Diamond miners and mining companies are concerned about the emerging industry of cultured diamonds, and how they might affect the diamond market and consumer choices.
Cultured diamonds are synthesised in laboratories and are chemically, optically and physically identical to mined diamonds. They consist of carbon atoms arranged in the same lattice as mined diamonds. The only difference between the two are their origins (lab vs mine) and prices.
Cultured diamonds are relatively cheaper than mined diamonds. Cultured diamonds by Brilliant Earth, a diamond manufacturing company and distributor with locations throughout America, range from $375 to $110,000, and mined diamonds (in which companies have adhered to ethical principles such as providing optimal conditions for workers) range from $500 to $2,000,000.
Cultured diamonds can be produced in the duration of several days, whereas the natural process of forming diamonds takes billions of years, and requires more labour to convert the raw materials into a final usable diamond.
The industry for cultured diamonds is much more competitive than the industry for diamond mining, primarily due to the cost of production. Technological advancements which began in the 1950s have led to more efficient means of production, which has led to greater productivity in the industry. This means that companies like Brilliant Earth can supply a greater quantity of diamonds.
Cultured diamonds are growing in popularity primarily due to their lower costs. Additionally, the diamond industry is infamous for employee exploitation, thus many feel that cultured diamonds are more ethical. For example, De Beers, the world’s leading diamond mining, retail and trading company has a history of labour exploitation, child labour and slavery dating back to the 1870s. Additionally, the processes involved in mining are extremely dangerous and contribute to many accidents and deaths annually.
The rise of cultured diamonds has led to mixed attitudes within consumers. Many people are willing to purchase cheaper cultured diamonds, while others believe that only mined diamonds hold true authenticity. Mining companies such as De Beers, which hold a monopoly in the industry, fear that cultured diamonds may be falsely traded as mined diamonds, thereby threatening consumer confidence. De Beers in combating this through the use of screening technologies to ensure that cultured diamonds are not sold as mined diamonds.