Over the past 10 years, lab-grown diamonds have steadily grown in popularity as an affordable alternative to natural diamonds. Lab-growns can easily match the sparkle of any natural stone, but many consider them to be less rare and precious. We’re shedding light on what makes these lab-created diamonds so similar, yet widely different to natural stones.
- What is a lab-grown diamond?
- Are lab-growns real diamonds?
- How do you grow diamonds in a lab?
- Are lab-growns cheaper?
- Are lab-grown diamonds more ethical?
- How to tell lab diamonds from real diamonds
- Do I still have to look out for the 4Cs?
- Final word
What is a lab-grown diamond?
Laboratory-grown diamonds, also known as synthetic diamonds, are created much in the same way as natural gems, only the process is sped up and happens in a laboratory (or factory) instead of in nature. Today, these gems are becoming increasingly mass-produced, which helps lower their price. For this same reason, some argue they do not hold the same emotional or long-term value as naturally-formed stones.
Are lab-growns real diamonds?
In short, yes. Lab-growns are considered real and genuine: they share the same chemical composition as mined diamonds. When placed side by side, a lab-grown will look identical to a similarly graded natural gem.
How do you grow diamonds in a lab?
There are different ways to create a laboratory diamond, but two main processes stand out:
- Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) places a high-quality diamond (or any other heat-resistant material) in a vacuum chamber containing various gases or carbon material. This material is then heated to extreme temperatures (around 700° to 900°), allowing crystals to form on the initial “seed” diamond. Think of it as a fine composition of carbon materials raining down to create diamond crystals.
- High-Pressure, High-Temperature (HPHT), a similar process during which great pressure and heat is applied to a diamond “seed” to allow crystals to grow
Completed rough stones are then taken to be cut and polished. In theory, there is no limit to how big a laboratory diamond can grow or how many can be created.
Are lab-growns cheaper?
Compared to natural diamonds, lab-growns are very cost-effective. Depending on size, color and clarity, the lab-growns we sell can be around 30% to 70% less expensive than natural diamonds.
If you are looking to invest in diamonds and are wondering whether lab diamonds hold their value over time, we would suggest you opt for the natural kind. Lab diamonds will have a decreasing long term value as they are less sought after than rarer, natural stones.
|1 ct, G color, excellent cut, VS2, Round Natural diamond||1 ct, G color, excellent cut, VS2, Round Laboratory-grown diamond|
|Energy use||Around 57 kWh||Around 26 kWh|
|Scarcity||Very scarce, especially as this is a high-quality diamond||No real scarcity|
|Long-term value||Stable long-term value||Decreasing long-term value|
Are lab-grown diamonds more ethical?
There is much debate around lab-grown sustainability, and whether they are truly environmentally-friendly and ethical.
Although many consider this a fact, the reality is lab-growns require significant energy to produce. And although it can be difficult to measure the carbon footprint of a single diamond, experts have found that a majority of lab-grown production uses high amounts of non-renewable energy.
Research conducted by the Natural Diamond Council revealed that lab-growns produce on average 3x more greenhouse gas emissions than mined diamonds (511 kg per carat compared to 160 kg for natural diamonds). However, it’s important to note this report was commissioned by large mining companies—natural diamond mining also has a clear environmental impact.
When measuring the carbon footprint of a single diamond carat, mined or lab-grown, a wide range of factors will come into play: this includes the type of machinery used, energy sources, extraction methods, as well as the country in which the diamond is produced.
These variables make for great uncertainty and conflicting information. Indeed, such research can lead to confusion and inaccuracies, hence why it is crucial that both natural and lab-grown diamond producers work towards more sustainable practices.
Achieving zero carbon emission in diamond production is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. We have provided our customers with a selection of laboratory diamonds created through 100% renewable, hydro-powered energy. For transparency, this will be noted on the diamond’s certificate under ‘Diamond Foundry’.
Although sustainability does concern the environment, it also aims to protect people and their livelihoods. One of the main criticisms of lab-grown production is that it fails to sustain employment and economic growth in diamond producing countries. Countries such as Botswana have widely benefited from diamond mining. Ever since opening its first mine in 1967, Botswana has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and has successfully improved living standards through education, health and new infrastructure.
On the flip side, lab-grown diamonds can be more easily traced, and unlike natural gems, offer more transparency with regards to human rights and worker’s conditions.
How to tell lab diamonds from real diamonds
As previously mentioned, it can be difficult to differentiate a laboratory diamond from a natural one, as they are virtually identical. Only an expert with specialised equipment would be able to observe the nature of inclusions found in lab-grown diamonds.
To know whether a diamond is lab-grown or natural, it is always best to ask your jeweller for a grading report. The Gemological Institute of America supplies each laboratory-grown diamond with an official report to be completely transparent on the nature of the stone.
Do I still have to look out for the 4Cs?
Just because a diamond is laboratory-grown does not make it flawless. Similar to natural stones, lab diamonds grow with slight imperfections known as inclusions. When purchasing a diamond, it’s important to study its carat, color, clarity and cut, regardless of the stone’s provenance. These factors will have an influence on the final price and the overall investment you plan to make.
Lab-growns can be a worthwhile option for those looking to purchase diamonds at a reduced price. They are great for ornamental and decorative jewellery, and are more accessible to customers who wish to purchase larger stones.
However, customers who purchase diamonds for the emotional value of holding a unique and rare object usually opt for the natural kind. After all, these stones are billions of years old, created through forces of nature that are simply impossible to reproduce. For this same reason, natural high-quality gems are good investments, as their value can only increase over time.
How are lab grown diamonds certified / graded?
Lab-growns are graded through the same process as natural diamonds: experts will check a stone’s cut, color and clarity (lab-grown diamonds can also carry inclusions), and include these results in a grading report. Like natural gems, lab-grown diamonds have varying levels of quality. At Ericjewelry, we only provide independently graded lab-grown diamonds. Before choosing a stone, be sure to check its grading report.
How long does it take to create lab grown diamonds?
This mostly depends on the diamond’s carat weight and the technology used to create it. Usually, a 1ct white diamond takes around two weeks to be created, while larger stones can sometimes take up to a month.
Do lab grown diamonds lose their clarity?
Is a diamond really forever? That depends on what “forever” means to you. What is certain is that diamonds, both natural and lab-grown, never lose their clarity or sparkle. Once a lab-grown diamond is formed and faceted, it is usually graded by experts who measure its color, cut and clarity. Unless you severely damage your lab-grown diamond, these aspects will always stay the same. Remember, you should regularly clean your lab-grown jewellery, as accumulated dirt can sometimes make diamonds seem less dazzling.