Shirley Bassey sang it best when she released her 70s Bond belter, Diamonds are forever. The magnificent stones have been used to adorn royalty and have been coveted by the fantastically wealthy for centuries. They continue to be the reigning gemstone for engagement rings and wedding jewellery.
One of the reasons they’re so precious and eye-wateringly expensive is the simple fact that they can take up to 3.3bn years to form - that’s around 75 per cent of the Earth’s age.
For those who don’t want to hang around for that long, a speedier solution is at hand.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
Lab-grown, man made or cultured diamonds are identical to the ones found in the Earth but take less than a month to grow in a controlled environment.
They’re made by taking ‘seeds’ (tiny diamonds) and growing it by applying high pressure and heat so that layers of carbon form over it.
They have zero environmental impact unlike the process for earth-mined stones which can lead to soil erosion, ecosystem disaster and deforestation, not to mention trigger outright wars. As well as clear colours, lab-made diamonds can be grown in shades that would be considered extremely rare (and expensive) if sought by traditional methods yet they are literal carbon copies of natural stones.
So, not only are lab-grown diamonds miles more affordable, but they’re an ethical and socially responsible choice too.
With sustainability high on our collective agendas, it’s no wonder these lab-grown beauties are dominating the market as more of us shop mindfully.
How to shop for diamonds online
Diamond-buying comes with a few rules, the main being the Four Cs.
Where did the 4 Cs come from?
Gary Ingram, CEO of The Diamond Store explains: “This method of evaluating diamonds was invented by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in 1949. Today, their grading system is the accepted worldwide standard for measuring diamond quality, and it is used by virtually all jewellery professionals around the world.”
The Four Cs of diamond quality
Ingram says: “Diamonds are rare, beautiful and sparkly. But not all of them look the same. Their radiance, size and allure depend on four quality factors. These are called the “4 Cs” of diamond quality – and they are Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight. Each factor is evaluated separately, but together they establish a diamond’s overall quality.”
Cut: the expression ‘a diamond in the rough’ makes sense when you see the untouched state of the stone. It takes a lot of effort to coax it into the dazzling rock you admire in jeweller’s shop fronts. The cut refers to how well light can refract through it, and as a result, how much it will sparkle.
Colour: not all diamonds are clear, some contain hints of grey or yellow, which are considered flaws. The less colour a white diamond has, the more it’s worth. That said, there are exceptions to the rule: yellow, pink, and blue coloured diamonds are treasured depending on the intensity of their colour.
Clarity: it’s time to crack out your magnifying glass for inspection. Most diamonds have flaws and blemishes that affect their price, even though they’re invisible to the naked eye. Completely flawless diamonds are unbelievably rare, and therefore, super pricey.
Carat: size matters in the diamond world. The bigger the rock, the more it’s worth, even if it’s the same cut, colour and clarity of a smaller stone.
What’s the difference between Carat and Karat?
A Carat is the unit of weight used to measure the size of a gemstone, like a diamond. Meanwhile, a Karat measures how much gold is in an alloy. It’s always out of 24 parts, so for instance, 18K gold means 18/24 parts gold.
Forget a little black book, consider this your ultimate diamond directory for jewels that sparkle.
The Diamond Store
Prices: from £45
You don’t need to reside at 221b Baker Street to work out what this website sells. The Diamond Store is the UK’s biggest online retailer of diamond jewellery as well as gemstones and watches. Dive in to discover all sorts of treasures, from cocktail rings adorned with jewels the size of gobstoppers to earrings made to channel red carpet glam. Prices from - are you sitting down? - just £45. All pieces come with free worldwide delivery, 30 day free returns and a five-year guarantee.
Best piece: we’re mesmerised by the gleam and glamour of the Grace Platinum Diamond Eternity Ring 1.50ct which uses a collection of baguette cut diamonds.
Prices: from £250
The jewellery brand best known for its collectable charms has struck out into the glittering world of lab-grown diamonds. Pandora Brilliance offers sparkling sustainable stones set in elegant, timeless designs, made for strong, ambitious women - model Ashley Graham and actress Rosario Dawson are ambassadors.
This collection marks the next big step in Pandora’s sustainability journey; the company also uses 100 per cent renewable energy in some facilities, and practically all of the stones used in current collections are man-made, easing the burden on the environment.
Best piece: the Pandora Brilliance 0.50 Carat Ring is really something special, with the stone set inside a swooping gold frame, £690.
Edge of Ember Conscious Diamonds
Prices: from £105
Building on its MO to bring luxury to everyday jewellery, Edge of Ember has launched a new collection called Conscious Diamonds. The selection is made for pairing with things you probably already own - think stud and huggie hoop earrings to enhance your curated ear, and slim rings to revive your finger stack. All pieces are crafted from 100 per cent recycled gold and the white and yellow gold diamonds used began life in a lab.
Best piece: Edge of Ember’s Constellation Diamond Stud Earrings can be worn on the lobe, conch or tragus, adding subtle style to a decorated ear, £265.
Prices: from £86
Creating spectacular diamond jewellery using stones from its own foundry, US brand VRAI describes itself as a digital-first fine jewellery brand. It’s certainly on the cutting edge; the Diamond Foundry is the world’s first certified diamond lab with zero emissions, an idea so impressive that Leonardo DiCaprio signed up as an investor.
Standout pieces include the modern engagement ring collection, which can be customised and comes in a dozen stone shapes, but there are unisex jewels and and summertime adornments too. Magpie-types, welcome to heaven.
Best piece: Any one of the engagement rings would get a ‘yes’ from us.
Lark & Berry
Prices: from £95
Offering fine and demi-fine covetable cool accessories, Lark & Berry is the destination for diamond and precious stone jewellery. As well as pieces for everyday styling, the brand also offers a bridal line of wedding earrings, necklaces and engagement rings. All diamonds used are of the cultured variety.
Best piece: the Star Diamond Pave Pendant in 14K gold gets our nod of approval, £495.
Prices: from £80
Founded in 2005, there’s plenty of ice to be found at Brilliant Earth, where Beyond Conflict Free Diamonds are the only stones used. This means natural diamonds that don’t have harmful environmental or social impacts, but the brand uses lab-grown and recycled diamonds too, as neither requires new mining. Collections include all the usual jewellery categories as well as engagement rings and wedding bands for both sexes.
Prices: from £660
A global brand with showrooms from Munich to Mumbai, Baunat offers fine natural diamond jewellery and rings online, with everything made in the diamond capital of the world, Antwerp in Belgium. They promise all diamonds are sourced from 100 per cent natural, certified and conflict free suppliers. Browse jewellery and watches along with a sizeable engagement ring selection.
Best piece: this single carat solitaire engagement ring is a total knockout, £4,860. Make it more special by having something special engraved in the inner band.
Prices: from £825
As one of the oldest and most prestigious diamond houses in the world, De Beers’ reputation speaks for itself. The brand is internationally synonymous with the finest natural diamonds, sourcing diamonds from its own mines in southern Africa and Canada. The heritage and tradition adds to the clanging price tag, but many agree that De Beers’ stones are the best in the world. As well as engagement and wedding jewels, the brand also offers a My First De Beers range, designed for gifting and the start of a diamond obsession.
Best piece: for everyday exquisite look to the Talisman collection, which brings a sense of spirituality to your jewellery box.
Beginning life as a small collection of lab-grown diamond studs and now offering stunning engagement rings too, Kimai pairs its stones with recycled 18k gold. The brand believes in creating jewellery for the future without the social and environmental cost of traditional mining. It's very much made for the modern woman: in fact, fans include Emma Watson, Jessica Alba and Meghan Markle.
How to care for and store diamond jewellery
Whether you opt for lab-grown or a resold natural diamond, these precious jewels require TLC to help them retain their lustre.
Take them off before swimming, bathing or cleaning around the house, and make them the finishing touch after you’ve done your hair and makeup. Hairspray, moisturiser and fragrances can impact their shine.
A safety deposit box is the ideal place to store diamonds if you haven’t got a safe in your house. For pieces that you wear every day, keep them away from other jewels to prevent scratching - its original box or a fabric-lined jewellery box is best. If none of these is an option, keeping it wrapped in tissue paper is a great alternative.