult. Now (2020) there are stones in the 5-10 carat range being cut, but these are still relatively rare (and as far as I can tell, not retailed). No doubt this will improve over time, but if you are looking for a large diamond now you may still be restricted to natural.

* Grading. There is a strangely backward attitude by some of the best gemmological labs: GIA will grade synthetic diamonds, but for a long while it did not specify a cut grade (the most man-made of all attributes!) and it used different colour/clarity scales for them; still now it uses different terminology for characteristics in natural and synthetic stones, and it provides no information on colour origin and post-growth treatment. AGS refused to grade synthetics until August 2020.

* Retained value. At the moment, there is virtually no secondary market for synthetic diamonds - at least those retailed as such. Given the difficulty and cost in telling synthetic from natural, it is perfectly possible that quite a few stones on the secondary market are synthetics... sold as natural! Natural diamonds perform better - you can re-sell many natural diamonds for a fair percentage of their "retail, new" price relatively easily at the moment, even though that percentage is much lower than most people think. Whether this will keep being true will depend on what happens to future prices of natural and synthetic diamonds.

* Future prices. There is no doubt in my mind that synthetic prices will continue decreasing, and assortment and availability of synthetic stones will keep increasing. In the medium term, this will probably contain any price growth for "ordinary" natural stones, even though there doesn't seem to be the prospect of any significant new sources of natural diamonds being found. Exceptional natural stones will probably keep increasing in value - until the whole system comes crashing down, but that's another story altogether. Over the long term, my bet is that we will see prices for natural diamonds go very much the way of rubies: a huge difference in base prices between "nice" natural stones and synthetics, a far less differentiated price - much lower than today's - at the "low end".

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Currently, synthetics (I agree with Davide about the term ‘lab-grown’) cost about a third of what comparable mined stones cost in most markets.  That’s a saving, but it’s still a decent amount of money. Currently, a 1.50/G/SI1 natural stone will run you about $10,000 if you shop decently well and a similar synthetic will run you about $3000.  If you pay full retail, those numbers both go up by about half. The site you linked doesn’t give prices so there’s no way to tell if he/she is price competitive.

Resale is tricky and requires a longer answer than I’m prepared to write at the moment. Basically, that $10k stone will get you about $4-5k at the pawnshops.  That synthetic will bring about $1000. That’s either significantly better (you only ‘lose’ $2000 on the synthetic instead of $6000) or slightly worse (you’re seeing about 50% of your money back on the natural stone and only 33% on the synthetic) depending on how you look at it. In any case, it’s not correct to say there is no resale market for synthetics. Some people just don’t like the prices. You can pay more, and you can get less, of course. The costs of smaller stones are closer.  A 0.60/H/SI1 natural is about $1000. A similar synthetic is about $500.  

It's perhaps worth noting that a minor tweaking of the parameters above wipes out most of this price advantage. A 1.45/H/SI1, for example, will run you about $7k and be visibly identical to the 1.50 above, which is the standard your friend is applying. Given the differences in the labs and the way stones are graded, even an expert with a microscope will be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Does that mean that synthetics are a better ‘deal’?  It depends on what you want. They’re cheaper. Do you buy organic bananas and fair-trade coffee?  Some people do. Some people look for ‘made in USA’ or the Union label.  You can’t tell the difference. Is a fake Rolex as good as a real one or is a print as good as an original painting?  If you don’t care then no, buy the poster.  For some people, it’s a big stinking deal, for others it's a matter of matching the couch. 

Edited by denverappraiser
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On 11/30/2020 at 3:14 PM, davidelevi said:

I'm clearly getting out-of-date... and things have changed very quickly around synthetics lately! Thanks, Neil!

There is (almost) no secondary market for synthetics…CVD or HPHT. Retail yes. Wholesale No!

To find a buyer of synthetic is near impossible. (in the trade) ie: wholesaler

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On 11/30/2020 at 12:32 PM, denverappraiser said:

Is a fake Rolex as good as a real one or is a print as good as an original painting?  If you don’t care then no, buy the poster.  For some people, it’s a big stinking deal, for others it's a matter of matching the couch. 

lol....miss you guys!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi! Lab-grown diamonds are steadily gaining popularity. Probably because they can go toe to toe with natural ones in terms of hardness, color and clarity. Since they are ethically sourced, they can also be more appealing to those who check on the how the stones are acquired. This article about lab-grown diamonds may help you get a better perspective - https://thejewelryforum.com/lab-grown-diamonds-are-they-worth-it/ Thanks!!!

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