New diamond regulations may label some diamonds as synthetic
COLUMBIA - When shopping for your valentine, it is important to ask if the diamond is man-made or synthetic.
Some real diamonds are being made in weeks, not centuries. It all starts with a small seed about the size of a shirt button. That seed is then blasted with carbon particles in high heat. Then, in about 2 weeks, that seed turns in to a genuine one-carat diamond.
This lab-made diamond is identical down to the molecule, even under a microscope. This method is already being used in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Now, the 143 billion dollar jewelry industry is watching to see if lab-made diamonds will get any love from consumers.
Mills Menser owns Buchroeders Jewelers in downtown Columbia. His dad owned the store before him, so he said he grew up looking at diamonds.
Menser said he buys precious stones from all over the world. So far, he said his customers haven't shown an interest in lab-grown diamonds.
"One took billions of years to grow and is a natural wonder. The other is a science experiment for lack of a better term," Menser said.
Lab-grown diamonds currently sell for 15-30 percent less than a natural diamond of the same size and clarity. Last year, 400,000 carats of gems were grown in the U.S.
The Gemological Institute of America is the industry's final authority on the value of a diamond. It has only recently agreed to start grading lab diamonds using the same criteria as natural diamonds.
Menser said the GIA is sending a message when it makes a point to distinguish between the two groups of diamonds. The rule is that man-made stones have to be labeled as "synthetic."
Menser compares diamonds to art.
"If you have a painting by Picasso or Monet, and another artist duplicates that by using the same type of canvas and paint, it doesn't make it a Monet. It doesn't make it worth the money of the original. People want that original," Menser said.
He said he wonders if lab-grown diamonds will be tagged with the same stigma of Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite. He said both look exactly like a diamond to the naked eye, but have only declined in price since arrival on the market many years ago.
He said the future value of lab-diamonds could be very disappointing.
"The resale value on those is very dismal. Although you're saving a little up-front, you're giving virtually everything away on the back-end. People aren't going to want to pay anything for them," Menser said.
To protect your investment, Menser says you should insist your diamond, natural or lab-grown, have a GIA certification and will therefore be laser inscribed. A jeweler can show you that inscription under a microscope.
Lab-grown diamonds are free of the ethical and environmental concerns raised by natural diamonds from a mine.
Right now, if you opt to buy a man-made diamond, you are rolling the dice on it's future resale value.
The bottom line is that people should ask what they are buying because the growth in the man-made diamond market is expected to go up by around one-thousand percent during the next several years, according to a Bloomberg business report.