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Lab-grown diamonds are growing in popularity

“It’s a real diamond, but it’s a manufactured product,” Effune said. “You cannot look at the diamond side by side and tell the difference.”
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 4:15 PM MST|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 4:24 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Sales of lab-grown diamonds are growing, as the cost of natural diamonds soars due to lingering supply chain issues and U.S. sanctions on Russia. At the Diamond Guys in Scottsdale, Elan Efune sells both.

“We have different demands. We have clients that come in requesting natural mined diamonds. We have clients requesting lab-grown diamonds, and we feel that both have their place in the market,” Efune said. “For us, the overriding majority of buyers, the appeal of a lab-grown diamond is the cost.” Lab-grown diamonds are significantly cheaper than mined diamonds. In some cases, a factory-made diamond could cost as much as 70% less than a comparable natural diamond. “It’s a real diamond, but it’s a manufactured product,” Effune said. “You cannot 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 inscribed to make sure consumers know what they’re buying. There’s another way, according to Thomas Sharp, a geology professor 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 the natural diamond is different than that of a synthetic diamond,” Sharp said.

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

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

“It’s growing for sure,” Efune said. “And growing at a very quick rate. 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’s formed in the earth.” Lab-grown diamonds are still rated for carat, cut, color, and clarity, just like natural diamonds. They can also be lab certified, just like natural diamonds.