Man-made or ‘‘synthetic’’ diamonds have been available for many years, but to date have predominantly been used to manufacture smaller diamonds for industrial purposes. Their manufacture involves the use of very high temperature and pressure techniques that render the synthetic stones generally uneconomic for larger gem-quality stones. The widespread availability of cheaper, synthetic ‘‘gem’’ diamonds for use in jewellery is considered a risk to demand for natural diamonds; however, industry reports such as the Bain Report state that their analysis has shown that synthetic diamonds are generally not viewed favourably by consumers. Synthetic gem quality diamonds are estimated to represent less than 1% of total world diamond supply (Source: Morgan Stanley Research).
As technology advances it is likely that a larger market for the use of synthetic diamonds in jewellery will develop in the future. However, based on the precedents of other synthetic versus man-made gemstones (synthetic emeralds, rubies, sapphires and farmed pearls are all readily available), it is likely that synthetic diamond jewellery will form a smaller, secondary market focused on the ‘fashion jewellery’ segment, and may only add to the cachet of the natural diamond segment. Natural diamonds are expected to continue to be the consumer’s preference and would therefore be expected to command a significant premium, according to the Bain Report.
Identification and appropriate classification is key to ensure that customer confidence in natural diamonds is not eroded, and industry organisations such as the International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research (De Beers Group), WTOCD (Wetenschappelijk en Technisch OnderzoeksCentrum voor Diamant) and GIA (Gemological institute of America) have developed equipment that is able to detect synthetics, thus reducing the substitution threat. Industry organisations such as GIA are increasingly testing and providing certification services.
Synthetic diamonds are also required to be separately certified, a key industry control, which helps cement consumer confidence in the industry.