Lab-grown diamonds or natural diamonds. Who's the best in class when it comes to sustainability?

17/05/2024 09:50

Are lab-grown diamonds, to the naked eye identical to and sharing identical chemical and physical properties with natural diamonds, but 40-50% less expensive, that sustainable as often claimed by its producers? 

According to Ulrika D'Haenens-Johansson, Senior Manager of Diamond Research at the Gemological Institute of America, the production of laboratory-grown diamonds is an energy-intensive process and most of the LDG-producers are using electricity from fossil fuels such as coal to create their products. According to IGS, on average, producing one carat of lab-grown diamond releases approximately 511 kg of greenhouse gases.

According to the Natural Diamond Council, over 60% of lab-grown diamonds are produced by China and India, where respectively 63% and 74% of grid electricity results from coal. Of course, there are also LDG producers using solar power or hydropower, resulting in a different environmental impact of the lab-grown diamonds they are producing.

On the other hand, the sustainable nature of natural diamonds, collected through open-pid, underground and marine mining, is also not beyond reproach. These ways of collecting diamonds have an impact on the environment, ecosystems and workers, and release carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to IGS.

Alexander Weindling, CEO from Clean Origin, a completely lab-grown diamond company, calls lab-grown diamonds a win-win: he thinks lab-grown diamonds are far less disruptive product on different many levels and one that is less expensive.

In 2022, the global natural diamond market was valued at $100.4 billion and is projected to reach $155.5 billion by 2032 and for the global lab-grown diamonds market it is about a valuation of $24 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $59.2 billion by 2032, according to Allied Market Research.


Picture credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images. Showing a laboratory technician monitoring the progress of lab-grown diamond seeds at Greenlab Diamonds manufacturing firm on the outskirts of Surat.