Popping the question? Here’s a look at lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds
Valentine’s Day is among the most popular days of the year to get engaged, meaning many are likely to be in the market for a diamond ring to give to their special someone.
When shopping for a ring, there are many things to consider: Round, princess, or oval cut? Halo, pavé, or prong? And most recently, lab-grown or natural diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds have become a more popular choice for engagement rings and other jewelry purchases in recent years, according to the International Gem Society (IGS), which shares information for gem professionals and consumers alike.
"I think one of the barriers to lab diamonds really gaining in popularity is this mistake that it’s not a real diamond, that it’s a fake diamond," Lisa Rosen, CEO of IGS, told FOX Television Stations. "But chemically, it's a diamond. It's just the origin that is different."
FILE - This picture taken on Sept. 23, 2019, in Paris, shows lab-grown diamonds in the headquarters of the Diam-Concept company. (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
In fact, they’re identical to natural ones with the same crystal structure and sparkle. They’re also just as durable as natural ones and are generally cheaper.
If you’re debating between a natural diamond purchase vs. a lab-grown diamond purchase, here are some things to know:
Many people opting to purchase a lab-grown diamond do so for the more affordable price point. Lab-grown diamonds average about 30% to 40% of the price of comparable natural ones, according to IGS.
"I was looking this morning at a 2-carat radiant natural diamond F Color VVS2 clarity, and it was $20,000, and the lab equivalent was $4,600 — so the price gap is becoming larger and larger as time has gone on," Rosen told FOX Television Stations.
One downside of lab-grown diamonds is their resale, as they are less valuable than natural diamonds. But Rosen noted how unless a person is spending lots of money on a large, high-color white diamond — or a rare fancy colored diamond — a natural diamond also isn’t a good investment.
"The best way to think about a diamond purchase is like a car purchase," she said. "As soon as you drive the car off the lot, it depreciates. Well, it's the same thing with the diamond. As soon as you walk out of the jewelry store, your diamond is going to depreciate in value."
Given this, Rosen stressed that a person should buy a diamond "not for investment purposes but because you love it. Because it really speaks to you."
For some, the idea of a natural diamond formed 90 miles below the Earth’s surface — and sometimes having taken millions to billions of years to form — also carries a symbolic significance.
"Diamonds aren't rare, but they are cool, and they are beautiful, and the idea that the earth produced what's on your finger is just a really fascinating concept," Rosen added.
FILE - A finished and ready-for-client princess cut diamond engagement ring at a shop in central London. Picture date: April 1, 2022. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
More ethical choice?
Another reason someone may opt for a lab-grown diamond is that many consider them to be a more ethical and environmentally conscious alternative to mined diamonds.
In recent decades, nonprofits and even Hollywood movies have helped shed a light on conflict diamonds or "blood diamonds" in countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. These natural stones originate in areas controlled by rebel forces that are opposed to internationally recognized governments, according to the National Museum of American Diplomacy, which is located at the U.S. State Department headquarters.
The diamonds are often produced through forced labor, and in turn, the rebels sell these natural diamonds and use the money to fund arms or other military actions, it adds. The stones are then smuggled into the international diamond trade and sold as legitimate gems.
In an effort to control and monitor the diamond trade and prevent the shipment and sale of conflict diamonds, a global initiative called the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2003. The initiative requires each nation to implement safeguards on shipments of rough diamond exports and certify them as "conflict-free."
Meanwhile, Russia mines nearly a third of the global supply of diamonds, experts say. Following the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, some major jewelers said they would stop buying these stones from the country amid scrutiny over how the industry could help fund the war.
FILE - An employee inspects a rough diamond, with its 3d model on a monitor, at Alrosa Diamond Cutting Division in Moscow, Russia, on July 3, 2019. (Photo credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
"A lot of the large retailers have said that they're not going to use diamonds mined from Russia. The problem is how do you prove that?" Rosen said. "How do you prove the origin of the rough if it's shipped to another country, where then it's cut, and then it's polished in another country, and then it's sold at wholesale in another country?"
She continued: "You can see sort of the supply chain is long, and so proving the origin of your diamond can be quite difficult."
For those seeking a natural diamond, there are still ways to seek out ethically-mined stones. Diamond mines in Canada, Botswana, and Australia have opted for a more transparent supply chain, according to IGS.
Consumers can also purchase a recycled, secondhand diamond.
Research and prioritize
Whether one seeks out a natural diamond or lab-made stone, they’re sure to stand the test of time and last long enough to potentially become a family heirloom, IGS says.
Since a lab-grown diamond is identical to a mined stone, the group says jewelers often can’t tell the difference and the only way to be certain is to send it to a gemological laboratory.
When looking for a diamond, Rosen suggests prioritizing what’s most important.
"Whether it’s budget or the ethics of a diamond, you need to figure out what’s important to you and then start educating yourself before you make a purchase," she told FOX Television Stations.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati.