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Articles from DIAMONDS BY TYPE - SYNTHETIC / LAB-CREATED (118 Articles)

Pure Grown Diamonds' (Gemesis Corporation) Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Facilities in the USA Source: Half Acre Construction
Pure Grown Diamonds' (Gemesis Corporation) Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Facilities in the USA Source: Half Acre Construction

Truth behind lab-created diamonds starts to be exposed

There’s great deal of confusion about synthetic or lab-grown diamonds, and COLEBY NICHOLSON believes that the US Federal Trade Commission and the GIA could well be adding to consumer uncertainty.

Regular readers will know that I’m a sceptic, as all journalists should be. However, I think I am more sceptical than most, and perhaps that comes from life experience. It’s good to be sceptical working in the media.

Most people are familiar with Mark Twain’s adage; never let the truth get in the way of a good story – and how it is often used as a criticism of the media.

In some cases that is a fair critique, but all too often these days it’s our job to sift through endless public relations fairy floss to get to the bottom of the real story.

The social media era doesn’t help; the big lie – misinformation – spreads much faster and far wider than ever before. And with so much PR propaganda these days it’s increasingly difficult for traditional media to stay on top of things.

So it is with the rising claims being made in the jewellery industry, especially surrounding lab-created diamonds.

Much is being written and promoted about synthetic diamonds being eco- and environmentally-friendly, ‘green’ and sustainable. There are even claims about lab-created diamonds being carbon neutral!

All of this, of course, is targeted towards a specific consumer who wants to feel good about their shopping habits.

While that is a noble cause, I think 'feel' is the operative word because all too often these consumers care little for facts. As long as they feel that their decisions and behaviour is, for example, environmentally-friendly, that’s all that matters; they feel good.

They never let the truth get in the way of a good feeling!

I am not here to argue against the negative impact that humans and businesses can have on the environment – however it’s important to start with the facts and sift through the PR bunkum.

In attempting to establish a long-term industry for lab-created diamonds, much of the marketing and promotion from the synthetic diamond manufacturers attacks the reputation and business practices of the natural diamond producers, especially the miners.

And while no one is above criticism, it’s a bit rich for one part of an industry to criticise another side when their own side may not be so squeaky clean.

It’s even worse if, for decades, you have earned a living from the natural diamond industry only to then suddenly jump ship; extolling the (seeming) virtues of man-made diamonds, while taking aim at the segment of the market that supported your lifestyle for so long.

Leonardo DiCaprio 'backed' diamond business
Diamond Foundry is backed by actor Leonardo Dicaprio.
Diamond Foundry is backed by actor Leonardo Dicaprio.
"I'm proud to invest in Diamond Foundry Inc. - cultivating real diamonds in America without the human & environmental toll of mining."
Leonardo Dicaprio (on Diamond Foundry's Website)

The matter recently came to a head when the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to eight companies selling lab-created diamonds insisting that they ensure their advertisements advise and distinguish between natural (mined) diamonds and man-made stones.

The FTC website posted the details on 2 April under the heading: “FTC Sends Warning Letters to Companies Regarding Diamond Ad Disclosures”.

It added, ”Under the Jewelry Guides, representations for non-mined diamonds must be clear [and] conspicuous”, confirming it had sent the letters to eight “jewelry marketers warning them that some of their online advertisements of jewelry made with simulated or laboratory-created diamonds may deceive consumers, in violation of the FTC Act.”

You know that something has reached an unacceptable level if the New York Times is reporting on it, which is what it did on 2 April!

“The FTC said that it had found instances where the eight companies advertised diamond jewelry ‘without clearly and conspicuously disclosing that the diamonds are laboratory-created’,” the NYT reported, adding: “The agency declined to identify the recipients of the letters. An un-redacted version of one of the letters seen by Reuters identified that recipient as Diamond Foundry, a California company that makes laboratory diamonds.”

Diamond Foundry’s ‘Truth in Diamonds’ webpage; Leonardo DiCaprio “proud to invest”.
Diamond Foundry’s ‘Truth in Diamonds’ webpage; Leonardo DiCaprio “proud to invest”.

High-profile US actor Leonardo DiCaprio is reported to be a ‘backer’ of Diamond Foundry, though it is unclear whether he purchased his shareholding or if it was gifted to him.

The company’s website quotes DiCaprio as saying: “I’m proud to invest in Diamond Foundry Inc – cultivating real diamonds in America without the human and environmental toll of mining.”

There seems to be no comment from DiCaprio about the FTC’s concerns that Diamond Foundry – the company he is “proud to invest in” – could be deceiving consumers!

Let’s be clear, this is the start of a turf war. There will be more of this to come as the synthetic and natural producers fight it out.

For that reason it’s important that the marketing nonsense being perpetuated by synthetic diamond manufacturers is held to account in the same way that some of the business practices of the natural diamond industry have been.

GIA changes rules

It’s also interesting to note that GIA has decided to alter its grading reports for synthetic diamonds. For a start it will no longer use the term ‘synthetic’, and instead use the term ‘laboratory-grown diamond’. The reports will change from 1 July this year.

They will also include the following statement: “This is a man-made diamond produced by CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) or HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) growth processes and may include post-growth treatments to change the color”.

The GIA’s decision to change the reports is probably aimed at being consistent with the FTC’s terminology and rules.

However, I question whether some of the FTC’s own words and terms are also misleading and deceptive!

The FTC uses ‘laboratory-created’, while the sector prefers ‘lab-grown‘ and ‘man-made’, because those terms are more consumer friendly.

More reading » FTC letter to US jewellery marketers

But all these are other examples of feel-good bunkum. To my mind, a ‘laboratory’ is about research and scientific testing, not manufacturing.

Indeed, one definition is “a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed”.

I don’t believe factories that house machinery for large-scale manufacturing should be called laboratories. We don’t call car factories laboratories and we certainly don’t describe them – or, say white goods and computers – as man-made, even though all manufacturing is by definition ‘man-made’.

The first descriptor is misleading and the second is redundant. 

So the notion that synthetic diamonds are ‘man-made in ‘laboratories’ is more claptrap designed to make some consumers feel better, when in fact their stones are produced in large-scale factory-like environments, no different to any other 'factory' (noun: a building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured or assembled chiefly by machine).

While the GIA’s testing facilities could be aptly described as a 'laboratory', I hardly think large chemical vapor deposition or high pressure, high temperature machinery housed in a factory-like facility should be described as a ‘laboratory’.

Therefore, is it not correct that ‘laboratory-created’ is also a deception on consumers?

Indeed, doesn’t the GIA itself assist in the confusion by using ‘laboratory-grown diamond’; do they genuinely believe that the factory production of synthetic diamonds should be described as a ‘laboratory’ in the same way their own scientific and measurement testing facilities are a laboratory?

Surely they are worlds apart! If the GIA has changed the wording of its grading reports to be more accurate, then surely the term ‘laboratory-created’ is misleading too!

The sooner the natural (mined) diamond sector stops pandering to this deceit the better; the more accurate descriptor is ‘factory-created’ or ‘factory-made’ just as natural diamonds are ‘mined’.

Call a spade a spade.

Misleading consumers

In attempting to sort through some of the claims by the synthetic diamond producers, JCK’s Robert Bates recently exposed some of their marketing spin about being eco-friendly and sustainable.

His article, Just how eco-friendly are lab-created diamonds?, challenged many of the claims and argued that they are difficult to prove, impossible to apply consistently, and may be misleading to consumers. His analysis is comprehensive. 

One of Bates' most interesting observations is: “It’s striking that no conservation group has endorsed lab-grown diamonds – though plenty have endorsed electric cars. We reached out to environmental organisations on this issue. None responded.”

Maybe the environmental organisations know full well that there is nothing ‘laboratory’ about the mass production of synthetic diamonds and they are not as environmentally-friendly as claimed.

( Or maybe they just don't like DiCaprio's acting; who knows? )

This point has other tentacles, some of which concern businesses that have decided to focus on synthetic diamonds and who make claims that cannot be supported.

I recently attended a seminar where the presenter, whose family has been in the natural diamond business for generations, claimed that his own lab-created diamond brand was a new style of sustainable business, and eco-friendly.

He made all sorts of feel-good claims, which most of the audience gobbled up. I knew little about the presenter or his business, but a few others watching scoffed at some of his assertions.

One told me that this particular synthetic diamond business had previously claimed its factory used wind-power – sustainable energy – however, a Google satellite image of its location showed no evidence of wind-power generation plants!

I have previously written that the Diamond Producers Association needs a stronger voice, a louder cheer and a much larger promotional campaign. It is time they levelled the playing field even more.

Challenging the FTC’s and GIA’s descriptors (‘laboratory-created’ and ‘laboratory-grown’) as misleading and deceptive could be a start; after all, for decades the mining companies have been held to account – and rightly so.

However, what worries me is that in this politically-correct world, where consumers are looking to feel good regardless of the facts and where, in some cases, the cult of celebrity enables misleading propaganda, the truth is getting in the way of a (feel) good story.

Are lab-created diamonds really eco-friendly and far better for the environment and people’s livelihoods? And if so, to what degree are they better than natural diamonds?

These are great questions, and they should be answered accurately; in order to do so, we must first describe each product accurately.

If the feel-good propagandists insist on labelling natural diamonds as ‘mined’ then it is only correct for synthetic diamonds to be described as ‘factory-manufactured’ or ‘factory-created’– not ‘laboratory-created’ or ‘laboratory-grown’.

After all, Mark Twain also wrote: a half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.


Background reading:
FTC Sends Warning Letters to Companies Regarding Diamond Ad Disclosures
Warning letters re ”mined” diamond sellers to describe products accurately
Jewelers must say whether diamonds are mined or synthetic: US FTC

More reading:
Innovation Vs Disruption: Spectators don’t win games
Synthetic headlines just grow confusion
Would you propose with a synthetic diamond?


LabORATORY or Factory - you judge

HPHT Cubic Press Machines Source:
HPHT Cubic Press Machines Source:

 Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) machines at IIA Technologies  Source: IIA Technologies
Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) machines at IIA Technologies Source: IIA Technologies

HPHT Cubic Press Machine
HPHT Cubic Press Machine

HPHT Cubic Press Machines Source: Ali Baba
HPHT Cubic Press Machines Source: Ali Baba

HPHT Cubic Press Machines  Source: Gains Diamond
HPHT Cubic Press Machines Source: Gains Diamond

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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