Any new product goes through a ‘wild west’ phase where terminology is yet to be agreed upon and lab-grown diamonds are no different.

Green Rocks’ Maiko Eaton takes PJ on a whistle-stop tour of key dates in their history and the ever-changing lexicon that surrounds them.

LAB-GROWN DIAMOND TERMINOLOGY – A TIMELINE

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1956

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) first uses the word “natural” to describe a diamond in its commission. The original definition of a diamond in the FTC’s eyes was as follows: “A diamond is a natural mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallised in the isometric system.” This definition remained unchanged for over 60 years. HPHT (high pressure, high temperature) lab-grown diamonds were already in existence but only used in industrial sectors.

1970s

Market starts to see first ‘gem-quality’ HPHT diamonds. H/I/J colours and lower clarities. Prior to this in the ‘50s laboratory-grown diamonds had solely been grown for industrial purposes and telecommunications. HPHT technology improves, creating as-grown, high colour D-F colours and higher clarities.

2000

Gem quality CVD (chemical vapour deposition) diamonds are introduced to the market.

2010-2016

CVD technology continues to improve, colour barriers are broken and by 2012 F colours and VVS clarities are achievable in CVD. By 2016 D colour rough is being grown consistently.

2018

FTC drops the word ‘natural’ from its definition of a diamond, redefining ‘diamond’ to include non-mined gemstones as part its new guides for the jewellery industry. It gives additional leeway to existing standards regarding the description of laboratory-grown diamonds and drops ‘synthetic’ as a descriptor of laboratory-grown diamonds.

The FTC no longer uses the term ‘natural’ because it is now possible to create products that have the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds.

Marketers should not use the word ‘synthetic’, the FTC noted, “as it creates confusion among consumers, who believe the term indicates a stone is fake.”

“My advice to retailers is to keep it simple and call it what it is: a laboratory-grown diamond”

“This marked a huge change in the USA,” comments Peres. “This redefinition really legitimised the category, and it was around this time that we started to see the demand picking up in the UK and Europe for laboratory-grown diamonds.

“The FTC’s new guideline changes made it crystal clear: a laboratory-grown diamond is just as much a diamond in the consumer’s eyes as a mined one.

“Equally though it is important to note that the FTC also called out other laboratory-grown producers and retailers for not being clear enough in their messaging to consumers that the diamonds they were selling were laboratory-grown.

“Diamonds must carry the pre-cursor ‘lab-grown’ or ‘man-made’ to make it clear to the consumer what they are buying. My advice to retailers is to keep it simple and call it what it is: a laboratory-grown diamond. Consumers understand this terminology and it is clear.”

Read the rest of Green Rocks’ lab-grown diamond special report here.