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Are Diamonds Rare?

by Haley Anhut
Last updated on August 21, 2023

Diamonds were first formed billions of years ago by intense heat and pressure, which caused carbon to crystallize. Volcanic eruptions would then bring these diamonds up to the Earth’s surface, where they are then mined and extracted still to this day. Diamonds became popular in the twentieth century, due to a clever diamond campaign for engagement rings in the 1930s. This forever changed the way we think of not just a diamond’s worth, but the concept of engagement rings altogether. It is estimated that in 2020, around 80% of brides will wear a diamond engagement ring. So, if it seems like the majority of brides are wearing diamonds, how rare are diamonds after all? The truth is, diamonds are not rare in the sense that De Beers — the creator of the campaign — made them out to be so many years ago.

Diamonds in 2020

So let’s answer the question: are diamonds rare? Today, diamonds are more widely available than ever before. But why are we trained to think diamonds are rare? In fact, diamonds aren’t even the rarest of the gemstones. Gemstones that are rarer than diamonds include rubies, emeralds, and sapphires because they are harder to find. Diamonds are not hard to find in 2020. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), released a study stating that an estimated quadrillion tons of rough diamonds lie deep below the Earth’s surface. Yes, you read that correctly, 1,000,000,000,000,000. While yes, many of these diamonds are so deep below the earth’s surface that they are harder to extract, the truth is there are more than enough “natural” diamonds mined to go around for generations to come. Their availability is determined by the rate that they are mined and a little thing known as supply and demand. Diamond marketing today tells you — the buyer — that there are limited diamonds available, and thus that’s why they are expensive. However, this is far from the truth.

Myths About Diamonds

One of the biggest myths around diamonds is that because they are rare, they are expensive. This is not true, and in fact, a clever marketing strategy. Are diamonds actually rare? You may have heard of the De Beers corporation who, at one point in time, controlled around 75-85% of the diamond supply. Today De Beers controls a much lower percentage of the diamond market, however, it is still large enough to have an influence on the price of a precious diamond. By releasing only enough diamonds to satisfy the diamond demand, this causes the illusion of seemingly lower supply. Thus diamond prices escalate and reinforce the idea that diamonds are rare and therefore expensive.

Why Mined Diamonds Are Expensive

Another reason why diamonds are expensive is because of the supply chain. In order to get a mined diamond from deep below the earth’s surface to your engagement ring, that gemstone must pass through many hands and travel very far. Most mined diamonds come from remote places in Siberia, Africa, and Canada. To get a diamond from its raw form to a retail-ready gemstone requires miners, distributors, cutters, polishers, jewelry manufacturers, and retailers. The number of resources needed to extract a diamond factor greatly into the price. 

The Cost of Lab-Grown Diamonds vs Mined

Mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds have the exact same costs when it comes to cutting, polishing, and inspection. However, up to that point, are diamonds rare? The costs and processes are very different. Mined diamonds have a long supply chain, while the majority of the lab-grown supply chain takes place at the labs. This is why lab-grown diamonds are 20-40% less expensive: fewer hands and resources = lower prices. 

What Impacts The Price Of A Diamond?

If you’ve begun shopping around for a diamond, you’ve probably noticed that there is a huge range when it comes to price. While there are many shapes and sizes of diamonds, each diamond must be graded in order to determine its value. Diamonds are graded on their 4 C’s: cut, clarity, color, and carat. While carat, which is actually the weight of a diamond, may be thought of as the most important factor when it comes to the price of a diamond, that is also not true. The cut of a diamond impacts the price the most, and is something to look closely at when shopping for a diamond. Well cut diamonds have more cut away from them which makes them more expensive. Conversely, shapes with little cut away from them in the shaping process, allows for those shapes to be less expensive. The most expensive cut you can buy is a brilliant round, which is also the most popular diamond shape you can buy today. However, there are also Hearts and Arrows diamonds, which are the best round cut diamonds you can find, making up less than 1% of the diamonds in the world, because they are rarer than most diamond cuts, this makes them more expensive. 

Are Lab-Created Diamonds Rare?

First, we’ll go over how a diamond is created in a lab. The process that is most commonly used for Clean Origin diamonds is called Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) which uses a diamond seed that is placed in a sealed chamber and heated to around 800 degrees Celsius. The chamber is then filled with a carbon-rich gas that is ionized into plasma. The ionization breaks the molecular bonds in the gases, and the pure carbon adheres to the diamond seed and slowly crystallizes. Similar to a mined diamond, lab-grown diamonds are created with carbon and pressure. Chemically, physically and optically, lab-grown diamonds are the exact same as mined diamonds. The difference between the two lies within the originone comes from the ground and one is man-made in a lab.

The removal of the mining process is a huge reason as to why lab-grown diamonds are anywhere from 20-40% less expensive than mined diamonds. But, just like mined diamonds, each lab-grown diamond is unique. No two diamonds are the same. And just like mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are not rare in the sense that many diamond companies make them out to be. It takes 1-2 months to create a lab-grown diamond. However, unlike mined diamonds, it takes a very specialized piece of high-tech machinery to create a man made diamond. Compared to mined diamonds that just have to be dug up from the dirt. If we’re looking at which one is more ‘rare’ in the sense of accessibility, lab-grown diamonds might just take the cake.