Lab-grown diamonds are man-made stones that are identical to natural diamonds in their appearance. The most obvious difference between the two is the price. Lab-grown diamonds cost about half as much as mined diamond. Socially conscious consumers prefer their eco-friendliness and the absence of humanitarian conflicts that often come with diamonds mined from beneath the earth's surface.
"Right now, lab-grown diamonds are kind of new, so they're demanding $2,500 to $3,000 a carat as opposed to $6,000 per carat for natural earth-mined diamonds," said Lisa Marie Kotchey, owner of Lisa Marie Kotchey Designs in Sharpsburg.
"That's what lab-grown diamonds are selling for now," she said. "But there's no guarantee as the market gets flooded with them that they're still going to be worth that in a year's time."
A generational shift
Millennials are changing every industry because of their sheer numbers and the way they buy — from banking to retail — and the engagement ring market is no different.
The high price of mined diamonds and the ethical concerns related to diamond mining are some reasons why younger shoppers are showing more interest in lab-grown diamonds for engagement rings or another less expensive diamond lookalike gem called moissanite.
Pandora, the world's largest jewelry maker, announced a year ago it would no longer use mined diamonds in its jewelry. The company said its decision to only use laboratory grown diamonds going forward stemmed partially from consumer demand.
The average person actually cannot tell the difference if someone is wearing a lab-grown diamonds or moissanite, but there are some drawbacks to choosing those alternatives. Jewelers say buyers should know what they're buying and make the decision with caution.
"Years ago, when cubic zirconia came out on the market it was one of the first synthetics out there for diamonds and it was like $500 or $600 per carat," Kotchey said. "Now, I can get a one-carat stone for $5 or $6.
"When moissanite came out, moissanite was a lot more expensive than it is now," she said. "It's dropped to at least half of what it was when it came out."