Lab-grown diamonds have become more popular in recent years, with the global lab-made diamonds market projected to reach $49.9 billion by 2030. Lab-grown diamonds make an excellent choice for engagement rings and other types of diamond Jewelry. However, it’s common for consumers to be sceptical about them.
When investing in diamond Jewelry, you want to be confident in your selection, ensuring that the diamonds you choose are exquisite in quality, clarity and colour. You may wonder whether lab-made diamonds are comparable to natural mined diamonds, and the good news is, there’s very little difference between them.
If you’re unsure whether to purchase lab-made diamonds or natural diamonds, our experts are here to help. In this guide, we’ll answer all of your questions about these two types of diamonds, helping you make an informed decision when purchasing loose diamonds or sparkling diamond Jewelry. Read on to learn more about lab-grown diamonds vs natural diamonds, including details on their price, clarity, durability and sustainability.
Natural diamonds form within the Earth’s mantle over millions of years, with intense heat and pressure causing carbon deposits to crystallise. Evidence suggests that most diamond formations took place in the first few billion years of the Earth’s history, which is why the natural diamonds we see today are typically between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years old.
The diamonds that have been brought to the surface were transported through deep-seated volcanic eruptions that occurred billions of years ago, back when the Earth was much hotter than it is today. Natural diamonds are mined and processed through four main methods: open-pit mining, underground mining, alluvial mining and marine mining.
Lab-grown diamonds are created through man-made processes and don’t require mining to be obtained. There are two ways to create lab-made diamonds: through the high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) method or a process of chemical vapour deposition (CVD).
In the HPHT method, a small diamond seed is placed in pure carbon and exposed to intense heat and pressure, mirroring how diamonds are naturally created in the Earth’s mantle. CVD diamonds are created through a more recently developed and finely controlled process that exposes the diamond seed to high temperatures and a carbon-rich gas mixture. Once lab-grown diamonds are formed, they’ll be cut and polished just like a natural diamond.
Lab-made diamonds aren’t fake or synthetic — they have the same chemical, physical and optical properties as naturally occurring diamonds. Consumers who are sceptical about lab-grown diamonds often don’t realise that they’re identical to mined diamonds in every way, other than their origins.
Lab-grown diamonds receive certification through the International Gemological Institute (IGI) and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), just as natural diamonds do. Man-made diamonds are graded on the same cut, clarity, colour and carat weight scale as natural diamonds.
Imitation stones such as cubic zirconia and moissanite are not the same as lab-created diamonds — these are synthesised gemstones engineered to look similar to diamonds but do not have the same chemical composition. Imitation diamonds are an inexpensive alternative to the real thing, but they are far less valuable and don’t possess the same qualities as real diamonds.
Any diamond is a significant investment, but laboratory-grown diamonds can be 50-70% less expensive than natural diamonds of a similar grade. This is because lab-made diamonds are created through efficient processes and don’t rely on the lengthy — and costly — supply chain involved in sourcing naturally occurring precious stones.
Natural diamonds are also more expensive because they are a finite resource. Although diamonds are one of the most common gems, “traditional” diamonds become rarer with time, and their availability is determined by the rate at which they’re mined. The volcanic activity that once brought natural diamonds to the Earth’s surface has long halted, making the diamonds that we do have more highly sought-after and costly.
If you’re looking for a diamond offering excellent value for money, a lab-grown diamond is certainly something you should consider.
Clarity grades for lab-grown diamonds are the same as natural diamonds, ranging from Flawless (F1) to Included (I3). Like mined diamonds, the growing process used to create lab-made diamonds creates inevitable inclusions and flaws that affect a stone’s clarity grade. That lab-grown diamonds are graded using the same standards as natural diamonds shows no difference in clarity between the two.
When looking at lab-grown vs natural diamonds, you may have also wondered whether there’s a colour difference to be aware of. Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about this either, as there is no visual difference between a lab-made and natural diamond. The
4 C’s of diamonds — cut, clarity, colour, and carat — remain the same within both types, although individual diamonds do, of course, vary in their grading.
For those who prefer fancy coloured diamonds, lab-created diamonds are also available in yellow, orangey-yellow, or brownish-yellow tones. By adding boron into the growth process, blue lab-made diamonds can also be formed. Pink and red lab-grown diamonds are less common but can be created by subjecting a fully formed crystal to heat treatment.
Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substance found on Earth, scoring a perfect 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. As lab-grown diamonds mirror their mined counterparts’ chemical composition, they also match natural diamonds in hardness, strength and durability. Both diamonds are incredibly durable and can be passed on through generations to be treasured forever.
One of the benefits of lab-made diamonds is that they’re widely considered better for the planet than their mined counterparts. Although the creation of lab-grown diamonds requires a great deal of power, studies suggest that diamond mining requires twice as much energy. Mining also releases more carbon into the atmosphere, contributes to deforestation and harms wildlife. Natural diamond mining can also be unethical, particularly in the case of blood diamonds.
No — the average person can’t tell the difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds, which means neither you nor your partner would ever notice a difference in the diamond’s appearance. Most jewellers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference during an examination of the diamond, either, if it weren’t for a tiny laser engraving revealed under a lens.
Whether you should buy a lab-grown diamond or a natural diamond depends on personal preference. Although both diamonds have the same chemical makeup, some consumers prefer to purchase natural diamond engagement rings because they see them as more romantic. In contrast, others purchase lab-created diamonds because they offer fantastic value for money and are typically a more ethical and sustainable choice. Now that you know more about the differences — or rather, similarities — between the two, the choice between lab-grown diamonds vs natural diamonds is yours to make.
If you’re thinking of buying a lab-grown diamond, we’ve got a wide range of stunning options for you to choose from — explore our selection of engagement rings, wedding bands and earrings today. To see our exquisite diamonds up close, book an appointment with one of our experts online or at our London showroom.