It’s easy to feel a little lost when reading about, or discussing, lab-grown diamonds, because so many different terms are used to describe them. This article will help you get familiar with the most common terminology.
What is a Lab-Grown Diamond called? Lab-Grown Diamonds are commonly referred to by many different names, including:
- Lab Diamonds
- Lab Made Diamonds
- Above Ground Diamonds
- Created Diamonds
- Cultured Diamonds
- Man Made Diamonds
- Manufactured Diamonds
- Synthetic Diamonds
- HPHT Diamonds
- CVD Diamonds
Various combinations of all these names are also commonly used.
So many names are used for man-made diamonds, that things can get confusing fast. In the remainder of this post, we’ll discuss why so many are used, and why some have been heavy promoted, and lobbied for, by certain industry segments.
Why So Many Names Exist for Lab Grown Diamonds
When industries are young, it’s common for there to be many names floating around for certain type of process or technology. The lab created diamond industry is still quite young. While groups like General Electric have been working to manufacture quality diamonds for decades, it’s only in the very recent past, that the technology has evolved to the point that lab-cultured diamonds are now visually indistinguishable from mined diamonds. The similarities aren’t just based on appearance. Lab diamonds are now just as hard, and durable, as earth-grown diamonds.
Different name variations can become established and entrenched in geographic regions. For example, people in some parts of the US refer to a typical carbonated beverage as a ‘Soda,’ other regions would refer to the same drink as a ‘Pop,’ and still, others would call it a ‘Coke,’ regardless of the cola’s brand.
Communities of various types can also adopt common usage of the name that seems to suit them best. These can be professional communities (like geologists), or non-professionals (like wedding bloggers). The fact that each community can have different names that get entrenched and ingrained in their communication culture, helps perpetuate the use of a wide variety of names that are continually floating around, both online and offline, that all describe the same type of product.
Names Used for Traditional Diamonds
Traditionally, diamonds are just referred to as ‘diamonds’. Because lab grown diamonds are also ‘diamonds,’ there are now terms that are used when someone wants to make it clear that they’re specifically talking about traditional diamonds that were excavated from the earth. Here are a few examples.
- Below Ground Diamonds
- Natural Diamonds
- Mined Diamonds
- Earth Grown Diamonds
Of course, there are also combined variations of those names, like ‘Earth Mined Diamonds’ too. Mined diamonds that were produced with slave labor, that fund wars, or that use child labor are known best by the following terms:
- Conflict Diamond
- Blood Diamond
Unfortunately, Conflict Diamonds continue to be smuggled out of banned nations, and in through non-banned nations to sidestep regulation. It’s a flawed process. Lab diamonds, on the other hand, are always conflict-free.
How Names Shape Sentiment
The mined diamond industry has a strong, and fairly universal, opinion about the name they would like lab diamonds to be known by. Of all the potential names listed above, they would prefer for people to use ‘Synthetic.’
When your average consumer hears the term ‘synthetic diamond’ they interpret the name as ‘FAKE’ diamond. Since lab-grown diamonds are so much cheaper than mined diamonds, the mined diamond industry needs to differentiate the two, and position lab-grown diamonds as cheap substitutes. The name ‘Synthetic’ helps with that aim.
Every heard the term Aquaponics? That’s a process that some people use to grow vegetables in water rather than soil. When I say ‘rather than soil,’ I mean it—no soil. It works. A tomato grown by this method, for example, is a REAL tomato, that’s that same as a field grown tomato in every regard (look, taste, nutrition, cell structure, etc). The tomato didn’t come through a traditional channel (growing in dirt), so should it be called a ‘synthetic tomato’? Of course not. It’s not a fake tomato—it’s a real tomato that was created in an unusual way. Could the label ‘synthetic diamond’ scare some buyers off that might misunderstand the label? Of course!
In a very similar way, man made diamonds aren’t really ‘synthetic.’ They’re real diamonds that came to use through a non-traditional channel—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the traditional channel is completely controlled, manipulated, and overpriced.
De Beers has made an absolute fortune manipulating the opinions of nations through the clever conditioning of marketers. Just as they carefully conditioned nations to abandon cultural norms, and adopt new traditions that revolved around diamond gifting as part of weddings and anniversaries, they have also tried to shape public opinion against lab created diamonds.
They fought and lobbied along with the rest of the industry for the term ‘synthetic’ to stick as the standard term, used across government and industry, for lab diamonds. Jewelers, news programs, diamond grading companies and many others across the industry seemed thrilled to adopt and use the terminology.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made headlines around the world in 2018, when they announced new guidelines regarding the use of the term ‘natural’ when used as a descriptor for diamonds, and ‘synthetic’ when used as a descriptor for lab-created diamonds.
The FTC is an agency of the United States government, that’s responsible for regulating the claims and tactics of advertisers. They essentially police the industry with the US.
After a great deal of debate, study, and consideration, they found that lab-grown diamonds aren’t clever lookalikes—they’re actual diamond, in every sense. Yes, they’re made differently, but they’re made of the same stuff, have the same look, and share the same key characteristics.
The term favored for lab-created diamonds by the mined diamond industry, ‘synthetic’ didn’t fit well. It implies that lab-grown diamonds might look the same, but it’s fake—just a cheap imitation. Again, the FTC found nothing ‘fake’ about lab-grown diamonds. Because of this, their 2018 release on the issue advised marketers away from using the term ‘synthetic’ to describe a competitor’s lab created diamonds.
On the other hand, they also made it absolutely clear, that man-made diamond manufacturers and retailers have to disclose the origins of their lab-made diamond through the term they use to describe it. They can’t refer to their lab created product simply as ‘Diamond.’ Instead, they need to call it something like ‘lab created diamond,’ ‘lab cultured diamond’.
If lab created diamonds are truly just like mined diamonds, then why the need to differentiate? Several reasons:
- Earth-grown diamonds cost A LOT more, and people want to make sure they aren’t paying earth-grown prices for a lab-grown product…even if both items look identical and are equally durable and functional.
- Some people specifically want and earth-grown diamond for a particular reason
- The notion of the diamond forming deep in the earth over millions of years seems romantic or intriguing.
- They’ve bought into the notion that earth-grown diamonds are more desirable and valuable.
- Simple transparency. Consumers have the right to know the origins of the product they buy if that information is going to be valuable to them. They can then decide if the information is going to influence their decisions from there.
They also said that earth-grown diamond companies can’t refer to their product as ‘natural diamond.’ That could also confuse consumers and potentially lead them to look at various diamond options differently than they otherwise normally would.
How the Term ‘Synthetic’ is Still Being Used Since the New Guidelines
Marketers are generally careful to avoid using term ‘synthetic’ in diamond ads and other marketing efforts, but the guidelines don’t apply to countless other use cases. Radio hosts, newspaper columnists, and industry educators that aren’t directly marketing diamonds still can, and do, use the term ‘synthetic’ in (intentionally and unintentionally) misleading ways to describe lab created diamonds.
Because of this, many people still use the term publically. It’s probably also used thousands of times daily by jewelry professionals across the country (and around the world) during live conversations in their store. Those live conversations are obviously very difficult for consumer protection groups like the FTC to monitor.
How Much Do Lab Created Diamond Engagement Rings Cost?
The gem for a typical one-carat lab-created diamond engagement ring should cost roughly $2,400. In addition to the impact of the carat weight on the price. Pricing will also vary based on the color, cut, and clarity of the diamond. Those that are colorless, and those with vivid coloring, will cost the most.
What are the Advantages of Buying Loose Lab Created Diamonds?
It’s much easier to shop for your best price on truly comparable lab-created diamonds when you’re evaluating loose stones. If they aren’t loose, comparing stones becomes much more difficult, because the metal type, the weight, and the design of the ring itself can cause big price swings from ring-to-ring.
Can You Buy GIA Certified Lab Created Diamonds?
GIA does certify lab-grown diamonds, but they’ll only provide a range for color and clarity, rather than a specific grade. For this reason, few lab-created diamonds are sent to GIA for grading. Labs like IGI (among others) grade all varieties of diamonds with equal standards, so they’re typically preferred.