For centuries, the Holy Grail of alchemy was turning lead into gold. Although synthetic gold can now be produced in the laboratory, it is simply not economically viable, compared to mined or recycled sources. Such is not the case with manufactured diamonds. After many years of gradual improvement, scientists can now create high-quality, multi-carat diamonds in the lab, resulting in quantities that promise to satisfy the insatiable demand of the jewelry industry. These synthetic diamonds are not inferior at all in any measure; in fact, they share the exact same physical and chemical characteristics as that of traditionally mined diamonds. Very high degrees of clarity, color, and brilliance can be achieved as well, for the cutting/polishing process is identical to that used on natural stones. The only real way to distinguish between lab-created and natural diamonds is to conduct a complicated set of lab tests involving specialized equipment; not something you would expect to see at your next high-society soiree!
Benefits of Lab-Made Diamonds
Aside from the all important goal of economically supporting and sustaining a healthy and vibrant off-shoot of the diamond business, there are actually two major reasons to buy lab created diamonds. They are mainly ecological impact, and cost. If you purchase synthetic diamonds, they are guaranteed to be blood/conflict-free. This is something the mining industry cannot say is the case with most natural stones on the market today, as you will soon read about. The second reason speaks to the fact that lab-created diamonds typically sell for far less than conventional diamonds. This development has had a positive, democratizing effect on what was once a very insular trade.
Blood Diamonds to Fair Trade Co-ops
To expand a bit further on why choosing synthetic diamond jewelry is your best ecological option, consider the source of most of the natural stones on the market today. Even though it’s been almost 20 years since the mining of “blood diamonds” from conflict zones in Africa was exposed and decried in movies and books, it is probably safe to say that the practice is still prevalent, and many old, tainted stones remain on the open market today. In 2003, the industry responded to overwhelming consumer demand by establishing the Kimberly Process, which is an international certification system designed to assuage consumer fears, but it remains almost impossible to accurately trace open-market diamonds back to their true origin.
Most of today’s diamond mining occurs in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mines there are typically crude, disorganized operations, where the workers are subjected to horrific working conditions and exploitation. The pay they receive can barely support a small family, and hardly compensates for all the abuse they have to endure. However, stopping trade with these countries will only exacerbate the problem, as a good portion of their GNP is from mining, and restricting this industry will only further the poor worker’s plight. The ultimate solution is just now starting to happen, with the breakup of major mines into small cooperatives defined by pooled resources and labor. This will hopefully result in certified fair-trade practices similar to the ones that revolutionized the coffee and cacao industries in Africa.
Most fine jewelry devotees have heard or read about the most expensive diamonds in the world. These include names like Wittelsbach, Steinmetz Pink, the Hope, and Cullinan diamonds; all ranging in worth from 16 to 400 million dollars. However, there are two particular stones with a degree of exclusivity that sets their value as priceless. They are the Sancy and Koh-I-Noor diamonds, and both are imbued with a long and storied history. Lab-created diamonds will probably never duplicate the unusual facets and features of these legendary gems, and it would be pointless to try, as they exist for the ages. They both properly reside in museums, and have become great tourist attractions. Perhaps they will now serve a more useful purpose than being mere objects of desire for the world’s elite. They can now be utilized as reference and inspiration to a whole new and exciting facet of the jewelry trade – the transformation of lab-created diamonds into world-class high quality gems. This will be an added bonus to the industry, as people on a limited budget can still purchase beautiful diamond jewelry, and the traditional, natural stone jewels will see their intrinsic value enhanced, by moving into an exclusive, separate class. Once real, verifiable certification of origin is in place, all this will add up to better consumer options available, and a stronger, more socially conscience diamond industry.