In recent years, we have seen a great rise in the popularity of synthetic diamonds. Is that because of the high environmental cost of diamond mining, or simply because synthetic diamonds are cheaper than their mined counterparts?
We dive deep in order to discover how much it costs to make a synthetic diamond, and if it’s worth your money. It’s no secret that synthetic diamonds are an environmentally friendly option, compared to naturally mined diamonds, but is that the only reason for their popularity? It doesn’t seem like it.
Synthetic diamonds are a far more affordable option compared to natural ones, but the real question is, what makes them so much cheaper, and can their value stand the test of time?
We will try to provide the answer to all of these questions and more, so strap in and let’s begin our journey of discovering the mystery of lab-grown jewels.
What Is A Synthetic Diamond?
According to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America):
Synthetic diamond (also called man-made, laboratory-created, laboratory-grown, artisan-created, or cultured diamond) is a diamond that is produced in a controlled technological process.
Saying that synthetic diamonds are not real diamonds, would be a mistake from the scientific perspective. Synthetic diamonds, in contrast to diamond simulants (imitations made of superficially-similar non-diamond materials), have the exact same properties as the natural diamond.
The only difference is that natural diamonds are mined from the Earth’s mantle, approximately 100 miles deep underneath the surface, while synthetic diamonds are produced in a lab.
As far as the late 19th century scientists have been trying to figure out a reliable way to transform cheap forms of carbon into diamonds, for industrial purposes.
A wide range of applications for artificial diamonds came with the expansion of the industry, and factory-produced tools made for cutting or drilling hard materials.
With advances in technology created for the production of lab-grown diamonds, a new market appeared for them. People all over the world started looking into jewelry made from cheaper, and more environmentally friendly diamonds.
But, even though the market demand for synthetic diamonds has existed for over 100 years, only recently we have acquired the means to reliably produce gem-quality stones in the lab.
Production Process For Synthetic Diamonds
There are two main methods for growing a diamond in the lab, and both involve starting with a flat slither of another diamond.
The first lab method is known as the HPHT System (High Pressure High Temperature). It involves placing the diamond slither enclosed by pure graphite carbon coating in a chamber, where it’s heated to approximately 2800 °F, and submitted to the extreme pressure of 1.5 million pounds per square inch.
The second, more recent method, is called the CVD method (Chemical Vapor Deposition). This involves putting the flat diamond slither in a chamber filled with carbon-rich gas and heating the chamber to 1500 °F. Under these conditions, the gasses begin to “stick” to the slither, growing the newly formed diamond one carbon atom at a time.
Basically, synthetic diamonds are formed in the exact same way as the natural ones, using extreme pressure and heat. The only difference is that synthetic diamonds are products of a controlled lab environment, instead of billions of years of the natural processes in the Earth’s mantle.
Technology is always advancing rapidly, and diamond-producing labs are not different. In recent years, companies are racing to grow high-quality diamonds faster and cheaper than their competitors.
Learn More: What Is The Difference Between HPHT And CVD?
Cost Of Production Of Synthetic Diamonds
Real production cost of synthetic diamonds, per carat, would be difficult to estimate, even for the companies that make them.
So, how much does it cost to make a synthetic diamond? We can’t tell you an exact answer to that question, but what we can tell you is the current price of synthetic diamonds in the market.
Of course, the cost of production depends on many factors, as does the price of the finished product. Cut, clarity, and carat weight are determining factors in price calculations.
When talking about synthetic, and natural diamonds, both are scaled on the clarity chart. A clarity chart is a qualitative metric that evaluates the visual appearance of the precious stone, natural, or lab-grown; each diamond has its place in the clarity chart. And of course, higher the rank, the more valuable the diamond is.
If you would like to learn more about diamond clarity, or where your diamond ranks on the diamond clarity chart, we strongly recommend checking out this article here.
Knowing that a lot of factors are included in the price, it is not easy to determine the unifying price for all synthetic diamonds. A lot of them are created for different purposes and with different traits.
But if you would like some rough estimates, the price of the CVD lab-grown diamond can be as low as $300 to $500 per carat, compared to $4000 per carat in 2008, according to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre.
What does that mean? Well, a possibility exists that synthetic diamonds are going to get cheaper and cheaper until they hit the market low, and from there, anything can happen.
Low prices shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, given that the rise of demand, coupled with more and more affordable tools and equipment needed, naturally leads to more companies getting into the diamond-growing business.
How Different Are Synthetic Diamonds And Natural Ones?
As we said before, synthetic diamonds are physically, atomically, and optically identical to natural diamonds. Several years ago The Federal Trade Commission ruled: A diamond is a diamond, no matter whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of the ground.
Part of the explanation for this ruling was given by the Federal Trade Commission: “The Commission no longer defines a ‘diamond’ by using the term ‘natural’ because it is no longer accurate to define diamonds as ‘natural’ when it is now possible to create products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds”
So the simple answer to the question: What are the differences between synthetic diamonds and natural ones? There is no difference in any way, except for the means of obtaining them.
But even with no difference in optical or physical characteristics, the price difference is certainly visible. While lab-grown diamonds are still pricey items, they are far cheaper than their naturally originated counterparts.
While a natural diamond can be as expensive as $10,000 for a 1-carat stone, a synthetic diamond of the same properties can be found for as low as $500 for a 1-carat stone.
Whilst natural diamonds are still considered by many to be more prestigious than their lab-made counterparts, we can’t turn a blind eye to the consequences of diamond mining worldwide.
If you would like to know more about the negative effects of diamond mining and the environmental consequences produced by mining companies, you should check out this article: What Are Negative Effects Of Diamond Mining?
Another thing to consider when discussing the differences between synthetic diamonds and natural ones is of course the variety of choices you can make when buying one. Finding a natural diamond of a certain shape or color can be a very difficult task to complete, not to mention the fact that the more exclusive and rare a diamond is, the more expensive it will be.
Lab-grown diamonds can be found in almost any shape, form, or color. They are man-made after all. Colors or shapes that are rarely found in nature are easily made in the lab, making unique pieces of different colors more affordable.
Another thing to consider when comparing lab-grown diamonds with naturally obtained ones is the fact that it’s much easier for you to determine the origin sources of man-made rocks.
Knowing where your diamond comes from is a very important thing, and gives you the choice of getting your diamonds from reputable places that don’t engage in poor treatment of workers or communities.
Upsides Of Buying Synthetic Diamonds
Knowing all we discussed considering synthetic diamonds, here is a little summary of why this may be the right option for you:
There are many reputable sources that suggest that the total environmental footprint of man-made diamonds is much lower than the combined amount needed to mine them.
Estimates are that 250 tonnes of the earth is shifted for every single carat of diamond mined. In context, 148 million carats were mined in 2018 alone.
A 2014 report showed that mined diamonds require twice as much energy per carat than those made in a lab. It is estimated that 57kg of carbon is released into the atmosphere for every single carat of diamonds mined, but lab-grown diamonds release as little as few kilograms.
They Are Cheaper Than Natural Diamonds
As we discussed before, the price of artificially made diamonds is getting more and more affordable. In today’s market, you can get a pretty good deal for man-made rocks, as low as $300 per carat.
Of course, not all synthetic diamonds are created equal, and the price varies based on clarity, color, and carat weight, but it is undoubtedly a cheaper option compared to mined diamonds.
Lab-created diamonds are often of better quality compared to natural ones. Due to the highly controlled environment and fully monitored process of production. Not to mention that you can get a lot more variety of choices, because colors and shapes that are rarely found in nature are easily crafted inside a lab.
Related Read: How Can You Tell If A Diamond Is Lab Grown?
Downsides Of Buying Synthetic Diamonds
While lab-grown diamonds are as real as their natural counterparts, they do have disadvantages when compared to them. Some of the biggest are:
Because of the nature of the production, it is reasonable to assume that synthetic diamonds are going to be mass-produced (if they are not already). The fact that your precious rock is not one-of-a-kind can be a deal-breaker for a lot of people.
Diamonds mined from the Earth’s mantle are created by a chain of natural processes lasting for billions of years, and each and every one of them is unique in its properties.
Synthetic diamonds are relatively new to the jewelry industry, and the long-term value is not yet settled. As they continue to take up market share in the diamond industry, new advances and means of production for man-made diamonds can lower the value of previously sold jewels.
No one can tell you with certainty what will be the value of your lab-created diamond in a couple of years or decades. That uncertainty makes the resale value of synthetic diamonds questionable at best.
However, naturally mined diamonds have stayed consistent, and increased in value over a long period of time, making them a much better “investment” option.
Related Read: Will Lab Diamonds Hold Their Value?
Still wondering about synthetic diamonds? Well, they are as real as they get, and they are taking more and more market share in the diamond industry.
Their popularity is owned by the low cost relative to their naturally born counterparts, and by having much ‘greener’ means of production.
Lab-grown diamonds, some say, are the future of the diamond industry, and only time will tell if they can endure in such a competitive market.
More and more reputable jewelers are turning to these artificially made diamonds, as the alternative to the naturally obtained ones, due to the lesser price, and better quality.
So, how much does it cost to make a synthetic diamond?
The short answer is, a lot less than the natural one. Lab-grown diamonds reach prices as low as $300 per carat and pollute the environment up to 90% less.
The main downside of synthetic diamonds is their unstable price, not being able to tell will their value be carried into the future.
But, when it comes to jewelry, lab-made or mined, it is not really about price or rarity, the most important thing is the emotional value that you carry with you forever.