At Bario Neal, we take pride in the ethically sourced diamonds we offer in our rings and fine jewelry. If natural diamonds aren’t your thing, we offer plenty of colorless stone options to create the engagement ring of your dreams. Whether it’s the cool clarity of a white sapphire (check out our Prim Cluster Trillion White Sapphire Ring) or the brilliant fire of moissanite, there’s a colorless stone for every design and occasion.
However, if you’re looking for something as close in appearance and durability to a natural diamond as possible then lab grown diamonds are the perfect choice. “We’ve seen lab grown become a lot more popular in the last year or so,” says BN sales director, Ariel Yaroslawitz. “Customers want to know the same details about our lab diamonds as they do about our natural ones. Sometimes they are curious about the actual process, but they mainly want to know what the difference between their two diamond choices are.”
Another common question we get about lab grown (also known as “cultivated”) diamonds is “Are they real diamonds?” We’re here to assure you that they’re just as real as their mined counterparts. Since the late 18th century, when it was discovered that diamonds consist purely of carbon, scientists have worked to recreate them in a controlled environment. This was first reportedly achieved in 1954, though gem quality stones wouldn’t be produced for several more decades. These early stones, small and yellow toned, were used as cutting and polishing components for industrial purposes. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that laboratories were able to create near-colorless stones for the jewelry industry that could be considered affordable in the current market. The process of growing diamonds in a lab starts from a carbon “seed” that is heated under pressure. It takes approximately six to ten weeks to create a rough diamond in a laboratory. The diamond is then polished and cut (just like a natural diamond) and given its 4 C grading, will ultimately determine its market value.
Since identification is only possible by trained gemologists with specialized equipment, lab grown diamonds are shifting the landscape of the diamond industry. These man-made stones, though chemically identical, differ from their natural counterparts in several ways:
- Origin: Natural diamonds are formed deep in the Earth's mantle under extreme pressure and heat over millions of years. Meanwhile, lab grown diamonds are created by humans in a laboratory and require no mining.
- Inclusions: Natural diamonds often have inclusions, which are naturally occurring imperfections or flaws within the stone. Just like natural diamonds, lab grown diamonds contain inclusions. These may be more metallic than those found in a natural diamond due to the controlled process in which the man made stones are grown. Examining these inclusions is just one of the ways that gemologists can identify a natural diamond from a lab grown one.
- Color: Natural diamonds come in a range of colors, like the warm browns in a champagne diamond, but fancy colored stones are especially rare and valuable. Since lab grown diamonds are grown in a controlled environment, vivid yellows, pinks, greens, and blues almost never seen in nature are possible to create in a lab grown diamond in weeks.
- Price: Lab grown diamonds are usually priced significantly lower than natural diamonds of similar size and quality (30% to 40% less expensive) Our Yucca Oval Diamond Ring 2.0ct with a natural diamond, for example, is priced nearly 3 times more than its lab grown counterpart.
- Certification: Diamonds certified in a laboratory are tested and graded according to industry set quality standards. Certification is important not only for determining the market cost of a stone - it will also indicate if the stone was mined or lab grown.
For some, the notion of a man made diamond may kill some of the romance attributed to these sparkly stones. Other shoppers may find that size matters most. If someone really wants a 2 carat ring (like our Allium Diamond Ring 2.0ct) but doesn't have the budget for a mined diamond that large, they can find the size they want in a lab grown for much less of an investment. Anna Bario, BN’s co-founder and lead designer, agrees. “They have surged in popularity during this trend toward maximalism, as they offer large finger coverage for a more affordable price than a mined diamond. It’s a personal perspective but the inherent value is different than that of a mined diamond. Materials from the earth like mined diamonds and gemstones are cosmic-level pieces of planetary history. They formed into existence over centuries, long before we held them, and those ancient elements can’t be replicated in a lab. Some people feel more compelled by the marvel of creating diamonds, of the ingenuity involved.”
What are some other colorless alternatives to natural diamonds?
We’ve already learned that lab-grown diamonds have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as natural diamonds and are made of the same material - pure carbon. They are truly as close an alternative to natural diamonds as possible. Most of our collection diamond rings may be purchased with a lab grown diamond, even cluster rings like our delicate Burst Cluster Diamond Ring .90cts.
Lab grown diamonds aren’t the only gemstones made by humans in controlled environments. Moissanite is pure silicon carbide, a rare naturally occurring mineral that looks and feels similar to a diamond. It’s named in honor of Henri Moissan, a Nobel prize winning French chemist who is credited for observing what he initially thought were diamonds in the crater of a meteor strike in Arizona in 1893. Charles & Colvard (the only Moissanite supplier Bario Neal works with) perfected the process of creating moissanite in labs in the 1990s. Diamonds (both natural and man-made) are the hardest substance on earth with a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, while moissanite is rated at 9.5. This means that diamonds are more durable and less likely to scratch or chip than moissanite. While both stones glimmer and shine, moissanite has a different type of brilliance due to its double refraction properties, which creates a "rainbow effect" when viewed from certain angles (look no further than this swoon worthy Custom Moissanite Linear Cluster Ring). Lab grown diamonds have a more traditional diamond-like sparkle. Moissanite is generally less expensive than lab grown diamonds, although this can vary depending on the quality and size of the stone. Though both have their own unique properties and characteristics, we ultimately prefer to work with lab grown diamonds over moissanite because we work with a manufacturer that makes carbon offsets, which is something we have not yet found in a moissanite supplier.
Another laboratory creation, Cubic Zirconia, also known as CZ, is a synthetic gemstone made of a cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. Available in any color, CZs are optically and visually similar to diamonds but not as hard or durable (though still harder than other more fragile gemstones, like emeralds). CZs are an alternative to diamonds at a significantly lower price point and have become a popular gemstone in the jewelry industry since their introduction in the 1960s. Bario Neal uses CZs for display purposes only.
Will natural diamonds lose their value with lab grown diamonds entering the market?
The purchase of fine jewelry isn’t just a way to mark a special occasion or remember a loved one, it is often considered a long term investment. The value of natural diamonds may be affected by the entry of lab grown diamonds into the market, but it is difficult to predict how much of an impact this will have. “It’s a bit too early to know how this will affect the diamond market long term, all we can do is speculate.” Ariel reflects, “Almost anything can become an heirloom if it’s valued as such and passed down - but if someone is looking for a long term investment in jewelry, this is a really good question to ask.”
Natural diamonds are valued for their scarcity and unique characteristics - these cannot be replicated in a lab. As more lab grown diamonds enter the market, however, it's leaving customers to ask why there is such a difference in cost between lab and natural. Though lab grown diamonds are a more affordable option, we believe that there will always be a market for natural diamonds due to their historical, ecological, and cultural significance, as well as their association with luxury and prestige. Anna elaborates on this further, "The abundance of lab grown diamonds offers incredible options and possibilities for consumers. While larger stones are now more accessible, it’s important not to lose sight of what actually makes a piece of jewelry responsible, sustainable, and a true heirloom meant to be passed down for generations. Cultivated diamonds will certainly become beloved heirlooms; at the same time the wonder of natural materials cannot be overshadowed by the advances in technology and globalization, or we’ll lose that connection to the natural world that drives us to take responsibility for conscious consumption."
In the end, it really comes down to personal preference. At Bario Neal we believe in supporting artisanal mining communities which have been historically suffered due to the human right violations of the diamond industry. We think it's important to reinvest the communities that were harmed through supporting an artisanal diamond mining movement. Our goal is to educate our customers and empower them to make the best diamond choice possible for their budget, lifestyle, and aesthetic preferences.
Bario Neal’s natural diamonds are reclaimed, Canadian, or Australian (read more about our diamonds’ origins on our ethics page) and we partner with a trusted supplier that offers the world’s first Sustainability Rated lab grown diamonds. While lab grown diamonds are seen by some as the obvious ethical choice to natural diamonds, laboratories consume a significant amount of energy and can negatively impact the environment.
However, unlike other lab grown diamonds on the market, our stones are USA-made, fully traceable, and 100% climate-neutral through sustainability and offset investments equating to 18x their climate footprint. Sourced within the same high quality standards as our natural diamonds, they’re a fantastic option for our custom ring and fine jewelry customers to choose from. We keep a selection of lab grown and natural diamond carats and cuts available to view in person at our Philadelphia and Brooklyn showrooms and remotely via a virtual appointment. If you’re in need of some inspiration, look no further than our collection of diamond rings, bands, and fine jewelry, fill out our custom questionnaire, or book an appointment in person or virtually. We’re looking forward to working with you!