Are lab-grown diamonds a good investment for sustainable gen Zers?

By Priya Raj

Published Feb 24, 2023 at 11:32 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Times have changed and, along with it, so have tastes and expectations. The 2022 Instagram report confirmed that, in relation to fashion choices, sustainability is a key issue for gen Zers. Climate concerns, the cost of living crisis, and the rising cost of luxury goods are driving the demand for new brands and solutions who have the tools to feed this appetite.

Providing alternatives to the most expensive substance on earth, diamonds, is a great example of how some luxury sub-sectors are embracing this switch in preferences. Gen Zers—and millennials— are very holistic about purchasing choices and want brands which will actively support their own beliefs and causes. The proof is in the pudding, just look at what happened to Balenciaga

So, with that in mind, let’s consider all of the factors as to why all you TikTok scrollers out there should think about switching from high-pressure carbon, to lab-grown jewellery. Of course, another completely valid option is to stay away from the market altogether and hunker down amid this wild financial and living crisis.

1. Paying the price

We all know that diamonds are expensive, and it makes sense why. Their rarity is continuously driving up the price. The more diamonds sold, the less there are to sell—and so those left in the market are worth that little bit more. Though not completely finite, diamonds are said to take millions of years to form naturally, compared to the days, weeks, or months it takes to make a lab diamond. 

Naturally, lab diamonds are less expensive owing to their ability to be grown in a (you guessed it) lab. At around 20 to 30 per cent the price of a comparable natural diamond, it’s no wonder that these man-made creations are becoming all the rage among netizens who’re trying to channel the celestial aesthetic, a subculture which has been dominating gen Zer fashion recently.

However, there is something to be said for the fact that the sheer drop in price does mean your home-grown gems won’t hold much value after they’ve left the safety and comfort of the lab.

2. The environmental factor

Mined diamonds are formed when carbon deposits into the earth’s mantle— the layer between the earth’s crust and core for those of you who didn’t pay attention in geography class. This carbon is then subject to a naturally occurring high level of heat and pressure.

The good news is that up until this point, there’s no negative impact on the environment. The problem starts when these diamonds are mined to be processed, packaged up and subsequently placed on the neck of the world’s top one percent.

In order to find a diamond, a whole area of earth needs to be dug up, usually this also involves draining any bodies of water in the area too. The diamond sits roughly 100 miles below the ground, and so at least this much earth needs to be removed. In the areas where diamond mining takes place, water scarcity is almost a given; and if water is available, it is almost always of bad quality which can harbour diseases like malaria and respiratory infections.

3. How are lab-grown diamonds made?

Now, on the other side of things, lab-grown diamonds have exploded in popularity due to the fact their creation has zero negative social or environmental impact.

SCREENSHOT recently spoke with Corinne Taylor-Davis, resident gemologist at ethical lab diamond jeweller Do Amore, to learn more about the production process. The expert explained: “There are two ways of growing lab diamonds: Chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and High pressure, High temperature (HPHT).

Taylor-Davis continued: “Both start with a diamond seed (a tiny fragment of diamond about the width of a piece of hair). HPHT involved mimicking the environment that natural diamonds grow in, whereas CVD “was the catalyst for the recent lab diamond boom.” The latter is a high-temperature, low-pressure environment, and the longer the ‘seed’ is left to grow, the bigger it will get.

4. The greater good

Sustainable jewellery brands, due to the nature of the lab and creating of the ethical diamonds, tend to have a strong stance on community well-being. The aforementioned Do Amore is a brand that prioritises conflict-free diamonds and sustainable mining practices, and its founder Krish Himmatramka began his professional career as an engineer, and soon his responsibility was drilling for oil.

Himmatramka explained: “I learned how hard it was to drill for oil but how easy it was to drill for water; it took weeks to get to oil but only minutes to get to the water. I couldn’t believe there were people dying from not having clean water and it was literally just 30 yards beneath them.”

With his brand, Himmatramka has since created an opportunity for anyone buying a diamond through his company to change someone’s life by providing them with clean water. To date the brand has touched the lives of 15,000 people.

5. Identical twins

Lab-grown diamonds and naturally sourced diamonds are both chemically and physically identical, and from the naked eye, it’s near impossible to tell the difference—a massive perk. Only experts with special instruments that detect a difference in trace elements—-the elements the stone is made up of—will be able to differentiate between the two.

6. The ultimate investment

So, there we have it. Lab-grown diamonds are inherently the smarter option for any socially and environmentally conscious gen Zers who’re wanting to add some shine to their wardrobes.

However, in terms of investment—it’s got to be a no. Lab-diamonds aren’t an inherently smart investment of your money, but minded diamonds definitely aren’t either. In fact, as a rule of thumb, jewellery often isn’t an investment at all, even if made from the finest diamonds money can buy.

On the surface, it can look as though pouring your money into these highly sought after gems is a great idea. In reality, however, it might be better to consider these items as simply a material representation of what actually matters— personal investment into the emotional commitments with your loved ones.

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