By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogSince reading that blog, this phrase has proven to be true a number of times, the latest of which happened just this past week.

On April 19, The New York Times published a story online that mentioned lab-grown, or synthetic, diamonds titled “When Diamonds Are Dirt Cheap, Will They Still Dazzle?” (It also appeared in the Times’ New York print edition the following day.)

While the overall message of the article, that technology could shift people’s perception of where value lies, is an interesting point certainly worth discussing, much of the information given in the article about lab-grown diamonds was wrong.

To begin with, the writer never seems to grasp that lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds. They were just grown in a lab, not underground.

His column states that diamonds grown using the “new” chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process are “visually identical to mined ones” and the caption (which the author of the article might not have written) for the photo at the top of the story states: “Chemical vapor deposition can produce diamonds, created from gases, that are virtually indistinguishable from mined diamonds.”

It’s unclear whether this means indistinguishable visually or in a grading-lab sense. Either way, it’s wrong. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds so they, of course, are visually identical. But they can be detected by labs, which is not to say that there aren’t lab-grown diamonds that slip into the mined supply chain undetected.

The author also writes that “Tumbling prices will transform many longstanding social customs. An engagement diamond, for instance, will lose its power as a token of commitment once flawless two-carat stones can be had for only $25.”

I am not sure how he arrived at the $25 figure but it’s well-known that one of the hurdles facing lab-grown diamonds companies are the costs and time involved in producing larger diamonds. To date, they haven't been able to do so in a way that really threatens the market for mined engagement rings.

That’s why the focus, as industry analyst Ben Janowski so wisely pointed out this week when sharing the Times story on Facebook, is on lab-grown melee. That is the real problem for the industry.

And, of course, no consumer press article on the diamond industry would be complete without an arcane reference to De Beers’ monopoly and their evil hold over the diamond industry. “Renowned art originals will always be scarce, and so will high-quality mined diamonds, at least while De Beers holds sway,” the writer states. With what, its market share that has now dipped below 40 percent?

After reading the article, I wrote an email to the author, who is a professor at Cornell University, pointing out some of these inaccuracies and asking him a few questions. I will be sure to write a follow-up post if he answers.

But that’s not really the point of this blog, which wasn’t written solely for the purpose of questioning the abilities or methods of another writer.

Instead, I write to make retailers aware of the type of coverage diamonds are receiving in the consumer press, lest they be confronted with questions about this article, or any that might follow.

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