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Diamond Rarity

Are diamonds rare? This common question by consumers has a complex answer that’s often oversimplified by the media. Below we’ll explain which diamonds are rare and address this misconception!

On one hand, approximately 133 million carats of new diamonds are mined every year. So while you aren’t likely to stumble across a diamond in your backyard, there is still a relatively large supply of natural diamonds in the world being mined every year on top of diamonds already in the market.

However, only about 20% of rough diamonds are sold and used for luxury items; the remaining 80% are used for industrial purposes (such as cutting, drilling, polishing and grinding). Once the higher quality 20% is selected, these diamonds must be sorted and classified. Diamonds can be classified by more than 12,000 categories, but the most important are, of course, the 4 C’s. See sidebarinfographic below for why only 20% of diamonds are viable for jewelry.

And of this 20%, you will find diamonds with different types of imperfections formed while the diamond travelled closer to the earth's surface. An even smaller number are considered investment-grade diamonds with near zero imperfections. These are the truly rare diamonds with exceptional clarity, color, carat and/or cut that usually sell for prices only accessible to millionaires and billionaires.

What makes only 20% viable for jewelry?

But what makes diamonds rare from an average customer’s perspective is that each stone is completely unique. No two diamonds are exactly alike. Like a snowflake, every naturally formed diamond has its own qualities and characteristics that make it one of a kind. You know that when you buy a diamond ring, it will have an appearance and brilliance unlike any other.

Synthetics & Alternates

When shopping for rings, you’re likely to come across a long list of unfamiliar terms used to describe diamonds and alternative stones. But what’s the difference between a natural diamond and a lab-grown diamond? What are the alternatives to diamonds that look similar?

Sneaky advertising can trick you into thinking a synthetic diamond or an alternative stone is really a naturally mined diamond. Here is a glossary of terms to help you understand what you’re looking at – and the advantages and disadvantages of each product. You might only be satisfied with a ring featuring a rare and natural diamond, or you may be perfectly happy with a man-made diamond or an alternative stone. It’s a matter of personal preference, but you need all the info to make an educated decision.

Natural Diamonds

Natural White Diamonds are formed under extreme heat and pressure in the Earth’s surface, then mined, cut and polished.

Treated Diamonds are naturally formed but have been exposed to treatments – usually high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) – to enhance their color. These treatments must be disclosed when you buy a diamond.

Clarity-enhanced diamonds are naturally formed but have received additional manipulations – such as laser drilling or fracture filling – to minimize the appearance of inclusions or cracks. These enhancements must be disclosed when you buy a diamond.

Who natural diamonds are for:

For many people, the desire for a natural diamond is an emotional one. They feel a diamond ring is more meaningful because it features a rare, authentic diamond that has formed naturally over a long period of time, in a process that can’t be replicated by humans. It has significance and prestige that a synthetic diamond or alternative stone does not.

Alternative Stones

Cubic Zirconia (CZ) is an alternative stone which is made by melting zirconium and zirconium oxide at a high temperature.

Who cubic zirconia is for:

Cubic zirconia stones are not authentic diamonds, but they do have a similar appearance to the untrained eye. CZ is far less expensive than both naturally mined and lab-grown diamonds, though it is not as durable or as brilliant as the authentic stone. Cubic zirconia is a good option for people who want a similar look to a traditional diamond ring but who are on a tight budget.

Moissanite

Moissanite is an alternative stone that is a naturally occurring mineral made from silicon carbide.

Who moissanite is for:

Moissanite has a similar appearance to an authentic diamond, and it offers almost comparable durability. It doesn’t have the same prestige or recognition as a natural diamond, but it is a good alternative for people who value rare and natural formation, as well as a low price point.

Authenticity Tests

If you have a diamond are and unsure of whether it is authentic, here are a few tests you can try!

  • Informal tests (prone to error)
    • Fog test: Hold the stone close to your mouth and breathe as if you’re fogging up a window. Diamonds can’t hold heat and should clear immediately. If the stone fogs, it’s not authentic. If it remains clear, it’s a real diamond.
    • Light test: Hold the stone over a piece of paper on top of a line of text. An authentic diamond will refract light in a way to prevent you from reading the print through it.
    • Portable diamond tester: Test the stone with a handheld diamond testing kit (which sell for a few hundred dollars) that uses electrical conductivity to differentiate a real diamond from a moissanite
  • Formal test (industry standard)
    • Lab test: Submit your jewelry to a third party lab such as GIA, AGS or IGI, both of which can provide scientific and professional testing to determine the authenticity or qualities of the diamonds in your jewelry. Get more information on having your jewelry tested:

Authenticity Testing

Authenticity tests should always be conducted by a certified independent testing lab. If tested by a jeweler, make sure to get their claims in writing!