Lab Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds – A Simple Guide for 2023

Lab Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds – A Simple Guide for 2023

If you’re in the market for an engagement ring or any type of diamond jewellery, choosing between lab grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds is a relatively new consideration for most shoppers.

Lab Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds – Everything You Need to Know

While lab grown diamond technology dates all the way back to 1954 when General Electric (GE) created the first ever batch of lab grown diamonds, the man-made diamond segment has come into its own over the last decade. Today, if you’re in the market for a diamond ring, earrings, or whatever else, there’s a good chance your jeweller will ask you if you’re looking for natural or lab grown. In this guide, we’ve cover off the most commonly asked questions that we receive from customers around lab grown diamonds and what you should know before buying your next piece of diamond jewellery.

Lab grown diamond vocabulary glossary

Adding to the confusion that surrounds lab grown diamonds and cheap diamond lookalikes like Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite, different jewellers use different names to describe diamonds that have been created in laboratory setting. 

Before we go any deeper, let’s take a quick look at the different terms you may have come across in your quest for a diamond:

  • Artificial diamonds
  • Cultured diamonds
  • Engineered diamonds
  • Lab diamonds
  • Lab grown diamonds
  • Lab made diamonds
  • Laboratory diamonds
  • Man-made diamonds

Depending on the jeweller or retailer that you shop with, they may use any of the above variations to describe diamonds that have been created in a controlled, laboratory environment by scientists.

What is a lab grown diamond?

Let’s start with the basics; what exactly is a lab grown diamond and how does it differ from natural diamonds, as well as faux diamonds like moissanite and cubic zirconia?

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Lab made diamonds are diamonds that have been created in a controlled, laboratory setting that mimics the same environmental conditions that form diamonds naturally in the earth over a period of 1-3 billion years.

In a natural environment, diamonds are formed when raw carbon is subjected to extreme pressure which occurs around 150 to 200km below the surface of the earth. In a lab, with the aid of cutting-edge technology, scientists are able to replicate the natural diamond forming process in a period of a few weeks to a few months.

On the other end of the quality and cost spectrum, cubic zirconia is a man-made material that is composed of zirconium dioxide, while moissanite is a naturally occurring mineral composed of silicon carbide. Both are diamond stimulants are designed to look like diamonds for a fraction of the cost.

So, while lab grown diamonds use a sophisticated, costly-process to mimic the exact conditions under which diamonds are formed, cubic zirconia are less durable, less-hard stones that do not feature the same physical or optical properties as diamonds.

Are lab-made diamonds a new trend?

Lab-made diamonds have been around for a while now, but they have soared in popularity over the last 2-3 years. So, while they are not necessarily a new trend or even new technology, there’s a good chance that man-made diamonds have not been on your radar until recently.

Lab-grown diamonds are becoming an increasingly viable alternative for those shopping for people shopping for diamonds rings, diamond earrings, and even loose diamonds. Given the murky past of the diamond trade industry and the well-documented environmental impacts of mining practices, lab-grown diamonds are increasingly being viewed as a sustainable, ethically conscious alternative.

Are lab grown diamonds considered “real diamonds”?

One of the most common questions that we receive is whether lab grown diamonds are considered “real diamonds”.

The answer is a resounding “Yes!”. Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds and possess all of the same physical components and beauty as natural, earth-mined diamonds.

Unlike moissanite or cubic zirconia which are high-leaded glass diamond stimulants that are made to look like diamonds, but possess none of the same physical qualities, lab grown diamonds provide all of the beauty, shimmer, and prestige as earth made diamonds. 

How can you distinguish between mined diamonds and man-made diamonds?

Visually, you cannot tell the difference between a lab grown and natural diamond.

To anyone on the street or anyone that does not have sophisticated industry equipment and years of experience, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two.

Oddly enough, the biggest difference between mined and lab grown is that the most expensive of the two (mined) features imperfections that can be found under the microscope by a trained expert.

Mined diamonds are formed naturally in the earth which means that they have imperfections such as inclusions that are not found in man-made diamonds. Loose, natural diamonds will also typically be more irregular in shape and appearance than diamonds that are formed in a lab.

Using a run of the mill diamond tester that is used by jewellers, pawn shops, and people on social media to test the authenticity of diamonds, lab grown diamonds will return a positive test. Because they have the same physical and chemical components, a regular diamond tester will not be able to distinguish between the two.

If you’re looking to have your diamond certified or simply want to find out the origin story of your diamond, the best way to do so is to have it certified by a reputable laboratory such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

What’s the price difference between mined diamonds and lab created diamonds?

The price difference between mined diamonds and lab grown diamonds can vary depending on a few important factors such as size, quality, and colour. Just like natural diamonds, not all lab diamonds are created equal which means that different retailers will sell different quality stones.

In general, lab grown diamonds are somewhere between 20-40% cheaper than the natural diamond equivalent. Just like natural diamonds, the price can fluctuate based on economic conditions and the market activity can dictate price.

What’s the difference in resale value between natural and lab grown diamonds?

One of the biggest misconceptions around lab grown diamonds is that they do not hold their value and hold little or no value on the resale market. As a percentage of their original purchase price, lab grown diamonds hold roughly the same resale value as natural diamonds.

Just like natural diamonds, if your lab grown stone is damaged or has significant wear and tear, than you can expect it to lose value on the secondary market.

What % of total diamond sales are lab grown vs. natural?

Global data for diamond sales shows that lab grown diamonds account for around 5-8% of global diamond sales across jewellery (wedding rings, engagement rings, earrings) and loose diamonds.

The market is in a rapid growth phase. An article from the Economist back in 2016 predicted that lab grown diamonds would account for as much as 75% of the gem-trade by 2050. Given the growth that we have seen since that article was published, it is not unfathomable to think that lab grown diamonds could surpass natural diamond sales at some point in the next 10-20 years.

Economic and ethical concerns mean that more customers are looking for a cost effective, ethically sourced diamond. The market is in constant flux, and we expect to see big changes to the perception of lab grown gems over the coming years.

Why are people put off by lab grown diamonds?

The aversion to lab grown diamonds comes down to three key concerns:

1. Perceived value

Because lab grown diamonds are manufactured in a laboratory setting in a fraction of the time as natural diamonds, some buyers feel that they are less valuable and do not hold the same status as naturally occurring diamonds. To some customers, this makes them less special and unique than their natural counterparts.

2. Misinformation around lab grown gems

A big part of the reason why people are put off by lab grown diamonds comes down to awareness. To an uninformed buyer, lab grown diamonds are often (unfairly) thrown into the same basket as cubic zirconia or moissanite. Customers may be misled or confused by marketing which makes it difficult for them to make informed decisions about the diamonds that they are purchasing.

3. Environmental concerns

To some, the environmental impact of lab produced diamonds is a concern. Because lab grown gems require a significant amount of energy and resources to produce, some customers have ethical concerns when it comes to buying lab grown. In general, the process of mining natural diamonds has a much more significant impact on the environment.

How are lab made diamonds created?

Lab grown diamonds are created using advanced technology that replicates the same diamond-forming process that occurs naturally within the earth. Typically, lab made diamonds are created using one of two different methods:

  • High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT)
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)

High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) replicates the traditional method of diamond synthesis by subjecting a tiny seed crystal of carbon to extremely high temperature and pressure that mimics the earth’s natural diamond forming process. Thanks to its efficiency, HPHT continues to be the favoured method for producing larger diamonds.

On the other end of the lab diamond spectrum, Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) is a newer technique that has grown in popularity over the past decade. CVD diamond production relies on a chemical reaction to form the diamond rather than heat and pressure. When comparing HPHT vs CVD, this process is typically more time consuming than HPHT and is used to create smaller, more intricate diamond components.

Are lab grown diamonds GIA Certified?

Yes, contrary to popular opinion, lab grown diamonds can be certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The GIA is an independent laboratory that inspects, evaluates, and grades the quality of diamonds irrespective of the gem’s origin story. The GIA have been at the forefront of diamond grading and diamond education since 1931 and have extended their education and grading services to lab grown gems as the industry continues to evolve.

While GIA certification is widely recognised and respected as the industry standard for grading diamonds, it is not the only measure of quality and authenticity. Natural and lab diamonds can be certified by other reputable sources.

Are lab grown diamonds a worthwhile alternative?

Stuck between lab grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds? You’re not alone, the recent growth of lab diamonds has created an extra consideration for buyers.

The choice comes down to personal preference. Some buyers appreciate the value and precision of lab grown diamonds, while others prefer the history and emotional value of mined diamonds.  

There is no right or wrong answer. If you’re in the market for diamond jewellery or loose diamonds, check out lab grown diamonds in person and do your own research. Everyone is different and the process of buying jewellery is completely subjective, so choose the gem that makes sense to you. 

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