Lab grown diamonds have exploded in popularity lately, as an increasing number of couples opt for more affordable, ethical and sustainable options.
Although they were first looked down on as ‘fake’ stones, even De Beers, the company that literally created the diamond engagement ring industry, are selling lab created diamonds today.
Like mined diamonds, synthetic diamonds are graded by reputable labs (including the GIA) and even expert jewelers can’t tell them apart from mined diamonds.
With all that, lab grown diamonds are easily becoming an excellent option for diamond engagement rings. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Lab created Diamond?
Lab created diamonds go by many names such as synthetic diamonds, engineered diamonds, lab diamonds, lab grown diamonds, man-made diamonds and cultured diamonds. They all refer to the same thing – a diamond created using science and technology in a lab, as opposed to being mined from the earth.
Lab grown diamonds are created out of carbon atoms organized to resemble the crystal structure of earth mined diamonds. They’re made of the same substance as natural diamonds and so they display the same physical, chemical and optical properties. Unlike diamond simulants like cubic zirconia or moissanite, lab grown diamonds are ‘real’ diamonds.
Diamond ring by Aardvark Jewellery. Lab grown or mined? Check here.
This means that although some people think synthetic diamonds are fake, they’re the real thing just with a few crucial differences.
- Lab created diamonds are produced over several weeks whereas natural diamonds take billions of years to form.
- Creating synthetic diamonds is an expensive and labor-intensive process involving state of the art technology, but natural diamonds are formed by the heat and pressure under the earth’s crust.
- Lab created diamonds don’t have an environmental impact whereas the diamond mining industry has enormous impact on the environment and often has unethical labor practices as well.
- There’s a big price difference between lab created diamonds and natural diamonds although note that lab diamonds aren’t cheap. They’re only ‘relatively cheaper’.
Characteristics of a Lab created Diamond
Lab grown diamond engagement ring by Camellia Jewelry. See it here.
If you’re thinking about buying a lab created diamond for your engagement ring, you might be wondering how to go about choosing one. One common misconception is that all lab diamonds are identical, with zero flaws. This might be true for cubic zirconia, but it isn’t for synthetic diamonds.
Each lab created diamond is grown from a seed, and the end result can’t always be predicted. Because of this, the quality of lab grown diamonds, much like earth mined ones, vary.
The screenshot of the search filter for lab created diamonds on the James Allen site indicates that these diamonds vary in terms of quality criteria and the 4Cs.
If you’ve decided to go for a lab diamond, here’s how to evaluate the stone:
Lab Created Diamond Clarity
One of the easiest ways to distinguish lab diamonds from natural diamonds is from the type of inclusions. Depending on the exact manufacturing process, lab created diamonds can have inclusions resulting from the extreme heat, pressure and growth patterns of the stone. These inclusions are typically made of metal and tend to look different to inclusions found in natural diamonds.
S1 clarity grade diamond. See it here.
The clarity of lab diamonds ranges from Flawless to Included, just like natural diamonds. When choosing your stone, ensure you view the stone carefully and pick one that is eye-clean. It’s more important to focus on whether there are any visible inclusions and where these are located, rather than getting hung up on high clarity grades.
Lab Created Diamond Color
Just like clarity, color ranges too. The colorless diamonds are always valued more and come with higher prices but for better value, consider dropping down on the color scale as far as you can go without compromising on beauty.
If your ring setting is yellow or rose gold, warm tints in the diamond will not be as visible, as the color of the metal will mask these. However, for white metals, choose stone’s that don’t exhibit noticeable color, as this will stand out against the white of the metal.
There are also colored synthetic diamond options which is perfect if you’re after a colored diamond.
Lab Created Diamond Cut
As with all colorless diamonds, cut is king when it comes to lab diamonds too. A well-cut lab diamond sparkles beautifully, with excellent scintillation and dispersion. It’s best not to compromise on cut quality, as this can make or break how your diamond looks.
Lab Created Diamond Carat Weight
One limitation with lab created diamonds is that large sizes are difficult to grow. Currently, a quick search on James Allen brings up only three diamonds over 4 carats. In comparison, there are over 800 natural diamonds that range from 4 carats to upwards of 20 carats.
Lab Diamond Prices
Most people are surprised at how much lab grown diamonds can cost and they worry that the lab diamond they’ve purchased isn’t worth the money they’ve put into it
If you’ve been searching for lab grown diamonds, you would have noticed by now that they aren’t cheap. Unlike cubic zirconia or even moissanite, lab grown diamonds can cost quite a bit even though they’re much less expensive than equivalent earth mined diamonds.
Compare the two diamonds below, identical in almost every way except that one’s a lab diamond and the other is a natural one. Even though the lab diamond is almost half the price of the natural stone, it’s still a hefty price tag.
The reason lab grown diamonds cost so much is because of the intense manufacturing process that they require. They take up a lot of labor and resources to be created into perfect, sparkling stones ready for your engagement ring.
Are Lab Created Diamonds Worth Anything?
The trouble with lab grown diamonds is that it doesn’t have the same resale value as mined diamonds.
While mined diamonds might drop about 70% in value, you can still get something back, but you can rarely (if ever) make a profit. This is why diamonds aren’t a good investment option, unless they’re the sort of diamonds you would sell at a Christie’s auction.
Lab diamonds, on the other hand, are much harder to resell. But put it this way:
- You spend $10,000 on a mined diamond and you sell it for half of what you bought it for. You’ve lost $5000.
- You spend $5000 on a similar lab created diamond. You sell it for $2000. You’ve lost $3000 but you’ve saved $2000.
This is just an arbitrary example, but the point is to show you that even if you sell the lab diamond at a much lower percentage than what you bought it for, you might still be saving money than if you bought a mined diamond.
Some online stores, like Ada Diamonds, buy lab grown diamonds back, as long as they meet certain criteria.
On another note, most people never sell their engagement ring and it simply becomes an heirloom to be passed on down the years. As such, reselling a diamond ring isn’t the main thing you’d be buying your diamond for.
If you’re looking for an investment, it’s best to avoid diamonds altogether. They’re not an investment but simply a retail product.
Lab Diamonds and Certification
When choosing your lab grown diamond, always request certification from an independent grading lab.
Almost all of the reputable labs now grade lab created diamonds, including the GIA. The GIA is considered the most esteemed of all the grading labs due to their stringent grading criteria. The GIA offers lab grown diamond reports using the same parameters as those used for mined diamonds. However, there are fewer quality grade categories.
Why Buy a Lab Grown Diamond?
Many people buy into the emotion and mystery that mined diamonds have as stones that have permanence and go back billions of years in their creation. They want more than just the physical properties of a diamond – they want the history and meaning that our society has attributed to diamonds. For them, a lab grown diamond will never have the allure of a mined diamond.
But considering the fact that even expert gemologists can’t tell the difference between lab grown and natural diamonds, it makes you wonder if this ‘mystery and back story’ of diamonds is worth the price.
Choose a lab grown diamond if:
- You have a practical sense of what your engagement ring should be. While you appreciate the romance of mined diamonds, you find the science of lab grown diamonds equally enthralling.
- You don’t care what others think about your diamond ring. There are those who will think that it’s a fake diamond but if you choose not to tell them that it’s lab grown, they would never know the difference.
- You’re on a budget but you want a diamond. There are benefits that come with buying a diamond, most notably the sparkle and the durability of this stone. A lab-grown diamond gives you the exact same thing at a much lower price.
- You care about the environment and you don’t want to inadvertently buy a conflict diamond. Lab grown diamonds have never been known to fund wars, slavery or other unethical practices.
- You understand that a lab grown diamond isn’t artificial.
Always remember to ask for an independent grading report from a reputable lab to make sure you’re not getting ripped off when buying a lab created diamond (the same goes for mined diamonds too).
Evaluate the diamond and check that it’s inclusion free. Always check for HD images and/or videos of the exact diamond you’re looking to buy, and not some stock photo. Each diamond is unique and you want to make sure that what you see is what you get.
Don’t forget to check the after sales policies just in case there’s something you don’t like about the diamond. A reputable retailer should be able to stand by their stones.
If you’re looking for a lab created diamond, head over to James Allen and search their wide range of over 700 synthetic diamonds.