Time to shine for lab-grown diamonds

Diamonds have been a lot of things over the years… 

…in the mid-20th century, De Beers said a diamond is “forever,” and Marilyn Monroe called them “a girl’s best friend.” In the 2000s, a Leo DiCaprio thriller helped “bloody” their image. And now, diamond-growing labs are making them “cheap,” and even “ethical.”

Catch up: Lab-grown diamonds are pretty darn close to the real deal. They’re often made through chemical vapour deposition, a process that uses a gas-infused pressure chamber to simulate the tectonic forces that crush carbon into diamonds under the earth’s surface.

  • Last September, Montréal-based Groupe RSL became the first Canadian company to create a lab-made diamond. Diamond retailer Blue Nile added lab-grown options to its offering last year, and even De Beers has launched a diamond-growing subsidiary. 

Why it matters: Lab-grown rocks are free from the reputation associated with “blood diamonds,” which have been tied to human rights abuses. They’re also cheaper, amounting to a sparkling pitch in the eyes of cost-conscious and conscientious Millennials and Gen Zs.

  • A 2018 survey found 70% of millennials would prefer lab-grown diamonds due to sustainability and human rights concerns. Plus, while a 1-carat lab diamond sold at a 17% discount to a natural one in 2016, the discount has now reached ~73%.

Yes, but: Growing diamonds is a high-pressure job that takes a lot of energy. Montréal’s RSL sources Québec’s hydroelectricity, but many labs still rely on carbon-emitting sources.

Bottom line: Lab-grown diamonds make up about 10% of the US$84 billion diamond market, and their market share has doubled between 2020 and 2022. They’re a shiny new addition to the world’s jewellery trade, and Canada is getting in on the bling.