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As a leading producer of lab-grown diamonds, Clean Origin is no stranger to fielding diamond (and diamond-related) questions from customers. And, among the most frequent questions we get are these: “Can you spot the difference between lab-created diamonds and real diamonds?” and “Are lab-grown diamonds real?”

These questions are somewhat misleading. This is because at their heart they are based upon the assumption that there must be some major difference between lab-created diamonds vs. “natural” diamonds. But the truth is that no such distinction exists; in terms of chemical makeup, physical properties, and visual appearance, lab-created diamonds are identical to the real thing — because they are the real thing. 

Allow us to reiterate this point: Lab-created diamonds are real diamonds. So, when presented with the question “Can you spot the difference?”, the best answer we can give is “You tell us.”

See for Yourself

It’s easy for us to say that there’s no difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds. And it’s just as easy for you to scoff and roll your eyes. After all, how can we be objective when our business is built around growing and selling lab-created diamonds? Well, now’s your chance to put these diamonds to the test!

Below is a photo comparison between a lab-grown diamond and one that’s been pulled out of the ground. Can you tell which is which?

the side view of a mined diamond next to a lab grown diamond

Lab-Grown vs. Natural Diamonds

The chances are that you couldn’t tell which diamond is a lab-grown and which is mined. That’s because they are both real diamonds. They have the same clarity. They have the same natural inclusions. And the only difference between them lies in where they found their origin.

The only difference between lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds is their origin.

Lab-grown diamonds are not cubic zirconias. They aren’t polished glass or some other material designed to replicate the look of real diamonds. A lab-created diamond is “grown” inside a lab using cutting-edge technology that replicates the natural diamond growing process. The result is a diamond that is chemically, physically, and optically the same as those grown beneath the Earth’s surface.

Properties Comparison of Lab-Grown vs. Mined

“[Lab-created diamonds] are not fakes. They’re not cubic zirconias. They have all the same physical and chemical properties of a mined diamond.”

– Stephen ­Morisseau, a spokesman for the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization that oversees the international diamond grading system.

Sometimes, lab-created diamonds are referred to as synthetic diamonds. While not technically inaccurate, the term “synthetic” may be the reason people believe lab-created diamonds are “fake.” However, lab-grown diamonds are not fake.

If we compare the physical and chemical properties of lab-grown and mined diamonds, it’s obvious lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, the real deal. Diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia, moissanite, and other gemstones may look similar to diamonds to the untrained eye. However, as Stephen Morisseau said, they don’t have the same chemical properties as lab-created and mined diamonds. And whether you’re using diamonds for industrial drill bits or eye-catching engagement rings, there’s really no substitute for diamond

How Is It possible to “Grow” Real Diamonds in a Lab?

Before we talk about how lab-created diamonds are made, it’s important to understand how mined diamonds are formed. The processes are extremely similar — only one happens naturally while the other occurs in a lab.

Mined Diamonds

Geologists believe that diamonds formed deep within the Earth between 1 billion to 3 billion years ago. While they don’t know exactly how those diamonds came to be, they believe the process starts with carbon dioxide that is buried roughly 100 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.

The carbon dioxide is exposed to heat in excess of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and put under extreme pressure of roughly 727,000 pounds per square inch. The diamonds are then transported from deep within the Earth’s core to the surface by way of deep volcanic explosions.

the top view of a mined diamond next to a lab grown diamond
Can you tell which diamond is mined vs lab-grown?

Lab-created Diamonds

There are two processes labs use to grow diamonds — High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).

HPHT

HPHT diamonds are made using one of three manufacturing processes: the belt press, the cubic press, and the split-sphere (BARS) press. All of these processes create an environment of extremely high pressure and temperature conducive to diamond growth.

An HPHT diamond begins as a small diamond seed that is placed into carbon. Using one of the manufacturing processes above, the seed is exposed to temperatures of about 1500 degrees Celsius and pressurized to approximately 1.5 million pounds per square inch.

The pure carbon melts and starts to form a diamond around the starter seed. It is then carefully cooled to form a pure carbon diamond.

CVD

A CVD diamond begins as a thin slice of diamond seed, which is often an HPHT produced diamond. The diamond seed is placed in a sealed chamber and heated to around 800 degrees Celsius.

The chamber is filled with a carbon rich-gas, like Methane, and other gases. The gases are ionized into plasma using technology similar to that of microwaves or lasers. The ionization breaks the molecular bonds in the gases, and the pure carbon adheres to the diamond seed and slowly crystallizes.

To the naked eye, it’s impossible to distinguish a lab-grown diamond from a mined diamond. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that a jeweler — even one with a lifetime’s worth of experience — could determine if a diamond is lab-grown or mined.

While there are processes that can identify one from the other, it is incredibly complex and is typically only performed in diamond certification labs.

So, to answer the original question: No, you can’t tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond.

However, you can get a larger diamond within your budget and make a more ethical and environmentally-friendly purchase with a lab-grown diamond. So if you are looking for an engagement ring, wedding ring, or any other kind of stone for your jewelry, it often makes more sense to buy a man-made diamond, rather than a natural diamond — both for the benefit of your wallet, and the benefit of the Earth.

If you want to learn more about the difference between lab-created diamonds and traditionally mined diamonds, as well as the various benefits in terms of the environment, ethical sourcing, and budget, you can read more on it here. Lab diamonds offer a real alternative to the traditional diamond market. Few people are aware of the option, but it can really benefit those who take advantage of it.  After all, when the only difference is the origin, choosing a lab-grown diamond over a traditionally mined one just makes sense. 

Click here to learn more about Clean Origin and how our lab-grown diamonds compare in terms of price, return policy, warranty and more.