Lab-Created Diamond Mix-up Shows Value of Careful Sourcing
Recent technological advances have finally made it possible to create real diamonds in laboratory settings that are virtually indistinguishable from natural, mined diamonds. At Brilliant Earth, we’re excited about this new way of producing diamonds. Lab-created diamonds, which we offer, are of the very highest purity and quality; they cost less money to produce and therefore cost less for consumers; and they are untainted by the labor and environmental abuses so common in diamond mining.
What’s not to like?
Nothing at all, except that lab-grown are now so physically and chemically identical to mined diamonds that it is easy to mistake one for the other. Last month, for instance, it was discovered that 145 lab-grown diamonds had been sent to the International Gemological Institute, a diamond-grading institution in Antwerp, Belgium. The lab-grown diamonds were mixed with natural, mined diamonds and were identified only after rigorous testing.
The incident raises the issue of whether fraudulent diamond suppliers are trying to pass off lab-grown diamonds as natural diamonds. Although the lab-grown diamonds were identified in this instance, it’s possible and even likely that other lab-grown diamonds have escaped detection and entered the general diamond supply.
We take these concerns seriously. Many jewelry consumers prefer diamonds that have been formed naturally. We think it’s important that these consumers are not deceived. On the other hand, we do not believe this issue presents a problem for Brilliant Earth. We are confident that all of the natural diamonds in our inventory are, indeed, natural.
How we can be sure? Because we vet our suppliers so rigorously, we can identify the origin for each of our center gemstones and can even trace the path that each diamond takes through the diamond supply chain to our custody. We originally put in place these safeguards to be sure that we only offer ethical, beyond conflict free diamonds. But these same sourcing methods also allow us to guarantee that all our mined diamonds are truly natural.
(We should add that some natural diamonds are fraudulently treated or altered so that they can earn a higher independent grading. Our rigorous approach to sourcing also ensures that no treatments or alterations have been performed on our natural diamonds.)
None of this is to say that we think lab-grown diamonds are less desirable than mined diamonds. We simply think that consumers should be able to choose between lab-grown and mined diamonds and receive the type of diamond they prefer.
Over the long term our hope is that lab-created diamonds grow in popularity. If more consumers choose lab-created diamonds, it could reduce the need for diamond mining and spur the diamond industry to improve its labor and environmental standards.
It is even a possibility that difficulties in distinguishing lab-grown and natural diamonds could be a blessing in disguise. Many retailers could decide that traceability of the type Brilliant Earth now provides is the best way to guard against mixing the two types of diamonds. The invention of high-quality lab-grown diamonds could ultimately help spur the creation of something that we at Brilliant Earth have always advocated for: a global diamond supply in which every diamond is fully traceable.