Lab-created diamonds have exploded onto the scene, and for the first time, engagement ring shoppers have two types of diamonds to choose from. It’s turned a centuries-old industry on its head and has many shoppers asking “what is a lab-created diamond?” So, if you’re shopping for an engagement ring, and you’re a little confused about the value, origin, and authenticity of lab-created diamonds – you’re not alone. We put together this short guide to provide you with a quick rundown on lab-created diamonds. We’ll cover the basics like how they’re made, how they compare to mined diamonds, their benefits, and why they’re less expensive.
By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to decide if a lab-created diamond is right for you and to ask the right questions when you start your search for the perfect ring.
Let’s start with the million-dollar question:
The only thing that makes a lab-created diamond different from a mined diamond is its origin. A lab-created diamond is “grown” inside a lab using cutting-edge technology that replicates the natural diamond growing process.
Some people refer to lab-grown or man-made diamonds as ‘synthetic diamonds’ but this phrase can be misleading because lab-grown diamonds are not fake or an imitation of a real diamond. Lab-grown diamonds possess the same characteristics as natural diamonds. So much so that lab-grown and mined gemstones can only be differentiated through a microscopic inscription on the lab-grown diamonds.
The result is a diamond that is chemically, physically, and optically the same as those grown beneath the Earth’s surface.
(We’ll explain this in more detail a little later.)
Lab-created vs natural diamonds: How are they made?
To understand the difference between how lab-created and mined diamonds are created, it’s important to understand the origin of each.
Mined diamonds begin as carbon deep beneath the Earth’s surface that is exposed to extreme temperatures of around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. They are put under extreme pressure of roughly 727,000 pounds per square inch and then transported from deep within the Earth’s core to the surface by way of deep volcanic explosions.
Lab-created diamonds are grown within a lab using a process that duplicates the growing conditions of mined diamonds.
It begins with a diamond seed, which is a crystal of carbon origin. That seed is exposed to extreme pressure and temperature and begins to form larger diamond crystals.
Can you tell the difference between a lab-created diamond and a natural diamond?
Lab-created diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically the same as those grown beneath the Earth’s surface.
To help illustrate this further, here’s a snippet from a recently published NPR article in which David Weinstein, executive director of the International Gemological Institute, shared his opinion on the quality and authenticity of lab-created diamonds.
I deal with diamonds all day long, for three decades,” says Weinstein, “To me, diamonds aren’t anything spectacular. It’s hard to get me to say, ‘Wow!’ “
But lately, he has been impressed by certain diamonds — those created in the lab.
“These are all laboratory-grown,” he says, unwrapping diamonds and lining them up inside a folded piece of white paper. Under a bright light, he points out how colorless they are, and how, to the naked eye, they’re indistinguishable from diamonds that took millions of years to form deep within the earth. Source
Here’s how they compare chemically and physically:
What are the benefits of mined diamonds?
Not too long ago, the mined diamond industry came under fire for their unethical production practices. Not only were they exploiting miners and their families through forced labor, but they were also funding violent rebel movements in countries throughout Africa. Their destructive origin earned them the nickname blood diamonds, and stricter regulations were demanded.
In 2003, the Kimberley Process was established, reducing these unethical practices significantly. It’s estimated that 99.9% of natural diamonds are now conflict-free as a result of this certification process.
Despite the significant drop in unethical practices, many people are still drawn to lab-created diamonds because they can be traced back to their exact origin providing peace of mind that their diamond was ethically sourced.
As with the mining of any natural resource, the diamond industry has a significant impact on the environment. While diamond mining companies do take steps to try to minimize the effect, lab-created diamonds are inherently and significantly less detrimental to the environment.
It takes considerably less energy to grow a diamond in a lab than to mine one. In fact, labs strive to minimize the amount of energy they use in the diamond creation process to decrease their costs.
The price of a lab-created diamonds tends to be anywhere from 20-30% less than mined diamonds.
But don’t confuse less expensive with cheap. The capital costs for lab-grown and mined diamonds are actually pretty similar because they have the exact same costs when it comes to cutting, polishing, and inspection.
However, after that point, the costs and processes are very different.
Mined diamonds have a long supply chain. For a diamond to go from raw stone to a store, it requires miners, distributors, cutters, polishers, jewelry manufacturers, and retailers.
In contrast, lab-created diamonds have a much shorter supply chain. By cutting out the mining process, a lab-created diamond touches fewer hands, making it ultimately less expensive.
Are lab-created diamonds better than mined diamonds?
Ultimately, this can only be answered by the individual purchasing the diamond because what’s important is different for everyone. Some value the affordability of lab-created diamonds, while others value the archaic origin of mined diamonds.
The only way to determine whether or not a lab-created diamond is right for you is to do your research and ask lots of questions. While this guide is a great starting point – there’s always more to learn. And we want to help you every step of the way.
We understand that buying an engagement ring is a life-changing purchase, and you deserve all the information necessary to feel confident in the diamond you choose. If you’d like more information about lab-created diamonds, contact us with any questions you have. We’d be happy to help (without the pushy sales tactics).