With technological advances comes the ability to replicate more and more of nature’s miracles. Many times, what scientist’s have tried to recreate can tend to be a little off, however – not quite like the original. Is that the case with lab grown diamonds as well or are they as good as the real deal?
Lab-grown diamonds are increasing in popularity as couples turn to more sustainable and affordable options. But is it worth spending money on lab diamonds or are you better off with an earth mined stone?
Let’s take a look.
Are lab grown diamonds real diamonds?
Yes, very much so.
Lab grown diamonds are made of the same materials as natural diamonds. They are simply grown in a lab rather than in the Earth’s crust. The difference between a natural diamond and a lab grown diamond is like the difference between a wild animal and its domesticated cousin – it’s the same thing, one has simply grown under controlled conditions.
Take a look at the two diamonds below. Can you see a difference?
Lab grown diamonds have the same sparkle as natural diamonds, they possess the same clarity and colors, and they come in the same shapes and sizes. And, yes – they are just as hard as natural diamonds at 10 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Of course, while natural diamonds take thousands and millions of years to form in the Earth’s crust, lab grown diamonds take much less time than. In laboratory conditions, scientists are able to expose them to the right chemical and temperature conditions more rapidly while still maintaining a stable growth process.
When lab grown diamonds were first grown it took a little trial and error until the process was perfected and so the first lab grown diamonds had some structural, chemical, and visual differences from natural diamonds. Today, however, they are virtually indistinguishable.
How are lab grown diamond different than natural diamonds?
Still, what are the practical difference between lab grown and natural diamonds? There are several key points we can go over:
1. The price
As you’d expect, lab grown diamonds are much cheaper than natural diamonds. A lab grown diamond of the same shape, quality cut, eye-clean clarity, color, and similar weight and dimensions as a natural diamond can be over 50% less expensive. And what’s more, that difference is expected to keep growing as the manufacturing of lab grown diamonds continue to improve, and natural diamonds become more and more scarce.
2. The value
The overall value of lab grown diamonds is understandably lower than that of natural diamonds as the lab grown variants are less prestigious and traditional. However, the long-term value of lab grown diamonds isn’t really determined as they are still new to the market.
So, if you’re wondering whether a lab grown diamond will age better or worse value-wise than a natural diamond – we can’t say anything for certain. The logical expectation is that natural diamonds will continue to increase in value as the time passes because they will get scarcer and rarer while lab grown diamonds will be easier to produce. The general view at the moment is that lab grown diamonds are less valuable.
3. The visuals
There is no visible difference between lab grown and natural diamonds. If you buy a ring with a lab grown diamond and tell everyone that it’s natural – everyone would believe you. Lab grown diamonds have the same color (or lack thereof), the same clarity, the same sparkle and brilliance, and the same shapes, sizes, and cuts as natural diamonds.
One visual way to distinguish lab grown and natural diamonds is through the laser inscriptions lab grown diamonds have inside of them. These are invisible to the naked eye, however, and require magnification to spot. Lab grown diamonds also have a somewhat unique fluorescence to natural diamonds which is another way to distinguish them but that’s also not visible with the naked eye under normal conditions.
4. The chemistry
Another minor difference between lab grown and natural diamonds is the tiny amount of nitrogen that’s present in natural diamonds but is missing in lab grown stones. This difference makes for no visual difference between the two types of diamonds but is another way gemologist can spot one from the other.
5. Long-term industry sustainability
One of the big pluses of lab grown diamonds is that their production is more sustainable both in the short-term and in the long-run. Instead of constantly mining new and new stones from the Earth and refining them, we can simply grow our own.
Are lab grown diamonds graded?
Lab grown diamonds are graded but not always in the same way as natural diamonds. Some labs like the American Gem Society (AGS) don’t grade them at all. Hopefully, that will change in the near future, but until that time we suggest you look for a Gem Certification & Assurance Lab (GCAL) certification or an International Gemological Institute (IGI) certification for lab grown diamonds. Both of these institutes offer the same D-Z color grades, and FL-I3 clarity grades for both natural and lab grown diamonds.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has been grading lab diamonds since 2007 and doesn’t use the term ‘synthetic’ to describe these diamonds anymore. Instead they include this statement: This is a man-made diamond produced by CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) or HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) growth processes and may include post-growth treatments to change the color.
Can you tell which diamonds are lab grown?
With all of the above being said, the only way to tell a lab grown from a natural diamond is to consult with a profession and/or use powerful magnification to look for the stone’s laser inscription. In any conceivable naked-eye method you attempt, a lab grown diamond should be indistinguishable from a natural one.
Should you get a lab grown diamond?
As far as we’re concerned – sure, especially if you’re on a budget.
Lab grown diamonds offer the same quality at a fraction of the price with no real downside. The only drawback of lab grown stones is that they don’t feel as “prestigious” as natural diamonds, even though that’s a subjective perception issue.
Another possible drawback is if lab grown diamonds keep having a lower value over time and natural diamonds happen to increase in value in the next decade or more – that’s neither here nor there, however, so we can’t see why it should be a factor in a purchase.
If sustainability and ethical production are important considerations, and you’re working on a budget, a lab-grown diamond will give you all the benefits of an earth-mined one and then some.