Gem JEWELS &WATCHES
Breaking down the difference between man-made and man-mined diamonds, one gem at a time.
- team luxe List
Long before diamonds became a girl’s best friend, they were merely 300 billion-year-old carbonated fossils, being pushed up from the earth’s core to the surface. When they were first discovered over 3000 years ago, they were thought to have magical properties, originated from the tears of God or dropped down from the sky.
It was only after their rarity was realised, that the status of diamonds grew in value and prestige over centuries of treasured family heirlooms being passed down from generation to generation. The story of modern mining began in 1866 when diamonds were discovered in South Africa. Entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes established De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited and by 1900, Rhodes mines controlled an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s production of rough diamonds.
Natural diamonds are considered unique because each stone goes through decades of heat and pressure before it is mined, it then goes through copious amounts of cutting and polishing to reach its final stage of the sparkling speciality we see in our jewellery boxes or the glass case in retail boutiques. Even then, natural diamonds have inclusions or ‘birthmarks’ that result from years of elements like nitrogen trapped in them, these inclusions are almost microscopic and serve as fingerprints for the diamonds. They are also considered rare as it is said that every gem-quality diamond ever polished since the beginning of time, would only fill one double-decker bus.
In the past decade, the emergence of lab-created or man-made diamonds has made headlines due to their striking similarity in both chemical composition and aesthetic to naturally-mined diamonds. While natural diamonds are made over millions of years, the synthetic kind is formed in days or weeks.
Utilizing a high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) method, scientists are able to mimic the conditions deep below Earth to recreate the birth of a diamond. There are other methods used to mimic the same process but it has been established that HPHT is the most economical for growing large diamonds.
The unmistakable appearance of these diamonds has skyrocketed their popularity amongst consumers causing many to speculate if these creations can be deemed “real” or “valuable” Before you make your next purchase here are some of the main differences between man-made and man-mined gems.
Due to the rare nature of mined diamonds, the unique conditions that create it and the labour that goes into mining and polishing a diamond – the price of a natural diamond is between 30-50% higher than that of a lab-grown diamond. Natural gems are also thought to be finite in quantity, increasing their value further. Lab grown diamonds are easier to make due to the advances in technology are usually priced according to production. That being said, all diamonds, lab grown and mined, are priced at wholesale and retail based on an internationally accepted pricing system known as the Rapaport pricing method that prices all diamonds based on their 4Cs.
A lab-grown diamond is graded and certified using the same process as a mined diamond. Diamonds are sent to a gem lab that specializes in grading stones. Each diamond is graded using the 4C’s (cut, clarity, colour, and carat) An IGI diamond report will give an "accurate assessment of a diamond's cut, colour, clarity and carat weight according to strict international standards." The Gemological Institute of America has developed sophisticated devices they use in order to screen and identify the difference between natural or lab diamonds. The re-sale value of lab grown diamonds has dropped in recent years as they are newer to the market than naturally mined diamonds. However, the demand for lab grown diamonds is ever increasing.
Consisting of the same composition as natural diamonds, lab grown stones are also comprised of carbon. Therefore, both diamonds, regardless of origin, remain the hardest material on earth—a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. At the end of the day, a diamond can only be cut with the powder of another diamond.
Perhaps, the most important point to consider before deciding between diamonds, for millennials, is the ecological ramifications of mining. As the consumer values of the newer generations of buyers evolve, they are more concerned with ensuring their dollars back companies with values similar to their own than previous generations were. While the creation of lab-grown diamonds absolutely still leaves a carbon footprint, the impact is, overall, less.
The modern diamond industry has worked hard to transform itself over the last 20 years. The UN-mandated Kimberely Process, ensures that diamonds are conflict free. The diamond industry also goes above and beyond the Kimberley Process to encompass people, planet, and business ethics. To set industry standards and encompass a wholesome manufacturing process, the diamond industry abides by international human rights rules and labor regulations. Each business strives to conduct themselves in a responsible and ethical way because that is what the market demands.