Recent years have seen the advent of lab-grown diamonds, previously confined to industrial use, on the jewelry market. The arrival of this new product category, wrongly equated with natural diamonds, has brought with it its share of preconceived ideas, myths and unfounded claims.
The NDC (Natural Diamond Council) has decided to shed light on these preconceived ideas with the publication of a highly substantiated report. Putting an end to the misinformation circulating about natural and lab-grown diamonds, it is based on reports by experts such as Paul Zimnisky, independent articles and authoritative studies (GIA, Bain & Company, NASA etc.).
“In an age where consumers are more inquisitive and enlightened than ever, they wish to know about the values and responsible business practices from the companies and indeed the wider industry from which they are purchasing,” says David Kellie, CEO of the NDC. “
At the Natural Diamond Council, we want to support consumers in taking informed decisions by providing information transparently.”
The NDC’s aim is not to fuel a polemic between natural and lab-grown diamonds, but to re-establish transparency on the facts and stop confusing the two.
Here are just a few of the truths to be re-established :
- Laboratory-grown diamonds can be detected from natural diamonds.
All laboratory-grown diamonds can be detected using professional verification instruments. While the two types of diamonds are indeed indistinguishable to the naked eye, analysis in the laboratory or using professional verification instruments can identify LGD. Mass-produced in just a few weeks, unlike the billions of years it takes for a natural diamond to form under the earth’s surface, laboratory-grown diamonds exhibit specific growth-related features and patterns.
- Not all laboratory-grown diamonds are sustainable.
Because they reproduce the formation process of natural diamonds in a matter of weeks, lab-grown Diamonds are energy-intensive. During this process, a significant amount of energy is required to reach extreme pressures and temperatures: around 1,500 degrees for the HPHT method. There are two methods of producing LGD: HPHT and CVD, the latter being far more energy-intensive than the former, not to mention the quantities of water needed to cool the reactors. However, it is difficult to generalize, as the data available on the carbon emissions of these industries lacks transparency. It all depends on the country from which the lab-grown diamonds come, the method used and the way in which waste is treated, but it should be noted that over 60% of these diamonds are mass-produced in China and India where 63% and respectively 74% of grid electricity results from coal.
- Lab-grown diamonds are not as valuable as natural diamonds.
From 2016 to 2023, the average price of a 1.5 carat laboratory-grown diamond has decreased by over 74% whilst the natural diamond prices have also fluctuated, over the last 35 years, on average, they have risen by 3% each year. The expected scarcity of natural diamonds on the one hand, and the growing production of LGD on the other, will only accentuate this value gap.
- Ethical sourcing is a priority for the natural diamond industry.
Under the Kimberley Process, mandated by the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the trade in rough diamonds is strictly regulated to ensure the absence of conflict. Other initiatives, such as those led by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), the OECD, luxury groups, Maisons and all intermediary players, reinforce control over good practices throughout the value chain, from extraction to end customer. The use of cutting-edge traceability technologies and the implementation of blockchains provide greater transparency. Ethics, responsibility, transparency and best practices are fundamental and constant concerns in the profession, ahead of customer demands.
- Natural diamonds help protect the biodiversity.
The natural diamond industry takes great care to protect the biodiversity of the areas in which it operates. In total, this represents an area equivalent to the size of New York, Chicago, Washington and Las Vegas combined, almost four times the size of the territory it uses. The company is also committed to reclaiming the land in which it operates when the mines close for good. 99% of waste from diamond recovery is rock, and 84% of the water used to recover diamonds is recycled.
An interesting De Beers initiative, the Diamond Route is a network established to protect critical wildlife habitats in South Africa and Botswana.
- The natural diamond industry is on the move to reduce its carbon footprint.
The natural diamond industry is committed to decarbonation, in line with global climate objectives. As part of their strategies to reduce carbon emissions, Natural Diamond Council members are developing renewable energy projects, often in developing countries where it is more difficult to find this type of energy, as well as carbon offset projects and investments in carbon sequestration programs. For example, the De Beers Group has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and Rio Tinto to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. NDC members are also involved in innovative carbon sequestration programs using kimberlite.
- Natural Diamonds benefit the countries from which they originate.
The natural diamond industry supports 10 million people worldwide. Up to 80% of rough diamond value remains with local communities in the form of local purchasing, employment benefits, social programs, investment in infrastructure as well as the taxes, royalties and dividends paid from the industry to respective governments.
For NDC members, 85% of all procurement is local.
In Canada, the natural diamond industry contributes to 24% of total GDP in the Northwest Territories (NWT), $17 billion went toward businesses and $7.5 billion to Indigenous owned
businesses. Revenues from natural diamonds help fund a school system that provides free education for all Botswanan children.
- Working conditions in the diamond industry meet the highest standards.
Natural Diamond Council members ensure that working conditions related to fair remuneration, health and safety, social benefits and the protection of human rights meet the highest global standards in their mining operations. Diamond recovery is mainly carried out by companies using modern mining equipment and practices. All NDC members have adopted a “zero injury” workplace policy.
In terms of wages, NDC member companies paid on average in 2019 up to 64% more than the average national wage.
Natural diamonds and LGDs both have their place on the market. NDC’s report is not intended to deny this reality, but to combat the misinformation circulating about these two types of stone. This initiative is all the more important as attacks on the natural diamond industry erode customer confidence, blur public perception and can ultimately harm the communities that depend on its production for their economic stability.
Backed up by figures, serious references and numerous concrete examples, the report has yet to be contradicted by the manufacturers of lab-grown diamonds.
The full report is available HERE
Photo Lab-grown diamonds ©NDC