Real Is Rare
Diamonds have existed for centuries, but it wasn’t until the last century that scientists truly understood the chemical composition and geological events that brought the precious gemstone to be.
It’s well below the earth’s surface — some 100 miles in, where temperatures reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more and pressure surpasses 725,000 pounds per square inch — that diamonds are formed. And, for the most part, they surface through volcanic eruptions.
That very process is why real diamonds are so rare. There are only a finite amount, and humans can’t exactly call more up at will.
It’s easy to see, then, why researchers have tried to replicate the diamond-creation process in a highly controlled lab environment. Success first came in a General Electric laboratory in 1954, but the initial synthetic diamonds paled in comparison to real diamonds. Where real diamonds could be several carats, the initial lab-grown ones couldn’t even reach one carat. Where real diamonds easily met quality assurance standards, the initial synthetic ones did not.
But, with advancements in technology, synthetic diamonds have started bridging the gaps in size and quality — so much so that some can appear real to the naked eye.
Synthetic versus Simulated Diamonds
Synthetic and simulated may both mean the same thing, but in the diamond industry, they’re significantly different.
Simulated diamonds or diamond simulants are those that look very similar to a natural diamond but do not have the same chemical and physical composition. Also known as “fake,” these are completely different gems, usually of the cubic zirconia or moissanite variety. The former is the most common diamond substitute and is made of zirconium dioxide, lending to a softer and less durable material. Moissanite, the second-most common substitute, is mostly lab-grown and has the same electrical conductivity as a diamond.
Synthetic diamonds, then, are those that have the same structural and chemical properties as a natural one. Because of that, there are very minute differences between the two, and it can be difficult to spot them, particularly without special equipment.
To get a better understanding of the similarities and differences between natural, synthetic and simulated diamonds, take a look at the chart below.
|Natural Diamond||Synthetic Diamond||Simulated Diamond|
|Composition||100% pure carbon||Can be carbon, in part or in whole||Completely different composition, such as zirconium dioxide (cubic zirconia) or silicone carbide (moissanite)|
|Durability||Most durable, scoring a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness||Scores similarly to a natural diamond||Depends on the material, but scores at about an 8 or 9 on the hardness scale|
|Brilliance||Has a refractive index of 2.42 and emits mostly white light||Has similar brilliance to a natural diamond||Depends on the material (Moissanite, for example, has a higher refractive index, but emits more colorful light.)|
|Color||Scores between D and F for colorless diamonds||Scores similarly to a natural diamond||Depends on the material. Cubic zirconia can score in the D range, but will emit yellows and greens under certain lighting. Moissanite will score in the I through J range, showing yellows, grays and greens.|
|Value||Rare, will increase value over time||Becoming more common, will lose value over time||More easily available, will lose value over time|
The Synthetic Sensation
Jewelers saw the first 1+ carat lab-grown diamond within the last five years. And, since then, the race has been on to produce higher-carat synthetic diamonds, and even celebrities have taken notice. Patricia Arquette sported lab-grown diamond earrings and a ring at the 2019 Golden Globes, and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wore lab-grown diamond earrings in one of her first official outings as a royal.
Despite that, the market for synthetic diamonds is still quite small, though it’s only expected to grow, in large part due to the advancement in technology that has allowed for higher quality jewelry.
Other reasons as to why jewelry shoppers, particularly millennials, are buying into this craze are the price point and a desire to “go green.”
In truth, though, both are a little misleading. Lab-grown diamonds are actually mass produced in warehouses and take about 45 percent more energy to create than a natural one, our CEO Bill Jones says. And, while synthetic diamonds are cheaper than a natural one, they will depreciate, losing value over time.
“I guarantee what you pay for a synthetic diamond, it’ll be worth half that much next year, 20 percent of that the year after, and eventually, it’ll be worth nothing at all,” Jones says. “Why buy a beautiful piece of jewelry that’s going to lose value every year?”
How to Spot A Fake Diamond
There are telltale signs that a gemstone is, in fact, cubic zirconia, moissanite or another variety — and most definitely not a diamond. And, the good news is that you can run these five simple tests and find out in the comfort of your own home.
- The Water Test
For this, you’ll need a glass of water and a loose stone. All you’ll need to do is drop the loose stone into the glass. A real diamond should sink to the bottom because of its density, while some fakes, like quartz, shouldn’t sink to the bottom. Know, too, that this test is not the most accurate, as large pieces of cubic zirconia and moissanite can also sink.
- The Fog Test
For this test, you’ll need to hold the stone and breathe onto it. Diamonds are durable and can handle the heat, so breathing onto a real one should not create fog. A fake diamond, particularly moissanite, will fog quickly and retain it for longer.
- The Heat Test
For this test, you’ll need an open flame, a glass of very cold water and tweezers or pliers. Using tweezers, hold up the stone to the open flame for about 30-45 seconds. Next, drop it immediately in the water. Real diamonds will show no signs of a reaction, while fake diamonds — like cubic zirconia — will shatter.
- The Light Test
Hold your gemstone underneath an ultraviolet light. Real diamonds may emit a bluish color, but know that not all natural diamonds will do this.
- The Newspaper Test
Place the gemstone on top of a newspaper. If you can read the text beneath, the diamond is fake. Real diamonds will refract light so that you won’t be able to read the text. This test will work best if the stone you’re testing is loose.
Try one or more of these home tests to ensure your gemstones are diamonds. And, if you aren’t sure — or don’t want your jewels to undergo any duress — take them to one of our Sissy’s Log Cabin locations, and we will test it at no cost!
The Synthetic vs. Natural Diamond Test
Telling the difference between a synthetic and natural diamond will prove a little harder and will require more advanced tools than what you would have on hand at home. If you have inherited jewelry and you’re not sure what it may be, bring it in to any Sissy’s Log Cabin, and we’ll test it for you at no cost.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something new, know that we are committed to selling only quality diamonds — those which are pure carbon. We were one of the first in the industry to actively work with our manufacturers to test all diamonds — no matter how small — for their authenticity. If they contain even a sliver of material that is not carbon, we’ll send it back to the manufacturer.
“We do this to ensure that we give our customers only the best,” Jones says.