Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
There's a new diamond in town—and it's conflict-free and budget-friendly.
Whether you've listened to Kanye West's "Diamonds Are Forever" or have seen Blood Diamond, you're probably aware that the process of finding diamonds can be nowhere near as glamorous as the final product.
In the early 2000s, the term "blood diamond" rose to public attention, taking away the luster of those sparkling gems. Jewelry behemoths, including Cartier, began to source and promote conflict-free rocks, as more consumers questioned the ethical practice of diamond mining. Today, the diamond industry has done a lot to ensure they're safely produced, including certifying their diamonds through the Kimberley Process, which requires an extensive look into how and where diamonds are mined and exported. Let's just say celebs like Ashley Graham, Zoë Kravitz and Kate Hudson can rest assured, wearing ethically-sourced Tacori diamonds regularly on red carpets.
Still, these stones cost a pretty penny. Cue: lab-created diamonds.
"Lab-created diamonds are real diamonds created in a highly controlled laboratory environment. They are physically, optically and chemically identical to earth-mined diamonds, without the environmental cost and up to 50 percent less in price," read a statement released by MiaDonna, an eco-diamond company. "Consider the difference between ice that is created in nature by environmental conditions and the ice created by your freezer. Both create ‘real' ice, the only difference is the point of origin, just like a lab-created diamond versus a mined diamond."
This jewelry innovation is actually not that new, but it is recently trendy. In January, Vogue spotlighted Diamond Foundary, a Silicon Valley-based company that grows its stones in a lab and raised $100 million just last year (Leonardo DiCaprio was one of its first 12 investors, so you know its good for the environment).
The process of creating diamonds isn't simple (although, we really wish it was). Mimicking the natural process of diamond synthesis, in which carbon is crystallized through intense heat and pressure below the earth's surface, scientists created the High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) methods.
Surprisingly, the HPHT process was first used by General Electric in 1954 to grow diamonds. However, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) reported that "the HPHT process is very costly, given the energy and equipment required, and produces diamonds with mainly yellowish or brownish yellow colors."
In comparison, the CVD method uses a vacuum chamber to break down the molecules within a gas, such as methane, and filter out the carbon. If you look closely into the chamber, you can actually watch it grow.
Even though the new "green" diamond companies state that lab-grown and mined diamonds look the same, GIA researchers aren't convinced. "Diamonds have a grain, like wood, that is a result of the way they crystallize, but because they grow differently in nature than in a lab, the grain patterns of synthetic diamonds are different," they reported.
Not to mention, lab-created diamonds are often viewed as less romantic or personal, and because of that, they're a lot less popular. Celebs still prefer the real thing.
If you show your new bling to a group of friends, would they be able to tell the difference? Most likely, no. In fact, when NPR took lab-grown diamonds to New York City's famous Diamond District to see if an appraiser would be able to tell the difference, the man-made diamonds were not detected even when looked at with a magnifying glass.
So, if lab-grown diamonds look (relatively) the same and cost less, why aren't more people going for these guilt-free gems?
Even though the price difference is constantly publicized, lab-grown diamonds aren't cheaper, because they don't retain their value, according to diamond expert Michael Fried.
If you ever decide to sell your eco-friendly engagement ring, you may have some trouble getting any money back. "From a value perspective, you would need to buy the lab-created diamond at a massive discount to justify giving up the value retention of natural diamonds," he wrote.
Even at a hefty discount, lab-created diamonds may not be worth the supposed value.
On the other hand, if diamonds are truly a girl's best friend, does it matter?