Are Lab Grown Diamonds A Girl’s Best Friend Or A Bargain?
Shirley Bassey earned a fortune singing about them, while Elizabeth Taylor wore a 68-carat version, Audrey Hepburn and Beyoncé wore the same yellow one. Diamonds have long been the most sought-after gem for anybody with enough money or prestige, but the rising popularity of lab-grown versions of these stones is sparking schisms in the jewellery industry.
Lab-grown diamonds are made in plasma reactors in weeks and have only been recognised as diamonds by the US Federal Trade Commission since 2018, yet they have already spawned a $6 billion industry, which is anticipated to treble by 2025.
The views of luxury companies about lab-grown diamonds (LGD) have evolved in the recent year as well. The stones have received tremendous investment. This summer, Pandora released its Brilliance line in the United States, containing lab-created diamonds generated with 100% sustainable energy.
"North America is the largest market for diamonds in the world," says Rasmus Brix, Pandora's UK&Ireland managing director, "so it was a significant event for us." And, because Pandora is the world's largest jewellery brand, it was also a significant event for the LGD market."
This year, the luxury company LVMH, which owns labels such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany, invested in an Israeli lab-grown firm. In March, Tag Heuer, another LVMH brand, released the Carrera Plasma. It's the brand's first wristwatch to include lab-grown diamonds. The LGD movement is also being supported by celebrities.
Drake paid $1.9 million (£1.7 million) this year for a one-of-a-kind necklace created by artist Frank Ocean's lab-jewellery firm Homer for the 2021 Met Ball. Zoe Kravitz, an actress, also wore lab-grown jewels at the Met Ball. Lady Gaga, Billy Porter, and Penelope Cruz are just a few of the celebrities who have walked the red carpet wearing the stones.
Despite the fact that lab-grown diamonds were first made in 1954, current technical improvements in manufacture mean that they now equal the "four Cs" of real diamonds - cut, clarity, colour, and carat. They are created by combining low pressure and high temperature carbon-rich gases.
Without specialised equipment, jewellers cannot distinguish between natural and lab materials. "When lab-grown diamonds emerged, the diamond industry saw them as a danger," explains Jessica Warch, co-founder of LGD business Kima.
"It's also a very tiny sector; everyone knows everyone else, and when we initially started, people puzzled why we were dealing with 'fake' diamonds." However, they are seeing a shift in demand, and some of them are now dealing with lab-grown plants."
Talya Paskin, a British-Israeli jewellery designer, has likewise faced strong feelings about the new stones. Celebrities like the Duchess of Sussex and Kylie Jenner love her brand Aurum + Grey. She employs recycled metal and stones wherever feasible, although her collection also contains lab-grown materials.