Lab-grown diamonds are becoming popular because they are cheaper than natural diamonds. The stark difference between a lab-grown diamond and a naturally grown diamond is the process of forming the diamond.
Natural diamonds are over millions of years while lab-grown diamonds are formed simulating the process of diamond formation, but in a certified laboratory with a controlled environment. The argument is which process is more sustainable.
Both are considered 100% real diamonds with the exact same properties. Hence, the difference is not visible to the naked eye. We have gathered facts about lab-grown and real diamonds that will help you determine which diamond is best for you.
Is It Accurate to Call a Lab-Grown Diamond a “Synthetic” Diamond?
The Federal Trade Commission revised its jewelry marketing guidelines and removed the word “natural” from the definition of a diamond. Hence, “synthetic” cannot be used to describe or differentiate lab-grown diamonds from real diamonds.
The main reason is that lab-grown diamonds are made from pure carbon, the same material that natural diamonds are made of.
It is not accurate to call a lab-grown diamond “synthetic” because both lab-grown and real diamonds are considered diamonds. Although they go through different processes, they still have the same chemical makeup.
Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Valued Less Than Natural Diamonds?
The real value of a diamond is determined by how it is graded according to the 4C’s. Lab-grown diamonds are also graded after they are manufactured in the lab. Since lab-grown diamonds have similar properties to real diamonds, the “monetary” value makes the difference.
The diamond market determines the monetary “value” of a lab-grown or real diamond. Lab-grown diamonds are valued less in this aspect when they have the same gradation as real diamonds.
If you are considering purchasing a lab-grown diamond, you can buy it at a lesser price than a real diamond with the same gradation. But the real value will greatly depend on the purpose of why you will buy the diamond.
Take note that a diamond appraiser will not dock the value of your diamond when it is lab-grown.
Can the Average Person Spot the Difference Between a Lab-Grown and Natural Diamond?
A lab-grown diamond has the same properties as a real diamond. This makes it difficult to spot the difference between the two with the naked eye.
Even under a diamond loupe, most jewelers could not differentiate between a lab-grown and a real diamond. The sign they depend on to identify if a diamond is lab-grown is if it has a tiny laser inscription on the girdle that says it is created in the lab.
Can a Jeweler Tell if a Diamond Is Lab-Created?
There are no physical differences between a lab-created and a real diamond. The chemical and optical properties are also the same. This makes it hard even for a jeweler and an expert gemologist without specialist equipment to identify if a diamond is lab-created.
Generally, lab diamonds and real diamonds look the same, even to a trained eye. Jewelers who use traditional tools like microscopes or loupes cannot see the difference between mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds.
These are cheap tools that test between fake diamonds and lab or real diamonds but do not differentiate between lab diamonds and real, mined diamonds.
Will Lab Diamonds Pass a Diamond Tester?
Cheap diamond testers will not tell if a diamond is lab-grown or mined. The equipment used that can differentiate between a lab-grown and real diamond is complicated and more expensive. It costs around $10,000.
The instrument used to help determine accurately if a diamond is lab grown or real is called the Photoluminescence Spectroscopy. The process of testing requires deep freezing the diamond to -320 degrees Fahrenheit or -196 degrees Celsius.
The issue is that most jewelers do not have this equipment because of its complexity and expansiveness. Hence, they would rely on third-party, non-profit gemological organizations (AGS, GIA, IGI, or SCAL) who can certify if a diamond is lab-grown. They would place a microscopic laser inscription on diamonds that are grown in the lab.
The inscription can be seen under a microscope by a jeweler. Lab-grown diamonds have independent certifications that you should check and ask your jeweler to check on a public database about its source.
You can also check the ID on the website of the grading organization.
Do Lab Diamonds Shine Like Natural Diamonds?
Yes, lab diamonds shine as much as real diamonds because they have the same chemical composition and physical properties.
They can be made as close to the color and look combinations of real diamonds. Lab diamonds shine and sparkle like mined diamonds. The only difference is the process by which they were created.
How Much Is a 1-Carat Lab Diamond?
Lab diamonds have a lesser monetary value. The most expensive lab diamonds are high-color white diamonds and rare fancy colored diamonds. The cost of a 1-carat lab diamond is between $390 and $12,000.
Similar to how real diamonds are priced, the price of a lab diamond will depend on the 4Cs or its grade. Its price can also fluctuate over time. The process of how lab diamonds are grown and then reach customers is shorter making them less expensive compared to mined diamonds.
Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Gia Certified?
GIA is a third-party grading organization. They are an independent gemological laboratory that grades and certifies lab-grown diamonds.
Their service for lab-grown diamonds is called the GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamond Grading Report which includes the following information:
- 4Cs assessment
- Plotted clarity diagram
- Proportions diagram
They do not, however, assign a cut grade to diamonds that are fancy shaped or non-round.
When a lab diamond is GIA-certified, you are assured that your diamond is protected and that the qualities of the diamond you are buying stated in the certification are honest and evaluated by a professional.
Should You Buy a Lab Diamond or a Natural Diamond?
The choice is yours to make. Your decision should depend on your value most and your purpose in purchasing a diamond.
The most important things to consider, since a lab-grown diamond literally looks the same as a real mined diamond, are the big differences which include:
You should know that the prices of lab diamonds are constantly changing. Three or four years ago, lab diamonds were 23-25% more expensive. Now, they are 50-60% cheaper than real diamonds. This constant flux of the prices of lab diamonds depends on the supply.
With more diamond labs growing lab diamonds, the price is falling at an alarming rate. You will be surprised that a lab diamond you would buy for $1,000 today may be priced at a fraction of that amount after two years or more.
The price at which you will buy a lab diamond today will significantly be lesser when you resell. In fact, you may even be able to resell a lab diamond because its resale value decreases at a significant rate.
Real diamonds will retain 50% of their value, but lab diamonds will most likely be impossible to resell. They do not retain any value. This is one thing you should consider when you choose to either buy a lab diamond or a real diamond.
The issue of the environmental and humanitarian repercussions of mining real diamonds can be one consideration when buying a diamond. This can be a strong case against buying a real mined diamond.
If you are against the ethical and environmental problems caused by diamond mining, you may choose to purchase a lab-grown diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds still leave a carbon footprint in the process by which they are made. However, it is significantly less compared to the ecological destruction and outright pollution caused by mining real diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds look the same as real diamonds. No one will notice if the diamond on your jewelry is real or lab-grown. Their brilliance and shine are similar to that of real diamonds.
So if you are low on budget but want to look elegant and glamorous with diamond jewelry, a lab-grown diamond will not be that bad.
When your purpose of buying a diamond is not an investment, but to have something to remember a milestone in your life, you can buy a lab diamond. However, if you want the diamond to retain or increase its value over the years, you can purchase a real mined diamond.
How They’re Created
As opposed to the natural process of forming real diamonds from naturally occurring carbon subjected to super-high temperatures and pressures in the Earth’s mantle for billions of years, a lab-grown diamond is created on the surface of the earth.
There are two primary methods used by specially designed diamond manufacturing centers to produce lab diamonds:
1. Chemical vapor deposition (CVD)
The steps in the process include:
- Starting with a very slim slice of a diamond (called the diamond ‘seed’) which has an existing crystalline structure.
- Placing the diamond ‘seed’ in a vacuum where carbon molecules assimilate to the ‘seed’. This forms an almost 3-D printing of the diamond.
- Growing the diamond in the chamber.
- Cutting and polishing the diamond.
2. High-pressure high temperature (HPHT)
It is as effective as the VD method in creating high-quality lab diamonds that are identical to real diamonds. This method mimics the conditions under which real diamonds are formed inside the earth.
The HPHT process involves feeding a certain amount of natural graphite into a large machine and then crushing it under extreme temperatures and pressures to produce a diamond.
Features that Differentiate a Lab Grown Diamond Vs a Real Diamond
When making a decision whether to purchase a lab-grown or real diamond, consider the following features of each type of diamond:
The chemical and physical properties of a lab diamond and a real diamond are the same. Lab diamonds are also made up of carbon, the same material that comprises real diamonds. Carbon remains to be the hardest material on earth. A lab diamond will measure a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, similar to a mined diamond. Hence, they are as difficult to chip.
Diamond grading institutions grade lab-grown diamonds in a similar process as they grade real mined diamonds. They use similar methods and standards to evaluate lab diamonds.
This means that the difference between lab diamonds and real diamonds when it comes to the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat) is irrelevant.
The clarity grade of a lab diamond is also affected by its inclusions or “flaws”. With more inclusions, the clarity grade becomes lower. Similar to real diamonds, the clarity grade for lab diamonds ranges from Flawless (F1) to Included (I3).
The color of lab-grown diamonds is determined the same way a real diamond color is evaluated. Because lab diamonds have the same chemical properties as real diamonds, there is no big difference in the colors of lab-grown and real diamonds.
The most sought-after color for lab-grown diamonds is G and J, or near-colorless. The true colorless grades d through F are exceedingly rare for lab diamonds. These are the most expensive lab diamonds.
Real diamonds get their color from various trace chemicals that become trapped in the diamond as it grows. This causes colors in fancy and rare labeled real diamonds which include light pink, yellow, or blue.
Lab diamonds on the other hand can also inhibit different colors when they are grown. You can
Have white, pink, blue, yellow, and green lab diamonds. Brownish lab diamonds can be decolorized and then color-treated to achieve the desired color.
Lab diamonds are already considered to be real diamonds because they have the same chemical and physical properties. The only difference is the process that forms the diamonds. Talk to an expert jeweler who can help you source your ideal diamond so you get great value whether you purchase a lab-grown or real diamond.
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