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How would you like to own a cultured diamond?

Colored diamonds – can you tell if they’re cultured or mined? Actually, these ones are cultured, ‘grown like seeds’ under laboratory conditions.

Colored diamonds – can you tell if they’re cultured or mined? Actually, these ones are cultured, ‘grown like seeds’ under laboratory conditions.

Diamonds are a girl’s best investment, whether she’s a debutante, careerwoman, wife, or mistress. Nor does it have to be a diamond as big as the Ritz, as a one-carat solitaire will do, especially if it’s flawless or nearly so, and comes free with lots of love.

Why then are “jewelers in a panic,” to quote Rene Florencio, himself the head of a three-generation family of gemologists and jewelers?

The answer lies partly in the nomenclature. In the last 18 months, Mr. Florencio’s jewelry stores have been selling cultured diamonds locally. “Cultured diamonds are not fake, not artificial, not synthetic,” he told a forum of journalists at their “Bulong Pulungan” lunch at Sofitel hotel recently. “They display the same chemical, optical, and physical properties” as the diamonds that have been romanticized by jewelers for  generations of women throughout history and mythology, those stones dug up from the bowels of the earth, cut and polished in facets, cherished for their desirability, brilliancy, and beauty.

But because such sparkling beauties are also being born nowadays in high-pressure compression chambers in the lab – a 20,000 sqft facility in Singapore—the new diamonds, while displaying the same characteristics as those extricated from mines, are “environment-friendly, conflict-free, and 35 to 50 percent cheaper.” It’s that last word, cheaper, that is creating ripples in the industry. If a cultured diamond is everything that a natural diamond is, but costs one-half or a third of the price of the latter, which will prevail in the long run—practicality or rarity?

Production time of cultured diamonds takes four to six weeks only, and yet every stone that comes out of the process is graded Type A2 (colorless, in layman’s language). In comparison, “only two percent of mined diamonds are Type A2.” According to Mr. Florencio, the laboratory is also capable of turning out colored diamonds as the result of a chemical accident involving excess amounts of boron and nitrogen.

As a woman, what do I care if the sparkler on my finger came from a lab or a mountain, as long as it twinkles and dazzles whenever I wear it (or should I say, flash it?). Perhaps a wife or bride-to-be would feel cheated if price, instead of value, were on her mind? And yet, how many ladies would bother to spot the difference, unless the rock came with a genuine certification from DeBeers or Mr. Florencio’s Golcondia company?

If as Mr. Florencio and his son Tom claim, cultured diamonds “are the next chapter of diamonds,” we should eagerly await what DeBeers has to say about the challenge posed by diamonds “grown from a seed,” to use the analogy most frequently used. We should also try to catch the Florencios unawares the next time we ask them how many cultured and how many mined diamonds were sold in the last 18 months to Manila’s glitterati.

Not a romantic question to ask, but practical, wouldn’t you say?