Lab-grown diamonds are gaining popularity

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Sales of lab-grown diamonds are rising, while the cost of natural diamonds is skyrocketing due to ongoing supply chain issues and US sanctions on Russia. At Diamond Guys in Scottsdale, Elan Efune sells both.

“We have different demands. We have customers who come to ask for mined natural diamonds. We have customers asking for lab-grown diamonds, and we believe both have their place in the market,” Efune said. “For us, the overwhelming majority of buyers, the allure of a lab-grown diamond is the cost.” Lab-grown diamonds are significantly cheaper than mined diamonds. In some cases, a factory-made diamond can cost up to 70% less than a comparable natural diamond. “It’s a real diamond, but it’s a manufactured product,” Effune said. “You can’t look at the diamond side by side and tell the difference.”

It takes powerful equipment to determine whether a diamond was grown in a factory in weeks or formed deep in the earth’s mantle over millions of years. The most obvious way is to look for an inscription on the diamond under a microscope. Lab-grown diamonds are engraved to ensure consumers know what they are buying. There is another way, according to Thomas Sharp, professor of geology at Arizona State University. “We can look at the infrared range, or we can do something called photoluminescence and get a spectrum, and the spectrum of natural diamond is different than a synthetic diamond,” Sharp said.

In her class, Sharp and her students made diamonds. These are not gem quality stones, but the process is similar. “We process carbon, say graphite, into diamond in a high-pressure press in the lab,” Sharp said. “But the challenge of making them in the lab is that you can’t go straight from graphite to diamond. You actually do it in a liquid metal, so the graphite dissolves and then precipitates back into diamond, and that’s how we make these beautiful lab-grown diamonds.

For decades, the process of making diamonds has been common for industrial use. “Any source of carbon can be turned into a diamond in this type of synthesis,” Sharp said. Today, lab-made gem-quality stones are making their mark in the jewelry industry. In an analysis, Statista estimates that lab-grown diamonds will have a 10% market share by 2030.

“He’s growing for sure,” Efune said. “And growing at a very fast pace. But I think there will always be a place for natural mined diamonds because there are certain buyers, that’s what they want. They want something that forms in the earth. Lab-grown diamonds are always graded for carat, cut, color, and clarity, just like natural diamonds. They can also be lab certified, just like natural diamonds.

Sarah C. Figueiredo