All That Glitters

March 7, 2024

Relief or rip-off? The lab-grown diamond phenomenon

Elisheva Braun

When I first tumbled down the rabbit hole of lab-grown diamond research, I texted Chana Miriam*, my hilarious and much-loved second cousin who’d married off two sons, Did you buy Vivi and Malka lab-grown diamonds? Writing an article about the topic.

You can’t do that, she responded.

You mean write about it?

No, text me that with names. Anyone could have picked up my phone and seen that!

My phone bleeped again. They don’t know.

Oh! I’m sorry! I messaged, physically cringing.

Another bleep.

I’m happy to talk to you about it. I think anyone who buys real is off their rocker.

I quickly found out that the lab-grown topic is as multifaceted and complex as the gems themselves.

There’s so much symbolism and sentimentality around engagement rings. Displayed with glee at the early bloom of a marriage and worn on the finger for a lifetime, their significance is too much for words.

But are they worth the price? After all, they’re just rocks.

A diamond by any other name

I saw her before she saw me. Leaning over the muffin display, one hand on the glass, her engagement ring caught the light of a three-globed chandelier. For a moment, its sparkle threw an iridescent glow around her like a halo. When she caught a glimpse of me languishing at the end of the ever-winding lunchtime rush line, she rushed over to say hi.

“Your ring is gorgeous!” I couldn’t help but squeal.

Recently engaged and thrilled to talk about anything betrothal, Ahuva clued me in.

“My future in-laws offered me two choices.” She leaned in. “A small, real diamond or a big, juicy lab-grown one.”

I looked down at her finger again. “It’s fake?” I blurted. I’d never seen an imitation before. I thought the piece was stunning.

“Yeah. I was also shocked. It looks just like the real thing.”

What is a lab-grown diamond?

Mozelle of YS Jewelers explains, “Lab-grown diamonds have the same quality ratings system as mined diamonds, based on color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.”

“By buying a lab-grown, you’re not compromising on quality, looks, or the resilience diamonds are famous for,” she tells me. “Essentially, lab-growns are scientifically the same as natural diamonds, with all the same properties. People can’t tell the difference between the two. The real difference is the point of origin, whether they come from the earth or the laboratory.”

After buying a lab-grown bracelet, Mozelle’s customer asked her, “What should I say if people ask if it’s lab grown?”

“No one will ask,” she told her. “It’s literally the same as mined.”

Mozelle adds, “People want to feel like they’re getting something genuine. But today, everything is made in a lab, from lettuce on up. It looks the same, and the price is unbeatable. If you have a budget, I’d definitely tell you to go with lab. Why not?”

Bling on a budget

To Yitzchok*, a local jeweler I consulted, lab growns are perfect for the right person.

“To the untrained eye, it’s hard to tell them apart from natural diamonds. For someone who can’t afford a natural diamond or isn’t interested in spending that much money, a lab-grown can be a great thing. It really fills a need.

“A yungerman approached me. He was marrying off his son, and he wanted to buy a diamond from me.

I knew that as a simple chinuch family, they really didn’t have the money for a diamond. I told him, ‘Why are you coming to me? Why don’t you buy a lab-grown?’ And he did. If you’re struggling, lab-grown is the way to go,” he asserts. “No one should go into debt buying a diamond.”

That said, Yitzchok tells me that while gifting kallahs lab-grown jewelry is becoming more common, lab-grown engagement rings, at least in mainstream Lakewood circles, isn’t really.

Popular jeweler Rivky Abecasis, who sells both natural and lab-grown diamonds, adds, “For kallahs, a lot of people are buying lab-grown earrings, necklaces, and even bracelets.”

“What is gaining traction is the trend to offer a choice,” says Yitzchok. “People are saying, ‘Look, this is our budget. You can choose either a smaller natural diamond or a larger lab-grown one.’”

Mozelle explains the increasing demand for lab-growns.

“These days, all prices went up so much,” she says. “Bills have doubled, and many people aren’t doing as well as they did in the past. Diamond and jewelry prices have also become astronomical. Lab grown diamonds are a more affordable way to wear diamond jewelry. They’re becoming more and more accepted now due to inflation.”

“We’ve seen this before”

If anyone knows the ebb and flow of the diamond market, it’s third-generation diamond dealer Shmeely Krischer. As soon as we get on a call, he sketches out his background in the business.

“My grandfather came to the US in the 1900s. He was a ben bayis at Rav Moshe Feinstein, and he took a course to learn how to cut diamonds. Later, he turned a discarded lawnmower he found on the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan into a diamond cutting wheel. He started cutting for clients and built himself up as trustworthy in the industry, eventually buying and selling diamonds on his own. My father went into the mining and manufacturing business; my family owns mines in South Africa and Canadian territories and a cutting factory in Tel Aviv. My father is president of the Diamond Dealers Club, one of the most reputable diamond companies in the world.”

“This isn’t the first shakeup 47th Street has seen,” Shmeely tells me. “This isn’t the first time synthetics came onto the market and tried to overtake it.

“When CZs (cubic zirconia) came out, everyone thought the diamond industry was done. Moissanite was another very exciting fad. We know where they are today—in the costume jewelry stores. Yehuda treatments, which enhanced the quality of diamonds for pennies on the dollar, enjoyed sky-high popularity. But when buyers found out that the process used a foreign substance to treat the diamonds, they demanded their money back, forming lines that wound around and around 47th Street as the inventor returned everyone’s money.” That moment in diamond history lives on, the legend of 47th Street.

New-kid-on-the-block disruption isn’t new to the diamond district.

“Lab-growns are a step above CZs and some of the other trends. But the main characteristic of a diamond is its rarity and inherent value. Lab-growns just don’t have that. It’s new and exciting now, but over time they’re going to find their natural place in the market,” Shmeely maintains.

Inherent value

“Someone showed me a lab-grown diamond bracelet they bought for $5,000 at a ‘great deal,’ they’d been told. Looking at the chips, I immediately knew: they could have sold the piece for three thousand and still made money.” Yitzchok tells me. “Sellers are marking up the price.”

In fact, you can find a lab-grown diamond on Amazon for a couple hundred dollars, but there’s no trust factor there. You can also purchase a wholesale lab-grown on 47th Street for under $100, but it isn’t accessible to the general public.

Essentially, not unlike in mined diamond dealing, buyers are paying for the trust and integrity the retailer provides.

“I understand why there’s a markup.” Shmeely picks up the thread. “Giving a $500 diamond to a kallah looks bad. It doesn’t seem chashuv.No one would buy lab-growns if they cost $500.”

There’s no avoiding it: lab growns’ $1,000–$2,000 price points are a high markup. On the other hand, it fills the space on the left ring finger. Also, it looks gorgeous.

Built on trust

“If you came to buy a diamond from me,” Yitzchok says, “I could easily pull the wool over your eyes. I could easily sell you a $1,000 diamond for $3,000. That’s why integrity is so vital in the diamond market. It’s all built on trust.”

Trust is even more problematic when it comes to lab-growns.

Shmeely says, “Someone asked one of my workers to put a one karat lab-grown diamond into a ring. Because they have a very similar chemical makeup to natural diamonds, lab-growns can stand up to fire, which is what we use to secure them in their rings. As soon as the worker applied the torch, the diamond exploded. Clearly, this was a CZ that the seller had passed off as lab grown.

“The lab grown diamond industry isn’t regulated. You don’t know if you’re getting a lab-grown, a CZ, or a chip of glass. That’s why it’s so important to buy from someone you trust.”

Amazon doesn’t offer that.

The disappearing diamond and other trends

So much for kallah jewelry. What about everything else?

Mozelle names eternity bands as the most in-demand items.

“One customer had an eternity band custom made. She got tons of compliments, and she wasn’t ashamed to inform everyone that it was lab-grown. ‘I gave everyone your number,’ she told me.”

“Lab-grown rings and earrings are in high demand,” Rivky says.

Styles are changing with the advent of lab-growns. “People are going larger with diamonds today,” Rivky informs me.

“The low-value natural diamond is disappearing,” Shmeely observes. “Diamonds with imperfections—black dots, white feathers, and other inclusions—will be replaced by lab-grown diamonds. Instead of an ugly diamond, people opt for a gorgeous, but essentially much lower-value, lab-grown.”

There’s also speculation that very small natural diamonds will lose market share to lab growns.

“At the same time, the demand for desirable diamonds is stronger than ever,” says Shmeely. “While undesirable diamonds are rapidly losing value, high-quality ones are becoming extremely sought after.”

The industry has never gone through such a contrast before.

Resale value

According to, “While diamonds do have resale value, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to sell your diamond ring for the same price that you or your fiancé paid for it when it was new. In fact, in just about every case, you can expect to sell your diamond at a significant loss. In most cases, a diamond engagement ring or other diamond jewelry will have a resale value of between 20 and 60 percent of the amount it cost when it was new.”

When it comes to lab-growns, the resale value is just about zero.

Rivky explains, “Only massive 10k diamonds resell very well. For typical diamonds, no one’s really reselling; there’s no major inheritance there, so it doesn’t matter if the stone goes down in price. I’d say, ‘Enjoy life!’ Spend your money elsewhere.”

Chana Miriam adds drily, “Most commonly, people resell diamonds if they’re getting divorced. In that case, I can’t say I care about the resale value.”

“This market is relatively new. The intrinsic value of lab growns is still pretty much unknown,” Mozelle concludes.

Large or small, lab or mined, the real value of the engagement diamond is in the relationship it represents. Here’s to appreciating the good things in life. L’chaim!

*Names have been changed.


In the dark

Rivky Abecasis has helped many mothers-in-law-to-be pick out lab-grown engagement stones for their kallahs. In her experience, almost all of them tell their future daughters-in-law the origin of their diamond. But what about those who keep it under wraps?

Yitzchok has seen the damage that secrecy can cause.

“One woman came to me after she tried to get her diamond insured. ‘They’re telling me it’s not a natural diamond,’ she said, a panicky pitch in her voice. ‘Is my diamond not natural?’ I didn’t know what to do. I was caught in the middle of a family drama.

“I needed a rav’s take. I dialed the Beis Hora’ah, Lakewood’s at-the-fingertips source of guidance. The rav on call told me, ‘There’s no halachic problem with allowing a kallah to believe that her diamond is natural. In other words, if she thinks it’s mined, there’s no need to correct her assumption.’

“Before I hung up, the rav added, ‘Even though it’s mutar, I would never advise anyone to allow their future daughter-in-law to believe their lab-grown diamond is natural. Many people have their diamond cleaned, for example. When they do, they find out its real worth. Playing the charade just isn’t worth it. The truth will eventually come back to haunt you.’”

Another rav we consulted considers giving a lab-grown without telling the kallah to be geneivas da’as, so ask your own she’eilah. “As a side note,” the rav added, “it’s silly not to tell the kallah. She will eventually find out, and you’ll have started off on the wrong foot with your daughter-in-law.”

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” —Henry Kissinger


A diamond is forever: the campaign that brought diamonds to middle- and low-class matches

The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximillian of Austria in 1477. The trend was mimicked by the royal and very wealthy classes. By 1939, about 10 percent of engagements featured a diamond ring.

That’s when De Beers stepped in. The Britain-based diamond company rolled out an eye-catching ad campaign titled “A Diamond is Forever.” Diamond sales skyrocketed.

Fast-forward to today. Ninety percent of engagement rings feature a diamond.


A pretty penny: unveiling the world’s priciest jewels

Diamonds: Known for their brilliance and toughness, diamonds are highly valued gemstones. Some, like pink and blue diamonds, are exceptionally rare and carry a hefty price tag.

Rubies: Admired for their vibrant red color, rubies are among the most coveted gemstones. Exceptional rubies can surpass diamonds in value.

Emeralds: Revered for their lush green hue, emeralds exude elegance. Those with intense color and few flaws are considered extremely valuable.

Sapphires: Sapphires come in various colors, but the blue ones are particularly prized. Deep, vivid blue sapphires can command significant prices.

Alexandrite: Renowned for its color-changing properties, alexandrite is a gem of rare beauty. Its uniqueness makes it highly sought after by collectors.

Jadeite: Esteemed for its rich green color, jadeite is especially revered in Asian cultures. Fine-quality jadeite with clarity and intense color is valued highly.

Red beryl: Red beryl is an exceptionally rare gemstone known for its intense red hue. Its scarcity and striking color contribute to its high value.

Padparadscha sapphire: Named after a lotus flower, padparadscha sapphire exhibits a unique pink-orange hue. Stones with exceptional color and clarity are prized for their rarity and beauty.