Is the clock already ticking for natural diamonds? 

An Icelandic carpet of buttercups, or some gorgeous greenhouse plants? The ice on the surface of a frozen lake, or the ice cubes in your freezer? A tiny human being who has just come into the world, or a long-awaited IVF child? 

Promoting lab-grown diamonds encompasses marketing tricks on the one hand (which I won’t write about in this article), and issues related to their creation, trade alternative and design, on the other. And it’s these issues that I want to zoom in on today. 

Primary and secondary deposits, or how diamonds are mined

An African-American man is standing by the edge of a river in the Congo. His shorts, which appeared green just yesterday, have faded into a pale shade of mint from the scorching sun. He holds an enormous sieve in his weary hands and swishes the gravel around. The lighter gravel washes out and returns to the river. Only diamonds remain at the bottom of the sieve.

Can you picture it, Magpie? If so, that’s terrific, as you are about to receive a crash course on how diamonds are mined. First things first, you need to know that there are two types of diamond deposits:

  • Primary deposits. Diamond deposits are found in rocks. Mining diamonds from primary deposits is so complex that it requires tremendous financial, human and logistic expenditures. It is necessary to build infrastructure for transporting heavy machinery (excavators), and to provide housing and drinking water for employees. It looks as if a small, enclosed town wrapped itself around a chimney, or a deep hole of about 500 m into the bedrock – like for instance, the open-pit mine in Mirny in Yakutia, eastern Siberia. The mine becomes a massive cavity. A road spirals down along its walls for vehicles transporting excavated rock to the surface. The excavated material is crushed, and then sorted by size and rinsed to recover diamonds. In the olden days, the greased belt method was used. Wet rock does not adhere to the greased belt, while diamonds repel water and thus remain on the belt. Nowadays, diamonds are recovered by x-ray sorting machines. Once a diamond is detected, a dedicated nozzle blows it into a groove where at later stages it is manually separated away from other luminous minerals such as zircons.   


  • Secondary (alluvial) deposits. These deposits contain diamonds that have been released from the rock and transported over the course of millions of years of erosion. Diamonds that have washed out or otherwise separated from the rock eventually settle in a river bed, on the seabed, or coastal strip. Secondary deposits are easier to find, and their recovery does not require a huge financial effort. It’s usually carried out on a small scale by individuals (remember the African-American with a sieve in faded mint shorts?), or on an industrial scale the rinsing is done by machine, with much greater efficiency. And then there are the diamonds obtained from the seabed, e.g. in Namibia, and those are rinsed on a dedicated vessel. Exploring the bottom of the sea, there is a vehicle that sucks in gravel and rocks, which – having been separated from the diamonds – are then returned to the seabed. 

Interesting fact: Did you know that about 10% of global raw diamond mining comes from the industrial extraction of alluvial deposits, while 14% of mining operations are carried out by individuals or small groups of people?

Lab-grown diamonds

Question: What is the difference between the ice on the surface of a frozen lake and the ice cubes in your freezer?

Answer: none. Same case when it comes to diamonds. The three main international gemology laboratories that assess diamonds, GIA, HRD and IGI, all present reports on lab-grown diamonds, confirming that they have the same optical, physical and chemical properties as diamonds extracted from a mine. They differ only by where they originate from: the former, lab-grown diamonds are created on the surface of the earth, whereas the latter, natural diamonds, are extracted from under the ground. 

The following ALTR Created Diamonds video shows the entire process of creating lab-made diamonds. The brand has created a professional video to educate its clients, and I will use it to show you, my dear Magpie, how a chunk of coal – and the perfect diamond is pure carbon – can transform into a diamond:

Born of Fire, Born Perfect : The making of a Type IIa ALTR Created Diamond from ALTR Created Diamonds on Vimeo.

The price of lab-grown diamonds 

Lab-grown diamonds are cheaper by 35% to 45% than natural diamonds. The cost of cultivated diamonds is not low, because the cost of investment to equip their production is still high. Nevertheless, lab-cultivated diamonds have an ever growing group of consumers. Young people, frequently referred to as “Millennials” in diamond reports, often buy them as they would like to have a decent quality diamond on a limited budget. Customers are also attracted to cultivated diamonds as they can buy a 30 to 40% larger cultivated diamond for the same price as a smaller natural diamond.

ALTR Created Diamonds 

And the final question. Is the clock already ticking for natural diamonds? Personally, I don’t think so, because I don’t treat lab-cultivated diamonds as a substitute, but rather as a slightly cheaper commercial alternative, in which we can also find cool bling. As an example, take a look at our photos of the irresistibly shiny engagement jewelry by New York based ALTR Created Diamonds.

Amish Shah, the company owner, focuses on the quality of products to the extent that the brand has patented the production technology for type IIa lab-cultivated diamonds (type IIa diamonds are of the purest white color, representing 1.8% of all mined diamonds in the world) and it has created 26 characteristic diamond cuts in an exquisite modern frame. ALTR Created Diamonds jewelry can already be purchased in 20 countries, including: the United States, Australia, Germany, China, Canada, South Korea, and Israel. And who knows, maybe, we’ll also see some ALTR bling in Polish jewelry stores soon.

The dominance of lab-grown diamonds on global markets is inevitable. But have no fear! If you shop wisely and buy lab-grown diamonds from those who do it best – ALTR Diamonds – you will enjoy a ring with a beautiful larger-than-natural diamond, and never go over your card limit.

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Magpie-in-chief. Sculptress with the diploma (and with honors for the best degree in Poland!) of University of Fine Arts in Poznań and PR expert after Warsaw School of Economics. A nerd who believes that jewelry and its promotion can be written about more professionally than "pretty, pretty, shiny, shiny.” Her articles were published in Elle, Current Obsession and Baltic Jewellery.