Article

Ethically Sourced or Lab-Grown: the Pros and Cons

January 22, 2020

acredo Rings

When you buy a diamond ring, you have a lot of choices to make. You can determine the setting, size, material, and cut of the stone to create a ring that’s truly unique — and acredo can help!

Another choice that you may not be anticipating is whether you want your diamond (or other stones) to be lab-grown or ethically sourced from natural diamond mines. Of course, sometimes you might not know — or particularly care — where the stone comes from, as long as it looks nice. But if you want to make the most informed decision you can, keep reading!

What are Ethically Sourced Diamonds?

acredo is proud to count our vendors among the many certified members of the Responsible Jewelry Council, which ensures ethical and environmentally responsible sourcing of jewelry in every country across the world. RJC standards are dedicated to making sure that jewelry sourcing is safe, responsibly conducted, and environmentally conscious. The “Chain of Custody” is a production standard stating appropriate requirements for human rights, labor standards, environmental impact, and business ethics throughout the supply chain. Our diamonds are sourced from suppliers that comply with strict United Nations regulations.

What are Laboratory-Grown Diamonds?

Laboratory-grown diamonds are basically what they sound like: diamonds grown in a laboratory rather than mined from the ground. The end result is the same — a crystallized stone of pure carbon — but the methods of creation can vary substantially. Lab-grown diamonds can be formed in just a few weeks, while diamonds that are found in nature take billions of years to form. For this reason, high quality diamonds mined from the earth will be more expensive.

The first method is high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT), which involves compressing carbon under extreme conditions until it becomes a diamond. The second is chemical vapor deposition (CVD), which involves growing diamonds from a hydrocarbon gas mixture. With the CVD process, lab-grown diamonds start with a tiny lab grown diamond, like a seed. Then, depending on the technology used, some combination of heat, pressure and a carbon source are used to make the crystals grow, layer by layer.  This method is slower, but allows for more fine control over the shape and purity of the final stone than HPHT.

It’s a common misconception that a lab-grown diamond isn’t a “real” diamond. On a molecular level, a diamond is a diamond. There’s no difference in durability between a lab-grown stone and a naturally mined one. The diamond’s origin must be fully disclosed to meet Federal Trade Commission regulations in the USA.

So which kind of stone should you request for your custom diamond engagement ring or wedding ring? There are a few factors you should consider.

Supporting Local Communities

In many areas where diamonds are mined naturally from the ground, these mining operations are the main source of income for the people that live there. By buying an ethically sourced stone, you’re supporting the livelihoods of the people who mined the stone in the first place. If you’re concerned about sustaining workers and their families in diamond areas, an ethically-sourced natural diamond is the way to go.

Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are made with expensive equipment that is almost always owned by large companies.

Rarity

While natural and lab-grown diamonds are chemically and optically the same, it’s their rarity that sets them apart. Ancient geological conditions on Earth have already created all the natural diamonds that will ever be found. Large, high-quality natural diamonds are very rare.  By contrast, lab-grown diamonds can be grown in large quantities endlessly in the future. Because they can be made rapidly on demand, they’re priced significantly lower than natural diamonds.

Grade

There are four main components to the grade of a diamond:

    • Carat: the weight of a diamond, expressed in carats, which are equivalent to 200 milligrams. Most stones are measured to the “point,” or one-hundredth of a carat. A diamond weighing 0.25 carats might be called a “25-point” diamond. Natural diamonds come in a variety of sizes, but rarely occur in gem quality large sizes. Lab-grown stones can theoretically be created in any size at all!
    • Color: For most diamonds, the best color is no color at all! A completely clear, colorless diamond gets a D grade, while a light yellow diamond is called a Z. There are, however, diamonds that are prized for natural shades of blue, pink, and yellow. In nature, these colors happened by chance, but in the lab they can be created intentionally.
    • Clarity: clarity is determined by the presence of impurities in the stone, with a “flawless” stone having no visible blemishes even under 10x magnification.  Lab-grown stones have an advantage when it comes to clarity — since they’re created under controlled conditions, the creators can ensure that there are fewer impurities to compromise the clarity of the stone. Typically, lab-grown diamonds contain metallic inclusions that can be identified with 10x magnification by an expert.
    • Cut:the cut of a stone is judged on the degree of brilliance and light return that diamond cutters have achieved with polish and symmetry. Since both natural and lab-grown diamonds are cut after they’re created, neither has an advantage here.

 

Country of origin:in May of 2019, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) added country of origin to their grading system. This helps ensure that natural stones are sourced responsibly and ethically.

Convenience

Diamond mines work to source and excavate diamonds, and diamond cutters spend a lifetime perfecting their skills to turn these rough crystals into sparkling gems. A wide selection of colors and sizes are available. Jewelers then purchase those diamonds and make them into jewelry for their clients.

On the other hand, lab-grown stones are expensive to create, so they’re often made to order rather than crafted ahead of time. Factories that mass produce jewelry order quantities of specific sizes to meet expected demand.

Environmental Impact

At acredo, our vendors are certified members of the RJC, so we’re confident that our diamonds are sourced in the most responsible way possible — but they still have to be dug out of the ground.

Comparing the environmental impact of laboratory grown to mined diamonds is complicated because there are several different factors to consider. Natural diamonds are mined in various ways; including alluvial, open pit, closed pit, and marine. The ecological footprint of mined diamonds varies by geographic area. The diamond mining industry is regulated and employs third party agencies to monitor environmental and social impacts. In the case of lab-grown producers, they are privately owned and not obligated to disclose information. At this time, lab-grown diamond companies are producing significantly less products than mining companies, so the comparison is even more difficult.

There is still an environmental impact with a lab-grown diamond, obviously. The process uses a lot of energy, which has to come from somewhere. The carbon footprint at these factories is substantial. Each process has a different energy usage. High quality products require more energy.

Value Assurance

At acredo, we’ve been working with diamonds for decades, so we have the advantage of being able to watch the values of different types of diamonds. We’ve noticed trends in lab-grown diamonds and ethically-sourced diamonds.

Lab-grown diamonds have become easier and less expensive to produce over the past 10 years. Because of this, prices have fallen and continue to drop for lab-grown stones. Unfortunately, because the prices continue to drop, the value of your diamond could drop too. If you want a stone that will hold its value and rarity status, an ethically-sourced diamond is your best choice.

The Diamond Choice is Yours

We’re not here to tell that there’s only one correct choice in selecting your diamond — ultimately, the final decision about your ring is up to you. At acredo, our purpose is to make sure that you can create the exact ring that fits your personality, your style, and your aesthetic. Our rings are one of a kind, and our stones are too, whether they come from the ground or from a lab.

Ready to make a ring that’s uniquely yours? Contact acredo to set up an appointment, and we’ll help you create the ring of your dreams.