When shopping for a diamond, one thing you might need to consider is whether to buy a lab-grown diamond or a natural diamond. Although both are quite similar, there are a few differences to pay attention to before deciding the type of stone that suits you best. You will find these considerations particularly important if you are shopping on a budget and want to get the most value for your money.
Lab-grown diamonds are quite a recent innovation, so there are still many misconceptions about this type of stone. This article will cover everything you need to know about lab-grown diamond vs. real diamond and shed light on those misconceptions. You will also learn to tell the difference between the two stones and the pros and cons of each. So, let’s get right into it.
What Is A Real Diamond?
What is described as real diamond is simply naturally occurring diamonds. These diamonds formed deep down in the earth billions of years ago, and they traveled to the surface through volcanic activity. On the earth’s surface, diamonds can be found in naturally occurring kimberlite rocks.
While there are tons of these rocks worldwide, only a few of them have enough diamond to be mined for commercial jewelry use. For this reason, real or naturally occurring diamonds are rare, which explains the exorbitant price for even just a small piece of this stone.
What Is A Lab-Grown Diamond?
Technology has made it possible to create artificial diamonds. As the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are manufactured in a laboratory. Manufacturers of gem-quality diamonds attempt to recreate the same high temperature and high-pressure conditions under which natural diamonds are formed. This process of growing a diamond is aptly known as High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT).
The other method used to create artificial diamonds is Chemical Vapor Deposition. This method entails splitting the molecules of a carbon-rich gas into hydrogen and carbon atoms. The atoms are then mixed with diamond seeds, resulting in a square-shaped diamond crystal.
For both methods, the diamond seeds ‘germinate’ in two to three weeks. By subjecting the grown crystal to elements such as irradiation and heat, it is possible to improve the color of the crystal.
How To Tell The Difference Between A Lab-Grown Diamond And A Real Diamond
The truth is, to the naked eye, there is no noticeable difference between a lab-grown diamond vs. a real diamond. Unless your jeweler points it out, you won’t tell the difference between the two types of diamonds just by looking at them.
Diamonds manufactured in the lab look and feel like natural diamonds. Like natural diamonds, artificial ones come in different sizes and shapes, and you will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a crystal that is billions of years old and one that is just a few weeks old.
There is a small difference between the two: natural diamonds usually contain tiny amounts of nitrogen, but this gas is not present in the man-made diamond crystal. However, just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds have a significant carbon makeup
Structurally, the two types of diamonds have different shapes. But these differences can only be seen under special magnifying equipment that jewelers use. The structural or morphological differences are a result of the growth pattern of each diamond.
When a natural diamond is viewed under magnifying equipment, you will notice an octahedral shape. Lab-grown diamonds made using the high-pressure high-temperature method have a cuboctahedral shape, while those manufactured using the chemical vapor deposition method are cube-shaped. But, as mentioned, these shapes are not noticeable to the naked eye.
Grading and Certification
The Gemology Institute of America (GIA) uses less strict criteria for grading lab-created diamonds. Instead of the D-to-Z scale used to grade the color of natural diamonds, GIA uses Colorless, Near Colorless, Faint, Very Light, and Light to grade the color of lab-created diamonds. The Institute further uses Flawless, Internally Flawless, Very Very Slightly Included, Very lightly Included, Slightly Included, and Included to grade the clarity of lab-grown diamonds.
When diamond shopping, ask for the grading certificate. When shopping for natural diamonds, ask your jeweler for the diamond’s GIA certificate. For lab-created diamonds, request a Gem Certificate and Assurance Lab (GCAL) certificate or an International Gemology Institute certificate.
Which One Should You Buy: Lab Grown Diamond vs Real Diamond
If there is no physical difference between lab-grown diamonds and real diamonds, which one of these should you buy? The truth is, there is no clear-cut answer; it all depends on your preference.
When choosing between the two types of diamonds, I recommend you consider a couple of important factors. Let’s take a look at these factors:
You may not tell the difference between an artificial diamond and a real one, but you will notice a significant difference in their prices.
When gem-quality lab diamonds entered the commercial market, their price was over 50% higher than the price of real diamonds. But, this has changed over the years as more and more lab diamonds make their way to the market. Now, lab-grown diamonds are generally cheaper than natural diamonds. It is common to find lab diamonds selling for 30 to 60 % less than the natural ones, despite being of a similar grade.
Natural diamonds are costlier because their supply is limited. Remember, it takes billions of years for the earth to create a diamond. On the other hand, man-made diamonds can be manufactured in a few weeks; therefore, the supply is basically unlimited.
If you are shopping on a budget, a lab-grown diamond might save you some money. You will get gem-quality diamonds at a fraction of the price of natural diamonds, and no one will tell the difference.
Lab-grown diamonds offer the benefit of cost-saving. Still, you should factor in the inherent value of these diamonds. The truth is, the value of man-made diamonds depreciates with time. From the moment you buy the diamond, its value begins to fall.
Contrast this with natural diamonds. Generally, real diamonds retain their value, and in some cases, this value can increase with time. You might not be planning to resell your diamond right now, but it is important to realize that a lab-grown diamond will be worth less and less as time goes by.
Mining natural diamonds is resource-intensive, and the process can strain the climate and the earth where the mining is taking place. Gem-quality diamond is rare, and up to 1000,000 tons of heavy must be dug up to discover just one carat of gem-quality diamond.
If you are concerned about sustainability, lab diamonds do offer a more sustainable choice. Alternatively, you can opt to purchase your diamond from a jeweler who practices or supports green causes. For example, some jewelers donate a portion of the profits from selling natural diamonds to specific causes supporting sustainability.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Fake?
A concern that often pops is whether lab-grown diamonds are fake. Despite being man-made, lab diamonds are real as they are made from pure crystallized carbon, the same stuff that natural diamonds contain.
Lab-created diamonds are also as hard as naturally occurring diamonds. Man-made and natural diamonds have a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness. In addition to this, gem-quality lab diamonds have a shine, sparkle, brilliance, and clarity similar to mined diamonds.
All in all, lab-grown diamonds share many similarities with natural diamonds. So, to answer the question: are lab-grown diamonds fake? No, they are as real as mined diamonds despite being manufactured under man-made conditions.
That said, some specific lab-grown diamonds can be categorized as fake because they do not contain carbon items. Examples of these ‘diamonds’ are moissanite and cubic zirconia. These so-called diamonds are essentially stimulants, and even though they may look like natural or lab diamonds at face value, a closer look will reveal obvious differences.
For one, simulant diamonds lack the sparkle, brilliance, and clarity of real and lab-grown diamonds. The closest that these lab-created simulants come to diamond is the shiny reflective dazzle that they give off. Still, this dazzle is usually too colorful that it makes the diamond look fake.
While lab-grown carbon diamonds and mined diamonds score a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, simulants are graded a little lower. For example, cubic zirconia scores an 8 while moissanite scores a 9. Simulants lack the distinguishing hardness of lab and real diamonds.
There is a distinct commonality between simulant diamonds and lab-grown diamonds. Compared to mined diamonds, the value of man-made diamonds is significantly lower and continues to depreciate with time.
Lab-created diamonds are real diamonds produced under man-made conditions. Aside from that, these diamonds are as brilliant, sparkly, and attractive as naturally-mined diamonds.
So, when considering between lab-grown diamond vs. real diamond, keep in mind that the main difference lies in the stone’s inherent value. Good quality natural diamond has a higher value that tends to appreciate.
If you are on a budget but are looking for gem-quality diamonds, consider lab-grown diamonds. Keep these factors in mind to ensure that you get value for your money when investing in diamond.