Last year, I argued that the best term for lab-grown diamonds may be non-mined. That is scientifically accurate and also gets across the stones’ main selling point. Many diamond growers regularly label natural stones mined diamonds to take advantage of consumers’ negative opinions on mining.
Lately, I have noticed a few people and companies using the term non-mined. I have no idea if it’s because of my post. Regardless, perhaps it’s time to even the scale.
For a long time, the leaders of the natural industry have labeled lab-grown diamonds synthetics. They argue, as do GIA scientists, that the term is scientifically accurate. (One definition: “noting or pertaining to compounds formed through a chemical process by human agency, as opposed to those of natural origin.”) But lab growers hate that term, and many consumers clearly believe it means fake, which these diamonds are not.
Certainly, synthetic can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts. While synthetic amethyst is chemically the same as the real thing, synthetic hair and synthetic leather are not the same as their natural counterparts. Some growers now explicitly argue that their products are not synthetic.
Perhaps it’s time to give up that battle. The natural industry can call those diamonds factory-made. Or machine-produced.
Both terms are romance killers. Neither are likely to appeal to eco-conscious consumers. And both are far more accurate than lab-grown, since these diamonds are generally not grown in facilities we would consider labs.
In the long-term, the natural industry must do many things to meet the challenge of synthetic diamonds, including cleaning up existing problems in the supply chain, offering more origin-certified gems, and better communicating the social benefits of the natural industry. (I gave my thoughts on this here.) As lab-grown diamonds continue to enter the mainstream, these measures are no longer optional. And despite what I wrote above, if the natural industry’s only plan to differentiate itself from these gems is to give them an ugly name, it will be seriously damaged, maybe even killed. That would be a genuine tragedy, damaging the livelihoods of millions of the world’s poorest people.
The traditional trade is slowly realizing that created diamonds may be the most serious threat it has ever faced. There is a lot to do. But until all that happens: machine-made diamonds. Think about it.