GERMANTOWN -- The diamond symbolizes perfection and quality, but as technology advances, the way diamonds are formed is changing. Now, diamonds can be grown in six weeks in a lab, but what's the difference between a naturally grown diamond and one grown in a lab? The differences are tough to spot.
"They are synthetic diamonds, but they are diamonds in every way," said Richard Kessler of Kesslers Diamonds.
In radio ads, Kessler sings the praises of lab grown diamonds.
Richard Kessler of Kesslers Diamonds shows Contact 6's Jenna Sach natural and lab grown diamonds.
"They are real in every sense that they are absolutely identical to a diamond that comes out of the mine. Are they real? They're created by man -- so it's no different than ice that's in your refrigerator versus ice that's outside," Kessler said.
Lab grown diamonds are virtually indistinguishable from natural, mined diamonds. In fact, their chemical make up is the same. The only identifiable difference may be a tiny inscription on the side.
The top source on diamonds is the Gemological Institute of America. It has technology advanced enough to tell the difference between a natural diamond and a lab diamond. The average jeweler does not.
The biggest difference for consumers is the cost.
Lab grown diamonds cost about 30% less than natural diamonds. At Kesslers, a one-carat natural diamond and a one-and-a-half-carat lab grown diamond can be the same price.
Kessler says customers buying engagement rings are thrilled they can get a bigger diamond without going beyond their budget.
A natural diamond looks like rock salt before it is cut.
"Without pushing it, 63% of all the round diamonds that we sell are laboratory newborn grown diamonds," Kessler said.
So how are lab grown diamonds produced?
A natural diamond comes out the mine looking like a large piece of road salt.
Lab grown diamonds come out as rectangles because each diamonds starts out with a square base or "seed." Methane and hydrogen gas are pumped into a chamber releasing carbon particles onto the seed, which grows upward in layers.
Lab grown diamonds start with a "seed" that is placed in chamber and grown with methane and hydrogen gas.
Despite being chemically the same as real diamonds, not all jewelers are sold on lab grown diamonds.
"Most people, I feel, want the real thing," said Gregg Janasik, the gemologist for Powers Jewelry.
Gregg Janasik, a gemologist for Powers Jewelry, show Contact 6's Jenna Sachs natural diamonds.
Powers Jewelry sells exclusively natural diamonds.
"Formed by nature thousands of years ago, millions of years ago, billions of years ago. I think the whole story of that is much more compelling and more emotional than something that was created in a lab," Janasik said.
There's also the question of value over time. What makes a natural diamond expensive is that it's rare and the earth only has a finite number. Janasik says over the last 50 years, the value of mined diamonds has gone up about 3% per year.
Lab diamonds have only been available for a few years.
"One week from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, where is that value going to be in that created diamond?" Janasik questioned.
Right now, overall, the jewelry industry doesn't seem to be fully embracing lab grown diamonds quite yet. Janasik says in his experience, most customers still want the natural diamond. But Kessler says he's found there's a big market for this. He started selling lab diamonds in 2015. Within in one month, he says they were outselling traditional cut mined diamonds.
Still, both Janasik and Kessler agree, choosing between a natural diamond and a lab diamond is an entirely personal decision. They're not telling anyone what to do. The bottom line is no matter what customers choose, an engagement rings is a symbol of love no matter where the rock came from.