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How to Talk About Lab-Grown Diamonds With Customers

A customer stares wide-eyed into a case at a gleaming 2ct. round brilliant. That stone, at that price? It’s almost too good to be true. They raise their gaze to meet yours. “Is it real?”

The diamond is lab-grown. 99.95% carbon, just like a diamond that came out of the ground, with an identical crystal structure and optical properties. It’s certainly not glass, and it’s not a simulation or imitation like moissanite or CZ. You pause for a moment, considering the facts, the question, and how best to answer.

It would have been a fairly straightforward question in the past. But like so much of our modern world, the question of authenticity is not as simple as it seems. What is a customer asking when they ask if a diamond is real? Do they know? And given the effort the industry has put into educating consumers these past few years, what can we assume the average diamond consumer knows?

Salespeople often spend more time than they would like explaining the differences between lab-grown diamonds, mined diamonds, and diamond substitutes. So given variables in consumer education and the seller’s legal obligations, salespeople should consider the composition of a diamond, the method of creation, sustainability claims, price, and the lifestyle and values of the customer when talking to them about lab-grown diamonds (LGD).

It’s a tricky situation, because asking the customer to clarify (“what do you mean by real?”) could make them think you’re about to equivocate (lie without lying). We also have legal responsibilities as outlined by the FTC. As we all probably know by now, the FTC removed the word “natural” from its definition of “diamond” in 2019, but only mined diamonds can be sold as “diamonds” without any other qualifier. So to answer the question, “Is it real?” in the affirmative, without qualification, would be technically accurate but, crucially, misleading and possibly even illegal.

Most consumers already know that LGD are diamonds and not some lookalike material, though. So selling more LGD now is less about confirming that they are indeed “real.” Instead, your conversations might focus more on how LGD are created and, more importantly, what LGD can do for the customer.

Describing the Method

First of all, you have a responsibility to tell the customer that the diamond is lab-grown. But you should also explain what that means: LGD and mined diamonds are nearly identical; both are crystals composed of 99.95% carbon, and that’s really all a diamond is. They have the same optical properties and the same hardness, and only expensive spectroscopy can detect the minor differences in nitrogen levels that separate mined diamonds and LGD. The main difference is that the CVD or HPHT methods can grow a diamond much faster than geological processes.

HPHT diamonds have an advantage over CVD diamonds on the explanation front since they mimic the process by which diamonds are created in nature. Carbon is exposed to extremely high pressures and temperatures, which rearranges the structure of the chain of carbon atoms into a crystal, just like what happens deep within the earth’s crust and upper mantle.

That might feel more “natural” to some than the more complicated CVD process, which uses hydrocarbon gas and microwave energy at lower temperatures and pressures to layer carbon atoms onto a diamond seed. The CVD method, however, can produce much larger diamonds.

Sustainability Claims

Also per the FTC, you have to be careful about making unsubstantiated claims. If you don’t know for sure that your LGD were grown in a sustainable, eco-friendly lab, avoid making claims about the product’s sustainability.

So if you can’t sell every LGD with sustainability claims, what can you do?

Cost-Consciousness and Status Symbols

In today’s uncertain economy, plagued by inflation and the rapidly-increasing costs of necessities, even luxury customers are becoming more cost-conscious. Pointing out the fact that our hypothetical 2ct diamond would cost much more had it come out of the ground might not be a bad strategy. Keep in mind that this isn’t the case with all luxury consumers, and using affordability as a selling point might go against your brand identity of exclusivity and premium products at premium prices.

If you have “the pandemic changed everything” on your VDB Newsletter bingo card, you can check it off now. The pandemic changed everything, including our relationship to wealth and status. This is especially true of younger consumers. Millennial and Gen Z luxury consumers don’t buy luxury goods to signify their success but for themselves, to enrich and beautify their lives. For these customers, pointing out that LGD are chemically identical to mined diamonds, and have the same exact optical properties, would be helpful. The same beauty of diamonds, but more. Larger diamonds, more diamonds on a piece, diamonds as accent stones, diamond pave…if the sparkle makes you feel good, LGD will make you feel even better.

Talking Points

So to summarize the above, here are some tips for saving time and selling more diamonds.

  • Most customers these days don’t have to be convinced that LGD are “real” diamonds
  • If they do, put mined and lab-grown diamonds in one category and diamond simulants in another: the former are both crystals composed of 99.95% carbon, while the others are different, less durable compounds that don’t have diamond’s unmistakable fire and brilliance.
  • Describe the different methods if it is something both you and the customer are interested in. These kinds of technical topics can be fascinating to some people.
  • In the end, lab-grown diamonds are just like mined diamonds, except we can do in a few weeks what takes the earth millions of years.
  • Don’t make sustainability claims unless you can back them up.
  • Most luxury customers aren’t interested in anything that is cheap, less-than-premium, or lacking an air of exclusivity, so the lower cost of LGD might not be a factor for them. But everyone has a budget, and LGD gives you more, no matter your budget.  
  • Many younger consumers aren’t buying status symbols but something beautiful that will enrich their lives and their relationships. For them, luxury is about feeling luxurious. They can be sold on the beauty and creativity you get with LGD.