BILLINGS — Diamonds are still a girl's best friend, but whether they are natural or lab grown is the question these days, as an age-old industry changes with a new trend.
“For lab grown vs. mined diamonds, really what we are seeing is a little bit of a transition towards bigger center stones. That’s where lab-grown diamonds are really coming into play here,” says Brayden Wickam, Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers co-owner.
That's because you can expect to pay a lot less when buying lab-grown diamonds.
“If you’re talking apples to apples on a natural diamond vs. a lab-grown diamond, I would say a lab-grown diamond is going to be about one-sixth of the price of a natural diamond,” says Wickam.
To the naked eye, Wickam says you can’t tell the difference, but the amount of time to create each diamond is vastly different.
“It takes millions of years to develop a diamond. They are under the earth’s crust. It's one of the most precious materials that our world has ever seen, made by extreme heat and pressure. It's not something you just come by easily,” says Wickam. “Lab-grown diamonds, I think they can grow that in about a week.”
The molecular structure is also different, but Wickam says it takes special equipment to see it.
“A mined diamond is formed in an octahedron, so four flat surfaces on top, four flat surfaces on bottom, where a lab-grown diamond is more grown in a cube,” says Wickam.
Cost aside, with the holiday engagement season upon us, Wickam says their biggest request is still for natural diamonds, as lab-grown has lost value over the past three years.
“The reason I think lab-grown diamonds are diminishing in value, is there’s nothing preventing these manufacturers from making as many as they want,” says Wickam.
Wickam says when deciding what to buy for the ones they love, their customers are still seeing the value of a finite resource.
“This is a very popular time of the year for engagements. It’s a great time to propose to your loved one and then celebrate with your whole family that’s in town,” says Wickam.