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Lab created diamonds (which have also been referred to as lab grown diamonds, synthetic diamonds, artificial diamonds, cultivated diamonds or a cultured diamonds) are man-made diamonds that will mirror a real, natural diamond. Because they actually consist of carbon atoms structures, lab created diamonds will display the same chemical and optical characteristics of a natural diamond crystal produced by the geological processes of Mother Nature.
While we think diamonds are beautiful and a great choice when you are looking to make a luxury jewelry purchase, we do not buy into the marketing that De Beers has rammed down our throats for a century, convincing people that you must buy a diamond when you get engaged. The founder of this site even wrote an article for Huffington Post to that effect.
Our goal is not to convince people that they should buy a diamond.
We are here to help people who are buying diamonds to get the best bang for their buck. We find the right balance of quality to get the biggest diamond you can within your budget and help you avoid any rocks or shoals along the way.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: I agree that synthetic diamonds look exactly like natural diamonds (so long as we are referring to lab created diamonds, not diamond simulants or cubic zirconia). I’m not going to to get into the technical details of how they make diamonds because that is not the issue.
The companies selling lab grown diamonds claim that their diamonds are 30-40% cheaper. That is an outright lie (as we’ll show below), but what would be considered a good value? As we explain in this article, you shouldn’t view your diamond as an investment.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t ignore the value entirely. Let’s say an average natural diamond retains roughly 50% of its value after purchase. Eventually the value of the diamond will rise (historically, diamond prices rise consistently), so if you ever try to sell it, you should be getting at least half (or possibly much more) of the original purchase price.
Lab-created synthetic diamonds have no resale value. No jeweler will buy them back and if you try to sell them on eBay, you’ll get pennies on the dollar for it. So, from a value perspective, you would need to buy the lab-created diamond at a massive discount to justify giving up the value retention of natural diamonds.
Below we compare the three largest purveyors of lab created diamonds online: Diamond Foundry, MiaDonna, and Brilliant Earth. We have used Blue Nile as our baseline for this article as they are the largest, most reputable, online retailer out there.
If you want to skip the details below, here is an example of two diamonds we compared. One is a GIA certified diamond from Blue Nile, the other an IGI certified diamond from Brilliant Earth. As we explain in our IGI article, they are a much more “generous” laboratory, so we adjusted the grades accordingly.
Brilliant Earth offered a 0.70 I VS1 IGI certified round diamond for $1,870. Blue Nile had a 0.70 J VS2 GIA certified round diamond for $1,499. You should take a look at both diamonds to see the quality for yourself .
So for identical diamonds, the lab created choice was 25% more expensive than the natural diamond. This chart shows the price average of the three main lab-grown diamond companies in comparison to Blue Nile.
|Blue Nile||Diamond Foundry||MiaDonna||Brilliant Earth|
That’s right: the claims that lab-created diamonds are 30-40% cheaper are WAY off-base. In fact, synthetic diamonds are actually about 20% more expensive on average than comparable natural diamonds.
Given the fact that you are losing all the resale/investment value from your purchase, it seems that lab created diamonds offer very poor value indeed.
There can be other reasons for going with a lab created diamond (I have had readers contact me that were engineers and were in love with the fact that it was created instead of natural), but you should recognize that lab-created diamonds currently offer no value-based advantages .
The Diamond Foundry is the talk of the town right now. They are the flashy new kids on the block. A Santa Clara based startup, they have been in the headlines recently claiming that they have made a breakthrough in technology that allows them to grow more diamonds at a faster rate.
The headlines usually have less to do with the company’s accomplishments than with their famous backers. They have strong support from major venture players; but the biggest name involved is Leonardo DiCaprio.
The biggest issue with Diamond Foundry is that they don’t list certified diamonds. After digging a little deeper and having conversations with people at Diamond Foundry, I understand the difficulties they are facing. GIA, the gold standard in diamond grading, has refused to offer a certificate with the same accurate grading they do to natural diamonds. This is unconscionable in my opinion.
Diamond Foundry, seemingly in agreement with our assessment of less strict labs like IGI, does not want to tarnish their brand by stooping down to that level. That leaves them in a difficult conundrum. Until they solve this issue, they have chosen to self-grade the diamonds while offering the option of having the diamond certified by GIA (who will give a grade with more vague color/clarity gradings).
Until they fix this issue, it’s incredibly difficult to ascertain the true value of their diamonds (as I have no way of knowing what the actual quality is). For the purposes of this article, I have been charitable and assumed they follow the same standards all other lab-created offers follow: IGI.
When comparing to GIA certified diamonds, I will deduct 1 grade each in color and clarity (this is generous as well, as you can see based on our study of IGI and other labs). If and when the Diamond Foundry solves this issue, we will adjust the comparison accordingly.
Here are three diamonds they have listed:
Here are some comparable diamonds from Blue Nile:
2.30ct H SI2 Ex cut round diamond for $16,251
1.30ct I VS1 Ex cut round diamond for $6,401
1.01 J SI1 Ex cut round diamond for $3,559
So it seems like you actually pay an enormous premium for a synthetic diamond (instead of their marketing claims of 30-40% savings). And before you cry foul, claiming that I was being unduly harsh for them not using legitimate certification, even if you are willing to say that their grades are spot on, they still aren’t cheaper. Here are three more diamonds:
2.30ct G SI1 Ex cut round diamond for $22,211
1.30ct I IF Ex cut round diamond for $6,692
1.01 I VS2 Ex cut round diamond for $4,779
In two out of the three cases, the natural diamond was still cheaper despite being of higher quality (one was better cut, the other had a higher clarity grade). Also consider that GIA certificates for stones of this size cost over $100.
MiaDonna has been around for a few years now. Recently they have partnered with Pure Grown Diamonds (formerly Gemesis diamonds) to incorporate lab-grown diamonds into their jewelry. Perhaps the oldest company in the synthetic diamonds business, Pure Grown Diamonds started out as Gemesis inc in 1996.
MiaDonna is your typical, run of the mill, online retailer. We have not had many readers ask about them, so we don’t have much experience with them as a company. I am just looking at what they have to offer.
Here are a couple of diamonds from MiaDonna:
1.02 H SI1 IGI certified round diamond for $4,928
1.66 H VS1 IGI certified round diamond for $10,574
Here are some comparable diamonds from Blue Nile:
1.02 I SI2 GIA certified round diamond for $3,818
1.62 I VS1 GIA certified round diamond for $10,302
Unlike the other two companies in this review, Brilliant Earth does more than just lab-created diamonds. Because of that, we wrote a full review of Brilliant Earth. We’ll just get straight to the diamond comparison.
Here are some examples from Brilliant Earth:
0.70 I VS1 IGI certified round diamond for $1,870
1.01 I VS1 IGI certified round diamond for $4,100
Here are some comparisons from Blue Nile:
0.70 J VS2 GIA certified round diamond for $1,499
1.02 J VS2 GIA certified round diamond for $3,888
We are not telling you that you should buy into De Beers marketing BS. You certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to buy a diamond.
But anyone telling you that lab created diamonds are cheaper is straight out lying (they are just using weaker certificates to make inflated quality claims; the oldest scam in the book). If you are planning on buying a diamond and looking to get the best bang for your buck, natural diamonds are a far better choice than man-made diamonds.
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