Synthetics: Where do they stand?

Synthetic diamonds are becoming increasingly more popular and prevalent in jewelry today. You may see stores that carry nothing but synthetics, and hear from those who swear against them. Either way, you are probably wondering what they indeed are and why you should even care about them.

ARE SYNTHETICS FAKE? 

Some people refer to anything that is not the natural version of something as “fake.” However, when it comes to diamonds, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Aside from the fact that it is a physical item you can touch and feel, synthetic diamonds are uniquely real. Other synthetics, such as leather, fabrics, and textiles are imitations of their natural counterpart. Synthetic diamonds are chemically and structurally the same substance as a natural diamond, just made in a controlled environment at a much faster rate. There are minor differences, however, and this is where the detection is made when separating synthetic and natural. One example is that there are different chemical types of diamonds, and synthetics are only made as a type that is rare for natural diamonds. This means that the easiest way to separate a natural from a synthetic is to use ultraviolet radiation to determine the type and separate them.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO MAKE SYNTHETIC DIAMONDS?

Yes! Synthetic diamonds are made in two different methods: HPHT and CVD. HPHT stands for high-pressure, high temperature, and it mimics the processes of diamond growth in the earth. It is an inefficient and expensive method for creating diamonds. The second method is chemical vapor deposition. This is a process where a carbon-containing gas is broken down in a vacuum, and the carbon atoms are attracted to a diamond seed plate where they grow into the new crystals. This is the type of synthetic that is most common in jewelry. 

WHAT CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD I TAKE?

There are many factors to take into consideration when thinking of synthetics; the most common are ethical concerns and budgetary. The most common reasoning I hear is that natural diamonds are mined in ways that violate human rights. The short answer for this is that it is untrue. Many constraints have been put in place to ensure the ethical sourcing of diamonds, the most popular being the Kimberley process. Also, diamond mining is an incredible economic benefit in many communities. The second most common concern is budgetary. Many people are aware that synthetic diamonds have a lower price than natural diamonds. While this is true, the long-term security of this is deficient. Synthetics are priced off of naturals but have a completely different market, demand, and supply chain. Synthetics are a technology, which means that the processes for creating them will only improve and become more efficient. Once this happens, prices will go down. Diamonds are not an investment by any means, but natural diamonds do have a very secure secondary market. When you purchase a diamond, it will have the demand to retain some monetary value. Synthetics have no secondary market and do not have a monetary value once you make that purchase. This is why I believe that it is not right to base the price of synthetics on natural diamond prices, they need their market with prices driven by their demand. With that being said, a diamond purchase is typically made to express love for another individual, and not as something to retain monetary value. So if you have done the research and still feel synthetic is the option best suited to you, then that is all that matters. Just make sure you have a jeweler you can trust, that has the knowledge and education to understand the product they are selling.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR SYNTHETICS?

As technology improves, and synthetics become more available, the diamond landscape will change. It is my opinion that natural diamonds will be unaffected, and synthetic diamonds will have an increasingly lower cost, eventually replacing other diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia and moissanite. In the past year alone, we have seen synthetics drop from being priced at 75% of natural diamond prices, to 16% with the new line of synthetic diamond jewelry from DeBeers. Because of their difficulty in being separated from naturals, uneducated jewelers may accidentally mix synthetics and natural diamonds, and unethical jewelers will do it purposefully. There has never been a more critical time for jewelers to seek proper education in Gemology, and for consumers to understand the importance of finding an educated jeweler they can trust. In conclusion, synthetics are becoming more of an option in jewelry today, but natural diamonds will always be the standard that they are measured against, not something they will overtake.