Seismic changes for fine jewelry industry as laboratory-grown diamonds gain popularity

Morgan Stanley predicts laboratory-grown diamonds may represent 15 percent of the fine jewelry market in five years time, as more buyers look for ethically sourced stones.

The diamond industry’s reputation took a battering in the 1990s when it was linked to increasing warlord conflict and worker exploitation in Western Africa.

According to Jason Payne and Lindsay Reinsmith, owners of a diamond manufacturing company Ada Diamonds, “Laboratory-grown diamonds are guaranteed to not contribute to conflict and be sustainably grown.”

Although it is already cheaper to manufacture diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds currently make up less than 1 percent of the market, although this is expected to change. Most man-made diamonds are still used for industrial processes rather than as fine jewelry.

Newly engaged Priscilla Engeldinger was skeptical about the lab diamonds at first, but after learning about the manufacturing process, she said, “I think it’s actually better than a blood diamond.”

Ada Diamonds stresses that its diamonds are anatomically identical to diamonds taken out of the earth. Not all diamond manufacturing labs use the same processes.

Payne explains the process of ‘growing’ a diamond, “So you take carbon, you heat it up to you heat it up to 1,500 degrees Celsius and turn it into liquid carbon and you pressurise it to over a million PSI, or 70,000 atmospheres of pressure. At that height of temperature liquid carbon slowly cools back down to a solid and at that height of pressure the solid form of carbon is a diamond. These diamonds are stronger, more pure, and a higher quality crystal than the diamonds that are grown in the chaos beneath the earth below us.”

Man-made diamonds are also sent to the same independent bodies that verify the provenance and size of mined diamonds.

Bain and Company put the retail value of diamond jewelry at US$60 billion.

Most of the demand is from the United States, Western Europe, and Japan, but is expected to be boosted by Chinese and Indian consumers.