By ensuring a grossly incorrect but popular reference of Lab-grown diamonds as Synthetics or Synthetic diamond, consumers and industry have been misled. Unfortunately, this wrong terminology has also precipitated in the new ISO standard 18323:2015 Jewellery – Consumer confidence in the diamond industry.
Definition of Synthetics itself says Lab-grown diamonds are not Synthetic diamond
The word “synthetic” is derived from the word “synthesis” meaning combining 2 different elements or compounds to form an entirely different 3rd compound, which may or may not exist naturally. However, in case of Lab-grown diamonds there is no synthesizing of 2 elements into a new 3rd one. Lab-grown diamonds are also formed from 100% pure carbon atoms arranging themselves into a tetrahedral structure, replicating a diamond growth process that takes places beneath earth. Hence, there is no synthesis of 2 compounds that happens and thus by definition, Synthetics is a grossly incorrect term to describe Lab-grown diamonds.
As Tom Chatham – CEO of Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds puts it “..There is no such thing as ‘artificial carbon’ or ‘synthetic carbon’… “
The term Synthetics misleads consumers
By the widely used term Synthetics, most of the consumers are led to believe that Lab-grown diamonds are fake, as noted in Bain – AWDC 2012 report. Moreover, the term Synthetics confuses Lab-grown diamonds with simulants like CZ, Moissanite etc., which are not diamonds at all.
Anna-Mieke Anderson – CEO of Mia Donna says “.. I am very troubled by the use of [terms] ‘Synthetic Diamond’ and ‘Artificial Product’ to describe a diamond created in a modern-day lab environment. Both terms imply that the product is ‘fake’ or an ‘imitation’. When talking to consumers, I find most think a ‘synthetic’ or ‘artificial’ diamond is cubic zirconium [CZ] or an imitation/simulated diamond. [simulants]“
US FTC agrees
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), US in its 21 July 2008 order has explicitly stated “… the term ‘synthetic’ is a potentially confusing term i.e., consumers associate synthetic diamonds with imitation stones…”
Clive Hill – President, Washington Diamonds Corporation says “The FTC decision on the use of the word ‘cultured’ made more sense if the objective is to ensure that the consumer is properly informed. It gave proper regard to context and saw the use of the word ‘synthetic’ as problematic.”
So do various experts
Various experts including global management advisory and research firm – Frost & Sullivan also prescribes that ‘Synthetic’ is an inaccurate term to describe Lab-grown diamonds and hence it should be dropped.
Are Flowers grown in a greenhouse, Ice formed in a freezer or Test-tube babies synthetics or artificial too?!!
Flowers and vegetables are grown in Greenhouses too under the right atmosphere (water, humidity, temperature etc.). Similarly, Lab-grown diamonds are naturally formed in laboratories (Diamond growing Greenhouses) under similar atmosphere that exists beneath earth.
Tomy Florencio – President, Golcondia Cultured Diamonds and Owner, TFlorencio Jewelry mentions “.. the exact analogy are flowers in a greenhouse.. we do not exactly make the diamonds and the flowers.. what we make or replicate is the environment.. you would not call flowers ‘synthetic’ or ‘artificial’.”
Anna-Mieke gives another example “.. This is like suggesting only ICE sourced from natural sources [think mountains, glaciers etc.] can be called ICE, while ice produced in a controlled environment, such as a freezer, cannot.“
Apart from the difference of point of origin, Lab-grown diamonds are exactly the same as mined diamonds, as noted in the ISO definition itself – “… has essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure and physical (including optical) properties as a diamond”.
As vegetables grown in greenhouses and Ice formed in freezers are real and not synthetics, Lab-grown diamonds are also similarly very much real and not synthetics. If this is not true, then what stops one from calling Test-tube babies synthetics or artificial too?!!
Though the new ISO standard is only voluntary, unlike the FTC guidelines that has to be complied with in US, it allows only the usage of terms synthetic diamond, laboratory-grown diamond or laboratory-created diamond and bars the use of terms cultured, cultivated, real, genuine, precious and gem to describe Lab-grown diamonds (oops.. Laboratory-grown diamonds.. it does not even allow abbreviations).
Why not call diamonds, Earth-mined diamonds?
If the purpose of ISO standard is to protect consumer interests by educating consumers about different categories of diamonds, using the nomenclature diamonds only without any prefix or suffix to describe mined diamonds is not comprehensible. Since mined diamonds are mined below the earth’s surface, an accurate nomenclature to describe them would be Earth-mined diamonds or mined diamonds.
While Lab-grown diamonds should necessarily be called so or Lab-created diamonds or Man-made diamonds etc. (new ISO standard does not even allow the term man-made diamond), to avoid any possible confusion among consumers, similarly there is no reason why mined diamonds should not be specifically called so.
Just because Lab-grown diamonds do not cause huge environmental destruction, severe human and societal damage and on the contrary are 100% conflict free and eco-friendly, using incorrect and inaccurate nomenclature that deceives, misleads and confuses consumers, who are now increasingly getting more conscious about environment and ethical practices, is definitely not the protection of consumer interests.
[Upcoming feature post: ‘What Lab-grown diamond industry thinks about ISO 18323 and other practices’]