When buying a diamond the options are clear: natural … or synthetic ones, that have no lasting value.
While synthetic diamonds may cost less than ones mined from the earth “Real [natural] diamonds are, and always will be, preferable to synthetic or lab-grown diamonds,” states Soraya Cayen, owner of Cayen Collection, a Carmel, CA. boutique. Renowned for her eponymous diamond jewelry line, rare and one-of-a-kind pieces by U.S. luxury designers like David Webb and Victor Velyan.
“Sparkling gifts from the earth, real diamonds are organically and philosophically superior to synthetics, which are produced by artificial processes,” Cayen says. “Formed from carbon, which crystallized under enormous pressure and intensely high temperatures over three billion years, diamonds are miracles of nature and geological time.”
SYNTHETIC VS. NATURAL
Invented in 1954 by General Electric for industrial purposes, synthetic diamonds, also known as lab-grown, are appearing in jewelry collections around the world, triggering concerns about authenticity and value among diamond dealers, jewelry designers and collectors. While differences between a diamond and a lab-grown one may elude the naked eye, experts readily identify natural vs. synthetic diamonds by analyzing them with precision spectroscopic instruments.
According to Cayen, “Between real diamonds and synthetics, there are profound differences in geology, authenticity, rarity, emotional power and economic value. Lab-grown diamonds, are cranked out in a matter of weeks as opposed to the billions of years that it takes for a natural diamond to develop.”
“Because there’s nothing special or romantic about a simulation, I don’t see any aesthetic or monetary value in synthetic diamonds, nor do any collectors, estate jewelers or auction houses I know of,” Cayen concludes.
AN UNDESIRABLE CHOICE?
Diamond dealer and estate jeweler Mona Lee Nesseth, G.G. of Orange County, CA., echoes Cayen’s assessment. A specialist in important colored diamonds priced as high as $2 million, Nesseth also deals in more affordable diamond jewelry. “The evidence-based worth of synthetic diamonds, is revealed on the secondary or estate jewelry market, where lab-grown stones are appraised by gemologists and dealers as holding negligible or zero resale value.” says Nesseth. “As a synthetic diamond is an undesirable choice, I never recommend lab-grown diamonds to my clients.”
As Jean Ghika, Global Head of Jewelry at London-based Bonhams auction house, explains, “It’s difficult to differentiate between a natural diamond and a lab-grown equivalent without the assistance of a Gemological Laboratory. While both are chemically identical, one is made by humans, while the other spent millions of years organically evolving inside the earth’s mantle,” she notes.
Because diamonds are such “rare commodities,” Ghika continues, “superior quality diamonds command correspondingly high prices and are without question the most popular stone at auction.”
While Bonhams never trades in synthetic diamonds, “We have more requests for real diamonds, and we sell more real diamonds at Bonhams, than any other gemstone,” Ghika reports. “The optical qualities of diamonds, including adamantine luster, natural beauty and durability, make diamonds the ideal choice for everyday wear.”
THE POWER OF DIAMONDS
The ancients evidently felt the same way. Originally mined in the 4th century B.C. and first worn by Indian royals, “Diamonds have always literally embodied the meaning and power of resilience,” says Latondra Newton, designer, jeweler and owner of the Los Angeles-based brand Stôn, which features diamond crystals and rose cut diamonds in women’s and men’s luxury collections.
“This is because they’re the hardest natural substance found in the earth,” continues the designer. “Due to their beauty and unequaled strength, diamonds have been valued and worn as talismans for millennia to ward off evil. Diamonds will always be universally loved and sought after because they make humans feel more cherished, protected and powerful than any other gem. The love of real diamonds is in our DNA.”
Tayloe Piggott, owner of Tayloe Piggott Jewelry in Jackson, Wyoming, agrees. “The emotions that real diamonds bring to the world outshine their brilliance, and the story behind a real diamond’s origins often enhances the character of a finished piece,” says Piggott, who sells diamond jewelry designed by U.S. designers such as Nicholas Varney, Todd Reed and Monique Péan.
Regardless of their cut or color, diamonds contain and project “a purity and elegance that is absent from lab-grown stones,” she adds.
Significantly more valuable than lab-grown stones due to their rarity, geological purity and organic origins, diamonds are becoming more valuable as life becomes increasingly virtual and reliant on mass-produced synthetic materials.
According to Jane Carter-Getz, owner of the jewelry store Belle Cose, also in Jackson, Wyoming, “Humans naturally and instinctively desire to see and feel rare beauty.”
Offering colorless, champagne and black diamond jewelry by Temple St. Clair and Roberto Coin, Carter-Getz explains, “We naturally love and value rare diamond jewelry made with mined diamonds and artistry more than we do pieces made with simulated diamonds in mass quantities.”
Likening key differences between diamonds and synthetics to those “between a meal prepared by a fine chef consisting of organic ingredients versus one made with industrially farmed food processed in a factory,” Carter-Getz asserts, “While the two meals may look fundamentally the same at first glance, the factory-made meal will never embody the same quality of taste, artistic technique, authenticity and story of the organic one.”
TANGLED IN OUR HISTORY
Speaking of stories, Paris-based designer Sylvie Corbelin, whose rare and one-of-a-kind jewels are sold at Just One Eye in Los Angeles and Madlords in Paris, has one.
“Dramatic, romantic stories of real diamonds are tightly woven throughout the tapestry of human history,” she states. “In the kingdom of the human imagination, diamonds serve as sparkling windows into love affairs, life passages and family heritage.”
The designer, whose discerning clients include the King of Morocco and Academy Award-nominated actress Jennifer Tilly, adds, “I only use natural elements for my creations, so I am really not interested in using lab-grown diamonds. I believe that for an important purchase such as an engagement ring, anyone would prefer a real diamond.”
In other words, “Real people and true love always deserve real diamonds!,” concludes Corbelin.