Lab grown and man-made diamonds are becoming increasingly popular as an affordable alternative to natural diamonds mined from the earth. Here we will explain the differences between the two types of diamonds.
What is a lab grown diamond?
A lab grown diamond is the same as a natural diamond, with the exception of where they are grown. As the names suggest, lab grown diamonds are grown in laboratories using modern technology, while natural diamonds are those that are mined from the earth.
How are they made?
Natural diamonds are formed from carbon below the Earth's surface that has undergone millions or even billions of years of compression. Rock and soil are excavated and processed to collect the rough diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are currently created by one of two methods, high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD) . Either technique can form a diamond in weeks or months, depending on the quality and desired size.
Are lab grown diamonds real diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds have the same physical and chemical properties and both come with diamond certifications. Identifying a Lab Grown Diamond vs. a Natural Diamond requires specialized devices used by professional gemologists. Most lab grown diamonds are certified by the International Gemological Institute, but are also accepted for certification and classification with the Gemological Institute of America . They are graded similarly to natural diamonds based on cut, color, clarity, and carat. In 2018, the United States Federal Trade Commission recognized farmed diamonds as real diamonds.
How does it compare to a natural diamond?
Since lab grown and natural diamonds are physically and chemically the same, they can be compared equally when it comes to quality. A lab grown diamond of the same cut, color, clarity, and size as a natural diamond will be of the same quality, the only difference being price. The laboratory process mimics that of nature, leading to similar variations in quality. Better laboratories with more experienced scientists will produce higher quality cultured diamonds.
Lab grown diamonds are generally 50-70% less expensive than natural diamonds. Strategic marketing, supply controls, and the continued appeal of natural diamonds have kept their costs high.
The resale value of both lab grown and natural diamonds is based on the current market value of each. If you choose to sell your diamond in the future, you will be paid based on the current market price. Natural diamonds have an established market history that allows a better estimate of their resale value, which fluctuates regularly but has generally been increasing for the past five decades. The lab grown diamond industry continues to grow and change, leading to more fluctuations in market prices. As the industry becomes more established, market prices will stabilize and we will have a better index to compare.
Effect on the environment
Many companies are working to improve the effect of their diamond mining on the environment, but there is still a significant impact. Although the creation of diamonds in the laboratory has a minor effect on its immediate environment, it is also not free from environmental damage due to the large amount of energy required to produce a diamond. This article of the International Gem Society does a good job of analyzing the effects of each type of diamond on the environment.
Which one should I choose for an engagement ring?
That depends on you! There is no right or wrong answer. Both lab grown and natural diamonds have their pros and cons. If budget is a high priority, you can purchase a larger, higher quality lab grown diamond for much less than a natural diamond. If you prefer something with "history" and potentially better value retention, then a natural diamond would be a better choice. Whatever your decision, remember that the true value of any piece of jewelry is the emotion associated with it.