Turns out there is literally no difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds, well, apart from the price. Ever wondered what the difference between lab-produced diamonds and natural diamonds was? Well, nothing. They are exactly the same. As with most things of value, a great deal of information has been produced over the years about the price of diamonds. In short, many believe the real price of diamonds is far lower than what ‘big business’ would have us believe and that it is driven up by our insatiable hunger and the social importance we place on the stones. In line with this, there is a widely-held belief that they are not rare and the market is being deliberately controlled to create the façade that they are difficult to produce. Therefore, their price is dictated by the fact that they symbolize the most enduring of all human emotions – love. With that out of the way, in recent times, society has developed a pragmatic relationship with diamonds, rather than a romantic one that has long sustained the industry. It might be that we live in the era of instant gratification or that we have stopped romanticising the idea of waiting millions of years for the precious stone, but more people have embraced the idea of purchasing lab-grown diamonds. Unlike an imitation gem like cubic zirconia, it has the same physical characteristics and chemical components as a natural diamond but production time is much shorter, enabling producers to create it in a matter of weeks. Lab-grown diamonds producer Ross Reid offers FORBES AFRICA a very sobering perspective with the following analogy to describe man-made diamonds. “If a couple can’t fall pregnant using conventional methods, they do IVF where the baby’s origin of life is manmade. Is that not a real baby when it’s born?” The room falls silent as all contemplate this question. “So by that logic, it is a real diamond,” Reid states emphatically. Reid is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Inception Diamonds, One of South Africa’s first Diamond companies to offer lab-grown diamonds and fine jewelry. The world’s leading diamond producer, De Beers, however, has a different perspective. “We view natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds as very different products as they have completely different production processes. Natural diamonds are created in the earth, under intense heat and pressure over billions of years. Each diamond is rare, finite and unique,” says Bianca Ruakere, a De Beers Group spokesperson. De Beers Lightbox range. Picture: De Beers Reid says he recognizes the market potential for global growth in being able to offer conflict-free, environmentally-friendly lab-grown diamonds, especially to the millennial market. “With the creation of laboratory-grown diamonds, it allows you to offer the consumer the same thing optically, physically, and chemically at a big discount. So you can have the same beauty, the same hardness, the same look and the same feel for less money,” Reid says. Large diamond producers have also recognized the same potential. De Beers Group has been producing synthetic diamonds for industrial purposes for more than 50 years. “Last year, we launched Lightbox in the United States to market a range of fun, fashion jewelry using lab-grown diamonds. They are accessibly priced, and a distinct product offering compared with natural diamonds,” Ruakere says. Price is not the only reason that encourages the market to opt for lab-grown diamonds. They are also other ethical factors such as having a guarantee that the rock on your finger is conflict-free. Shogan Naidoo, who proposed to his fiancé, Preba Iyavoo, on Valentine’s Day at the popular independent cinema house, The Bioscope, did so with a healthy bank balance and clean conscience. They were traditionally engaged in July last year, so by the time the ring engagement happened, Iyavoo was caught completely off-guard and was pleasantly surprised. “Shogan is the most endearing person, but he’s not romantic in the slightest,” says a giddy Iyavoo, who recalls the proposal that happened in a filled theater, with a movie Naidoo had created just for her. The couple are besotted with their lab-grown diamond. Naidoo says after doing exhaustive research to find the perfect ring to propose with, all conventional options had failed him. He says his final ring choice far exceeded his expectations in price and design. Naidoo explains that Iyavoo has a very specific preference and that he was not willing to compromise in getting her the perfect ring but the one he initially wanted was in the range of R80,000 ($5,500). “We were planning a wedding and we’d just bought a house,” he says. The exorbitant cost of retail rings led him to search out of the box, and eventually the box returned with the perfect gem. The couple who lead a very environmentally-conscious lifestyle, say they are especially proud to be the custodians of this ring because they are guaranteed it’s conflict-free and no miners were exploited. Reid says he has to grapple with a great deal of scepticism because many are not ready to fully embrace the idea of lab-grown diamonds despite their advantages. “The Federal Trade Commission has changed the definition of a diamond. It does not need to come from the ground. “We have opened up the market for people to be able to afford beautiful pieces without compromising on quality,” Reid says. Change is inevitable and with that, there will always be those resistant to it. But one thing is for sure, society’s relationship with diamonds are changing.