As long as I have been in the jewelry business (and that is a long time) Tom Chatham and his family have been making beautiful 'synthetic' gems. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds, and multiple other gems, are all made out of the same raw materials which are used by the earth to birth the natural ones. The difference is, these are man assisted. Not fakes, or imitations, the real gem, just not retrieved from the wild. No one gets bribed or forced to mine in horrible conditions and no child labor is used. (You may have to double check that with Tom, I think he started doing this as a child). The only blood spilled is when someone nicks themselves on a crucible.
Many people, jewelers, gemologists and gem dealers will speak ill of the synthetic trade, I have never thought that way. If you have a limited budget, why are you not entitled to get a gem quality gem? The one that was forced out of the ground may cost more, have more flaws, be cut poorly and have an unsaturated color, but it may cost the same as a really lovely cut, clear and vivid synthetic gem.
The following article is by Tom Chatham and worth reading.
SEVEN COMMON MYTHS ABOUT DIAMONDS #1: DIAMONDS TAKE BILLIONS OF YEARS TO FORM
Diamonds do not take “billions of years to form or crystallize” in the earth and nothing scientific backs up this statement. Every crystal has an optimum growth speed, which can be slowed up and/ or speed up a little but not by much. A convincing argument against this“billions of years to form” premise is the unlikely event of conditions remaining stable and consistent where diamonds no doubt grew, 150 miles down. This is a growing trend of switching the AGE of diamonds found on the surface of the earth, which is likely in the billions of years, to the more romantic notion that it takes “billions of years to grow” in the ground.
It is also commonly pointed out that we grow diamond in just a few days in the lab, making them sound less “real”. The former sounds so much more romantic than the latter. Unfortunately, having grown millions of carats of crystals over 52 years, I find this a stretch. Why? Carbon at high pressure and temperatures just wants to be diamond. Furthermore, it is the only gemstone that is 99.995% carbon, only one element. In the right “greenhouse” it is easy to speculate that diamonds can form very quickly. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the earth spit out diamonds through many pipes, quickly cooled (or else they would turn to graphite or carbon dioxide) and there they sat for millions of years! And don’t forget, almost everything on this planet is a billion years old!
#2: THE KIMBERLY PROCESS GUARANTEES CONFLICT FREE
The Kimberly process has been a dismal failure. Since it is near impossible for customs agents to identify where diamond rough has come from, (to them they all look alike but it is possible to trace rough) rough diamonds from conflict areas are just moved to different countries and declared to have come from there. IDEX Magazine pointed this out years ago when reporting on the trafficking of rough diamonds. Dubai is listed as one of the world’s major diamond exporters but no diamonds are found there. But they are shipped there, given a clean bill of health and reshipped to cutters around the world.
Guess why producers don’t want to sell origin of diamonds in their pitches? Because a lot of their diamonds come from conflict areas in Africa.
#3: MINED DIAMONDS HAVE STORED VALUE BUT LAB-GROWN DOES NOT
97% of all mined diamonds are under .18 ct in the rough, according to IDEX Magazine. After cutting, that means that 97% of all diamonds mined are under .10 ct each. History has shown that even “rare” diamonds, those over one carat, “D” color, and “flawless” under 10 power loupe do not hold their value. In 1980, that stone sold for $ 65,000/carat. Today? About $ 20,000.
This “investment” story is starting to resurface. However, because there is no legitimate, organized, secondary market to sell diamonds or even grade diamonds (even a GIA certificate is only an opinion) the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) made it unlawful to taut them as a good “investment”. Buy a stone at a retail store and it drops in resale value by 50 to 75%. This “stored value” claim is like saying, “you remember that Ferrari that cost USD 6,000 in 1963 is now worth over USD 1 million!”
So the natural diamond industry touts these one in 10 billion stones sold at auction, usually colored, as “proof” of a diamonds worthiness. It doesn’t hold up.
#4: LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS HAVE NO RESALE VALUE BECAUSE THEY ARE MADE IN A FACTORY
Lab-grown diamonds are relatively new to the marketplace so therefore must find their place in the resale chain. However, Chatham Created Emeralds and Rubies have a 50+ year history and have a resale value. Go to Ebay.com and pull up Chatham Emerald or Ruby and you will find many pieces of jewelry (if legitimately Chatham) selling for thousands of dollars.
Moreover, the machinery required to duplicate the conditions 100 miles below the Earth’s surface is very expensive, each press costing between USD 500,000 and USD 1,000,000 each plus infrastructure.
Natural diamonds are “free”…you can just pick them off the ground in some areas but all the “added value” comes from marketing expenses added on. On average, natural diamond costs USD 200 per carat to mine from the earth! Not so Lab-grown. We each have our own up-front costs.
#5: LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS WILL GET CHEAPER AND END UP LIKE CZ WHICH NOW SELLS AT PENNIES PER CARAT
Unlike CZ, which is very easy to produce, there are only about 5 companies in the world with the know-how, capital and experience to be able to make gem diamonds in size. Do cars get cheaper? Do houses get cheaper? Refrigerators? Furniture? Anything made today that requires skill, talent, capital and equipment only goes up in cost.
#6: LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS ARE “ARTIFICIAL”, NOT REAL DIAMONDS BUT JUST “SYNTHETICS”
The diamond industry has tried to rewrite science by calling us “artificial“. Is an orchid from a hot house any less “real” then one grown wild in the jungle? Yes, our environment is man-made and controlled, but nature still puts the atomic structure, or in the case of orchids, the cellular structure of the orchid together. Same with Lab-grown diamonds. 99.995% carbon, same hardness, same optical properties, same structure. You can’t be “almost” a diamond. It either is, or is not a diamond!!
The natural diamond industry is afraid Lab-grown diamonds will take over the industry. We doubt it. We did not hurt the emerald or ruby trade, it has only expanded both of those markets.
#7: IF IT IS IDENTICAL, HOW CAN THEY IDENTIFIED?WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Diamond is the only gem made of a single element. It is typically 99.995% carbon. The other .005% can include one or more trace elements, which are atoms that aren’t part of the diamond’s essential chemistry. Measuring these trace elements and their position within the lattice of the diamond structure allows the identification of a its origin. The Lab-grown diamond IS identical to a natural diamond, but the trace non-carbon elements may differ or be in different locations within the crystals’ lattice structure. These differences might be attributed to the billion year sleep in the earth that cause migration of nitrogen in the structure of diamond. No one knows for sure why.
The article makes you think a little about diamonds in a different perspective. Take a look back at my blog in January about tarnished integrity. For most of us diamonds and gems are an investment in our relationship with the recipient only. We have not purchased them to resell. It is a small work of art that is wearable, memorable, beautiful and sentimental.