Synthetic Diamonds, also known as Lab Created, are real diamonds. They have the same chemical, physical and crystal properties of natural diamonds. The only difference between the two is that synthetic diamonds were made in a lab, while natural diamonds formed under the earth’s surface.
Even the most experienced gemologist would be unable to differentiate between a synthetic diamond and a natural one. In fact, the only way they can be told apart is through advanced technology which analyzes their crystal growth patterns on a microscopic level.
Contrary to popular belief, synthetic diamonds have actually been around for over half a century. Yet, it is only now that they are being offered as retail products to consumers.
The first synthetic diamonds were created in 1954. Back then they were produced through a process called High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT). This method was not very cost effective and most of the diamonds it formed had a yellow or brown hue, limiting their use to industrial applications.
Today, synthetic diamonds are created through a chemical process called Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). The CVD process is about a decade old and is the main reason that synthetic diamonds are now available for consumer consumption. Initially, proponents of this process believed that it would enable scientists to rapidly create large quantities of jewelry quality diamonds. This hasn’t been the case.
Even today, the supply 1 carat or larger, white, synthetic diamonds is still extremely limited. The largest producer of synthetic diamonds, Gemesis Corporation, has only 200 available for sale (January, 2014) and none of them are over 1.50 carats. To put this into comparison, Blue Nile, an online diamond retailer, lists over 51,000 diamonds in that size range.
Synthetic Diamonds are slightly cheaper than natural diamonds. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are a better deal. At the moment, there is no used market for synthetic diamonds. Meaning that if, down the road, you were interested in selling your synthetic diamond it would be virtually worthless. On the other hand, natural diamonds often fetch 40-60% of their retail price in the secondhand market.
Currently, synthetic diamonds account for less than 2 percent of jewelry quality diamonds, with most of those being very small sizes. Yet, these smaller sizes have had a discernable impact on the market, leading to industry fears that synthetic diamonds may be passed off as natural. To counter these concerns, leading diamond organizations such as Rappaport and GIA are constantly updating suppliers on developments regarding the detection and supply of synthetic diamonds.
As it stands, synthetic diamond producers face an uphill battle in attempting to gain a substantial footing in the retail market. Obstacles they face include profitability, substantially increasing production levels and public misconceptions. Still, the technology is only going to get better. The true effects of synthetic diamonds on the retail diamond market may only be seen 10-20 years down the road.