How Popular Are Lab-Grown Diamonds (and How Are They Different From Mined Diamonds)?
By Space Coast Daily // July 25, 2023
Diamonds have been symbols of eternal love, status and power for millennia. And while mining them was once the norm, today this precious material is being created in laboratories, making us rethink our understanding of its origin and value.
In fact, in an age when man-made diamonds are more widely available than ever, it’s important for consumers to be clued up on how they’re produced, and also to understand their current level of popularity. Let’s look into these elements and many more as we get to know lab-created diamonds in more detail.
Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Physically Identical to Mined Diamonds
First up, let’s get one thing straight. Because of how they are manufactured, lab-grown diamonds really are indistinguishable from mined gems, right down to the molecular level.
That means when you browse VRAI’s lab-created diamond collection, which is filled with scintillating gems produced using the latest zero net emissions foundries, you are looking at jewels that are identical to any which formed below ground.
There’s not any kind of witchcraft or trickery going on here. It’s simply a reality of the way that scientists and researchers have been able to replicate the means by which mined diamonds are formed, and speed this up significantly. So rather than having to wait eons for carbon atoms to become diamonds, they can be coaxed into coalescing in labs, with the same end result.
There are some differences between man-made and mined diamonds, as we’ll discuss later, but these are all unrelated to the physical side of the equation. This means that if you buy jewelry made with lab-grown gems, you are not compromising on any of the qualities you’d expect from this type of material, either from an aesthetic or a practical perspective.
The Growing Appeal of Lab-Created Diamonds
The global diamond market is large, with mines producing over 140 million carats of precious gems each year according to the most recent data.
In comparison, the lab-grown diamond scene is a much smaller niche, although it is rising rapidly thanks to a combination of the aforementioned technological innovations, and of course consumer demand.
China produces more man-made gems annually than any other country, with more than two million carats forged at its labs in a typical year. The US is also up there, and experts estimate that by the end of the decade, a whopping 19.2 million carats will be rolling off the production line every 12 months from various producers worldwide.
In fact as soon as 2028 we’re likely to see lab-grown diamonds conjuring up revenues in excess of $37 billion, thanks in part to the fact that regulators now recognize what the science already shows, which is that man-made gems are identical to mined diamonds.
The Pricing Differential
Here’s where the juiciest part of the story behind lab-grown diamonds comes into the spotlight. The simple fact is that they are priced more competitively than mined gems, with several factors influencing this, including:
- Production costs: It is far more expensive to expend the manpower and resources required to mine diamonds than it is to grow them in a lab.
- Supply chain costs: Even once diamonds have been mined they need to be transported from the handful of places where they are abundant to reach the rest of the world. Meanwhile you can grow diamonds in a lab wherever you like, without being reliant on their presence below ground locally.
- Perceived value: The simple fact is that for the time being, there is still something of a stigma attached to lab-grown diamonds among certain demographics (although not all, as we’ll discover). This means that retailers need to sweeten the deal by pricing jewels which are of man-made origin well below their mined equivalents in order to keep sales ticking over.
All of this is no doubt contributing to the fact that lab-grown diamonds are increasingly popular, especially among consumers in the Millennial and Gen Z brackets. Younger people who are more cash-strapped than Gen X and Baby Boomers still want to buy into bling, and are more able to do so thanks to man-made gems being an option that fits their budget.
The Carbon Footprint Consideration
Another difference between mined gems and lab-grown diamonds is how problematic they are from a climate change perspective.
As mentioned, it takes a lot of energy and resources to mine diamonds, and yet with the right type of foundry equipment and power, they can be grown in labs without making a net contribution to global emissions.
Consumers, especially those aged under 40, value this type of considerate, forward-thinking approach to production more than some of the other selling points that diamonds have traditionally brought to the table. A status symbol isn’t just about cost today, but about what it says about a person’s values and views.
The Future Prospects
There are all sorts of reports into the lab-grown diamond market out there, but the consensus seems to be that it is following an upward trajectory, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
One study suggests that a 9% CAGR for the next few years is a certainty, and the rise and rise of this type of product is not just an isolated example of changing consumer values, but rather one part of a much wider trend that is coming to define all spending across a diverse array of industries.
For people who understand the attraction of lab-grown diamonds, both in terms of their pricing and their identical physical properties to mined gems, buying them really is an obvious choice.
The last thing to lean into is that we’re really only at the beginning of the journey which will eventually see lab-grown diamonds become the main player in the jewelry market.
This isn’t just about consumer values and climate change, although both of these are important. The main point is that it’s better for brands and businesses as well, because the cost and complexity of creating compelling pieces is lessened, and the quality is maintained, so customers are kept happier for less.