Lab-grown diamonds in Singapore

SINGAPORE - As the song goes, diamonds are a girl's best friend.

However, what Marylin Monroe didn't know was that diamonds can be grown as well as mined - and lab-grown diamonds are virtually indistinguishable from the naturally occurring kind.

"The only difference between mined diamonds and grown diamonds is that one is found in the ground, and the other is grown in a facility like ours," says Vishal Metha, CEO of IIa Technologies Private Limited.

"They are chemically, optically and physically identical to each other."

The only people who can tell the difference, he says, are laboratories with high-end equipment.

IIa Technologies makes Type IIa diamonds, one of the rarest kind of diamonds in the world, with very low levels of atomic impurities.

Last year, they recorded almost $110 million in local sales. They are only retailing in the US now, so Singaporeans can only buy IIa diamonds online.

However, there are plans to bring them to local retailers by the end of this year.

As lab-grown diamonds cost 25 to 35 per cent less, there is concern that they will one day take the shine off mined diamonds.

Mr Metha doesn't think so. "We don't believe this will affect diamond prices worldwide.

"As grown diamonds increase in market size, it will start getting fragmented into different industries and creating capacity is very complicated and expensive.

"So diamonds will continue to be rare, especially type IIa ones."

As people think that naturally-occurring diamonds are not the same as those grown in a lab, Mr Metha believes a mindset change is needed.

"People need to see, people need to hold these [lab grown] diamonds and get the feel that these are actually real diamonds," he says.

One advantage grown diamonds definitely have over mined diamonds is the indisputable fact that they are conflict-free.

Diamonds from IIa Technologies are grown in Singapore, in a sustainable way without any kind of harm to the environment or workers.

In fact, growing diamonds in a lab is seven times more eco-friendly than mining them out of the ground.

As such, the starting point of a lab-grown diamond isn't in a questionable source country - it's your own pure feelings and emotions.

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