Lab Diamonds VS 'Real' Diamonds: We Break Down the Ethics, Cost and Environmental Impact

“Not even trained jewellers know the difference,” says one publicist of the lab- versus mined-stone debate.

12.8.2019

“Not even trained jewellers know the difference,” says one publicist of the lab- versus mined-stone debate.

With the FTC's new stance on lab diamonds and the debate around the ethics and environmental ramifications of mined diamonds, we predict consumer interest in—and access to—lab diamonds will be bigger than ever in 2019.

(@shopspence) on Jan 24, 2019 at 10:33am PST At the Mississauga, Ont., showroom for Canadian retailer Spence Diamonds, display cases of engagement rings are divided into style categories like Modern, Solitaire, Vintage and Halo. The cases are open, so you can just reach in and try an item on. (All the engagement rings in the showroom contain placeholder glass.) Flip a ring over and you’ll see a tag with two prices: one for “mined” and another for “ACD,” or “artisan created diamond,” which is Spence-speak for lab diamond. Innocently enough, I ask Spence CEO Eric Lindberg if lab diamonds are as good as mined. “‘Good’ is an arbitrary word,” says Lindberg. “I would say this: A lab diamond, from an atomic standpoint, is identical to a mined diamond in the structure of that stone. From a physical chemical property standpoint, it’s exactly the same as a mined diamond. Jewellers cannot tell them apart.” “From a physical chemical property standpoint, it’s exactly the same as a mined diamond. Jewellers cannot tell them apart.” And the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would agree. In July 2018, the FTC amended its jewellery guidelines to allow lab diamonds to be marketed as “cultured,” the way pearls are. The term “natural” is out because, as the FTC wrote, it’s “now possible to create products that have essentially the same optical, physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds.” In the showroom, I admire a ring with a simple princess-cut diamond that would cost $8,550 for a mined stone and $6,600 for an ACD. The store’s director of sales shows me two diamonds: one mined, one lab. To my untrained eye, the only difference between them is that the mined diamond has a minor, yet charming, flaw. “Ethically, if you have concerns about buying a diamond, a created diamond comes from a laboratory facility that is shipping that diamond directly to us; it’s trackable,” says Lindberg. “Tearing a big mine in the ground and then shipping diamonds around the world—that is not an environmentally-friendly practice.” Spence also donates a portion of its ACD sales to the global non-profit Not for Sale, which helps victims of human trafficking. “Tearing a big mine in the ground and then shipping diamonds around the world—that is not an environmentally-friendly practice.” There’s also the matter of pricing: Lab-created diamonds at Spence are 25 to 50 per cent larger than similarly priced mined ones. Which is how De Beers, the world’s largest diamond distributor, pulled the jewellery equivalent of a mic drop when it unveiled Lightbox, a subsidi­ary now selling lab-diamond jewellery online. Lightbox pieces are priced lower than those of competitors (a quarter-carat stone starts at $200 U.S.) and advertised in a way that recalls long walks on the beach, frosted doughnuts and pink Champagne. It’s worth noting that De Beers was part of the 2015 “Real Is Rare” worldwide campaign by the Diamond Producers Association that targeted millennials and took aim at lab diamonds. David Johnson, head of strategic communications at De Beers, says that Lightbox is a response to exhaustive consumer research. “They [consumers] don’t see [lab diamonds] as having enduring value,” says Johnson. “They’re not unique or billions of years old; they’re not from nature. You could just produce more and more of them. So consumers didn’t feel they should be valued as highly.” Read more: FASHION Magazine

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