What You Need To Know Before Buying a Lab-Grown Diamond (Pros and Cons)
- Benefits of lab-grown diamonds
- Shortcoming of lab-grown diamonds
- Should you buy a lab-grown diamond?
Compared to mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are now both cheaper to produce and buy for consumers. But that is not the only benefit of lab-created diamonds. In fact, lab-grown diamonds have numerous advantages over mined diamonds.
In the following, we’ll walk through the main benefits while also listing some of the potential drawbacks that you should be aware of before buying.
Don’t worry. The cons of lab-grown diamonds are negligible, but, regardless, we want you to be conscious of them. We’ll explain what you need to know before buying a lab-grown diamond.
Benefits of lab-grown diamonds
In short, lab-grown diamonds are better for your wallet, better for the environment, and better for society. But let’s explain why that this and exactly how lab-created diamonds are better than mined.
Lab-grown diamonds are cheaper than mined diamonds
The most obvious and objective difference between mined and man-made diamonds is the price. Historically, gem-quality diamonds (the ones you use for jewelry) were massively expensive to produce in a laboratory. However, today, with technological innovation and research, lab-grown gem-quality diamonds are actually 30-40% cheaper than diamonds extracted from the earth. Surprisingly, as production technology advances, the cost advantage may increase over mined diamonds.
Costs associated with cutting, polishing, and certification are precisely the same for mined and grown diamonds. However, lab-created diamonds are cheaper because mined diamonds’ production and supply chains are extraordinarily long.
Mining diamonds require negotiating and paying for mining rights, building infrastructure to transport equipment, people and materials, digging huge holes in the ground, dealing with everything from adverse societal and environmental impact, exporting and importing raw diamonds along complicated trade routes across the globe with each changing hands adding to the cost.
Conversely, the production and supply chain for lab-grown diamonds is very short. As a result, the whole production can be carried out in just one location, and the process is both quicker and much less complicated involving far fewer people having to be paid for their services (and disservices).
Lab-grown diamonds are better for the environment
With either a larger stone in your hand or more money left in the bank, you can start to feel good about your beautiful jewelry being less harmful to the environment. There are two main reasons why man-made diamonds are less harmful.
- The energy needed to produce 1 carat of diamond is estimated to be 25 times lower than what is wasted pulling diamonds out of the ground and sending them around the globe. This benefits the global climate which is already challenged enough as it is. While the energy consumed can be clean and renewable, most often clean energy is not available in mining locations around the world. And most heavy machinery runs on diesel fuel, not electricity or hydrogen fuel cells.
- Locally, diamond mining can be very disruptive to both human and animal life (more on the former below). Huge land areas are swallowed up leaving huge holes in the ground in its wake. And while mining is on-going, water usage is on average 7 times higher than it would have been in a laboratory producing the same amount of diamond carats. Water, being a precious good in, in particular in many mining communities and poorer countries around the world, is definitely worth saving. To boot, mineral waste is downwards 6,000% less in lab-diamond production and much more likely to be properly disposed of and recycled.
Lab-grown diamonds are better for society
Diamond mining has historically been linked to conflict, human and workers’ rights violations, political turmoil, and corruption. With the Kimberley Process, some of these concerns have been addressed. But the certification has been heavily criticized, and since individual diamond origins cannot be traced, you cannot be sure that the mined diamond you’re buying is conflict-free.
Mining can also have negative impacts on local communities and bring disease, pollution, and corruption. In addition, workers’ rights are often violated, and even when not, mining is a dangerous profession that results in injuries and health-related issues.
Diamonds created in a laboratory have none of those issues. Instead, the human impact is solely positive by creating jobs with fair pay and tax income (learn why the poorest often do not benefit from mining below).
Shortcoming of lab-grown diamonds
While the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, you should be aware of the following before buying a lab-grown diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds will depreciate in value (and so will mined diamonds)
First and foremost, lab-grown diamonds only recently hit the mass market. Unlike mined diamonds with somewhat predictable and steady costs, the price of creating lab-grown diamonds likely will continue to fall.
So even though there is no difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds, the after-market for “used” diamonds is untested, and it’s uncertain what prices they can hold. However, the falling costs of producing lab-grown diamonds will impact mined diamond prices too!
In general, we don’t recommend investing in diamonds to store value. Instead, enjoy diamonds as the fantastic pieces of jewelry they are.
If you want to learn more about the future of lab-grown diamonds, including their projected value and how all diamonds likely will depreciate in value, continue reading our article outlining the future of lab-grown diamonds.
Secondly, not all mined diamonds are “bloody”, thanks to the Kimberley Process (though major flaws in the system have been pointed out). Some countries depend on diamond mining income, and some, albeit few, are managing the mining and trade in an equitable and environmentally sustainable way. As diamond prices decrease, these countries could be negatively impacted.
There is, however, also a lot of evidence of the opposite. In fact, natural resources often turn out to be a curse, particularly for poorer countries, and the related Dutch disease inhibits development and growth in other sectors. While counter-intuitive, it’s very real and all too common. Learn more about the resource curse in our explanation of the three reasons you should choose a lab-created diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds still require energy and it may not be 100% renewable
Producing diamonds in a laboratory might only require around 15% of the energy required to mine diamonds. But power is still used in the production process. And not all energy production is clean and based on renewable sources. So there is still a potential environmental cost – as there still is with the production of most goods, sadly.
Some diamond labs have been paving the way and now rely solely on clean energy in the production process. One of the pioneers is Diamond Foundry who has received both a lot of attention and venture capital. They sell through their own brand Vrai, the well-known jewelry brand MiaDonna and a host of other retailers (see an exhaustive list here).
Pandora has also started selling lab-created diamonds, and their diamonds are already produced using 60% renewable energy, and they have pledged to increase that share to 100% by 2025. Read more about Pandora’s Brilliance collection in our review.
The use of clean energy in the production of lab-grown diamonds is a trend on the rise, and most laboratories strive to increase the mix of renewable energy in their consumption mix, such as Clean Origin (read our review of Clean Origin).
Should you buy a lab-grown diamond?
Now that we have explained what you need to know before buying a lab-grown diamond, the choice is up to you. But we absolutely think so.
You should be aware that the value may eventually drop – but that will also be the case with mined diamonds. You should also be mindful that not all energy consumed in the production of lab-grown diamonds is guaranteed to be 100% renewable – though often it is. And you should be aware that in some countries, if administered correctly and free of corruption and the right currency controls are in place, and when industrial policy allows for it, and income is equally distributed, then diamond mining can benefit mining societies.
But more often than not, diamond mining mainly benefits large mining and diamond corporations, and the gains for the poor are minuscule – if there are any at all.
You should also be aware that when buying a lab-grown diamond, you are not only saving money (or getting a better diamond). You also serve the environment and avoid potential harm to local societies, workers, animals, or bankrolling conflict and corrupt practices.
Armed with all you need to know before buying a lab-grown diamond, the next step is learning how to find the best and cheapest diamond. Need help buying your first lab-grown diamond?
Read our step-by-step guide to purchasing lab-grown diamonds and get the best diamond for your budget.
Unsure what the best places to buy lab-grown diamonds are? Read all our reviews here, and see our top 4 list of best places to buy a lab-grown diamond. If you can’t wait, our top picks are James Allen and Clean Origin.