WFLA News Channel 8 Host, Cyndi Edwards: From Instagram posts to celebrity jewelry lines, lab-grown diamonds seem to be popping up everywhere. But what are they and how are they different from natural diamonds? Joining us now is Grant Mobley, a gemologist and diamond expert, and Trade Lead for the Natural Diamond Council with some key factors to consider when shopping for a diamond. Grant, great to have you here…
Grant Mobley: Thank so much for having me.
CE: So, let’s talk about the difference. Let’s set the record straight: a mine diamond or a lab-grown diamond?
GM: Sure. So, the big difference in a natural diamond and a lab-grown diamond…A lab-grown diamond, what it really is, it is a manufactured product. It’s a manufactured product that is trying to mimic the look and the composition of a natural diamond.
CE: And I have read that it is made up of the exact same thing as in a diamond that you can get out of the ground.
GM: So, they are made up of carbon. The biggest difference in a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond is that a natural diamond is a billion years old, that’s at almost a minimum…
CE: True [laughs].
GM: It’s a billion years old. It’s a miracle of nature. And they are found 100 miles plus below the Earth’s surface, which is very, very cool. Now…obviously, the origin of a lab-grown diamond is totally different. They are made in factories, mostly overseas, and they can be made in a matter of a couple of weeks. So that’s the big difference. They can be made out of the same thing, but they are very, very different and detectable.
CE: Well, I was thinking, to the untrained eye, could anybody tell?
GM: No, it’s very difficult to tell, for sure, without the proper equipment. There’s no question.
CE: OK. Speaking of proper equipment, what is this little box you got here?
GM: This is…this is a detector, which I can certainly use it to show you the difference.
CE: OK. We got this little baggie here, and you got tiny little diamonds in there…
GM: These are just what I brought for here. These are small diamonds. This is a mixture of natural diamonds and the lab-grown diamonds. So, I brought that with the intention of actually showing you how easy is to detect, so…
GM: We can actually just put this right…
CE: Easy for somebody like you to detect…
GM: Well, or any retail store, any jeweler as well. And so, you can just put that in there, and we press this button here…
CE: And that’s going to be reading these diamonds?
GM: It is. It is testing. So, I don’t know how well you can see it in the camera, but we have the red circles here, so those red are actually the lab-grown diamonds, the ones that are not natural.
GM: And all of the other, the blue, those are all natural diamonds.
GM: It’s very…for lack of a better term, black and white. It’s very easy to tell and quick to tell the difference. So…retail jewelers have this in their stores, so it’s very easy for them as well.
CE: Why do you think people should opt to go for a natural versus a lab-grown diamond.
GM: It’s not necessary they should opt for one or the other. It’s just that they are very different products.
GM: I think the problem is that a lot of the people that are selling laboratory grown diamonds can kind of blur the lines between what is natural and what is lab-grown.
CE: Why does one show up red and the other not? What’s the difference in the composition?
GM: So, again, so contrary to what some people might tell you, they aren’t exactly the same. There’s no way to replicate the growth conditions of a natural diamond. So, this machine actually analyzes those growth patterns and that’s how it can tell you the difference between one and the other.
CE: OK. OK. So, what are some important considerations now for people who are going to buy a diamond, or they want to upgrade to a better diamond?
CE: It’s not just the four C’s any longer, right?
GM: That’s true. The four C’s is not…you know…Because of lab-grown diamonds the four C’s is not really all what you need to know.
CE: And just to recap what the four C’s of diamonds are…
GM: Color, clarity, cut and carat.
GM: Yeap. So that’s obviously very common knowledge, but really, because some of these lab-grown diamond sellers are kind of blurring those lines between what it’s natural and what is lab-grown, the consumer needs to know ask the question. They need to know, is this natural? They need to ask, “Is this natural?” or “Is this lab-grown?” But also, something the consumer needs to know is that lab-grown diamonds are not an eco-friendly alternative. So, this is also a common misconception.
CE: And why not?
GM: Exactly. There’s a lot of research now that shows us that the environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds is actually much higher than natural diamonds. And that’s because essentially, in order to make a lab-grown diamond, what you are trying to do is replicate the process deep within the Earth that happened over a period of many millions of years…you are trying to do that in a two-week period of time, so it creates an unbelievable amount of energy. So that’s really why the carbon footprint of lab-grown diamonds is so large in comparison with natural diamonds. The recovery of natural diamonds only requires water, which is 86% recycled, and it’s also pressure, so it doesn’t require a ton of electricity to do so.
CE: Ok. Alright! Well Grant Mobley, thank you very much for joining us today.
GM: Of course!
CE: We learned a lot.
GM: I’m glad to do it.
CE: You definitively set the record straight for us. We’ll be right back.