Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

We bet you’re hearing a lot more about lab grown diamonds every day. We get it. Lab-grown diamonds are appealing. They are less expensive, have the same physical and chemical properties as natural diamonds, and are nearly impossible to detect any difference to the eye. So you may find yourself asking, what’s not to like about lab-grown diamonds and are they worth the purchase? Ultimately, the perfect diamond for you will depend on what matters the most to you. There is no wrong decision.

Here are some common questions we’re asked from time to time. And you may have yourself!

Q. Are lab-grown diamonds “fake”?

Some people may refer to lab-created diamonds as “fake diamonds”, imitations, or simulants, but this is incorrect. Lab-created diamonds share the same or similar chemical and physical properties as a natural diamond produced by the geological processes of Mother Nature. However, because of the contrasting conditions of natural and lab-grown formation, lab-grown diamonds display several features which allow them to be distinguished from natural diamonds.

Q. If they share the same characteristics, what makes them different?

Let’s start from the beginning to understand how diamonds and lab-grown diamonds are created. An organic, natural diamond forms when pure carbon undergoes intense temperature and pressure over billions of years within the Earth’s mantle. It only forms in the “diamond stability zone”, 80 to 120 miles deep, and extremely hot (up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit), where the conditions are just right. Then, over eons of violent volcanic eruptions, diamonds get brought to the surface embedded in large chunks of rock. A natural diamond is the oldest thing you will ever own. It takes billions of years in the making! A natural diamond is rare. Especially since there have been no discoveries of natural diamonds in approximately 30 years. Lab-created diamonds, on the other hand, are grown in highly-controlled laboratory conditions that reproduce the Earth’s natural growing environment: high pressure and high temperature. Yes, they have essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, and optical and physical properties of diamonds found in nature. They aren’t technically “synthetic diamonds” since their chemical composition is that of naturally occurring diamonds; and they can exhibit fire, scintillation, and sparkle as organic diamonds but do include specific, identifiable internal characteristics. However, they are not considered rare since they can be endlessly replicated.

Q. Are lab-grown diamonds identical to natural diamonds?

The answer to that is no. They are not identical. Their origin is the primary difference. They are mass-produced in factories located primarily in China, India, and Singapore in industrial microwave reactors. Their artificial production process occurs in just 2 weeks and there are tell-tale marks within the diamond which enables a professional (like us) to easily detect them.

Q. Are lab-grown diamonds more eco-friendly?

The long and the short of it is not necessarily. You’ll definitely find conflicting opinions on this one! Natural diamonds produce 3x fewer carbon emissions per carat than lab-grown diamonds. And, natural diamond producers recycle on average 83% of the water used in diamond recovery. Lab-grown diamonds require an immense amount of energy to produce and replicate the process in a few short weeks as well as significant water usage to cool the reactors. So are they more eco-friendly? There are pros and cons on this issue.

Q. What is the value proposition for each? diamonds obtain their value because of their rarity and generally increase in value. Also, if you purchase a natural diamond at Ray-Ward Fine Jewelers and want to trade it in toward a larger diamond, we will credit you the original price toward your new diamond. Generally, lab-grown diamonds are sold at a cost of somewhere between 20-30% less than a natural diamond. However, their prices have dropped significantly over the last few years by as much as 50%. Because they are not rare, they will not hold their value. Therefore, they have little or no resale value. That’s important to understand. If you decide to purchase a lab-grown diamond, you will most likely not be able to trade it in to any fine jeweler and receive that value toward the purchase of another larger diamond.

Remember, a diamond purchase is a personal choice. And yes, a lab-grown diamond is less expensive. But, it’s important to understand the differences!

Looking for more information. Here are two great places to start:
Find out more about lab-grown diamonds. 

Find out more about natural diamonds.