Wondering what's all the fuss about lab grown diamonds these days?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this Learning Guide, I'll give you a brief overview of the following:
- What is a lab-grown diamond?
- Are lab-grown diamonds real diamonds?
- How do you buy a Lab grown diamond?
Ready to jump and and learn if lab-grown is worth your time or not? You're in for a treat, let's get started!
What Is A Lab-Grown Diamond?
While the history of lab-grown diamonds is short, the industry is booming these days with more retailers popping up everywhere.
Even the Debeers, the biggest name in natural diamonds, is getting on board. We can't deny the effect lab created diamonds is having on engagement ring buyers.
It's easy to see why. Lab grown diamonds are the same as mined diamonds in all of the important ways:
- A lab diamond has the same light performance as a mined diamond.
- A lab diamond has the same durability as an earth made diamond.
- Lab diamonds have the same hardness level as natural diamonds.
- Lab diamonds can be certified by a diamond grading lab.
There were many attempts in history to synthesize diamonds, but General Electric is regarded as the first successful ones to produce them in gem quality.
How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?
Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds created in a lab instead of the earth. There are two main processes used to create lab diamonds, which boils down to HPHT vs CVD.
High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)
The HPHT method for created synthetic diamonds started off a bit rocky, only producing brownish and yellow stones. It was worked on for a while until the 1950s, when the first colorless lab diamond was made.
The HPHT process simulates the same conditions a natural diamond goes through while growing underground. By putting a diamond seed inside a piece of pure carbon, scientists can impose high temperatures and pressure in a controlled chamber. All of that heat and high pressure makes the pure carbon diamond grow.
Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
The CVD process also starts out with a small diamond seed. This method was actually messed around with first, but they hadn't quite worked out the kinks. HPHT diamonds beat them to it.
It wasn't until the 1980s when they were officially introduced as colorless. People liked CVD man made diamonds a lot because they only used a special type of diamond seed while being created.
CVD diamond technology uses less energy and has a smaller chamber. The seed is placed in and the chamber is filled with carbon-rich gases. Then, the chamber is filled with heat. The heat causes the gas to turn into a plasma. It then degrades until all that's left is the carbon. Then the diamond grows.
Read also: How Are Lab Diamonds Made: The Whole Story
What's the Difference Between Lab Diamonds and Mined Diamonds?
Man made diamonds have the same physical properties, optical properties, and chemical properties as earth made diamonds. Despite that, there's a few key points to remember regarding the ways they're different.
- A lab-created diamond's resale value is low.
- Lab-created diamonds can be 20-70% less expensive than natural diamonds
- Earth-grown diamonds have different approved grading reports than Lab grown diamonds
These are the main differences between a lab created diamond and a natural diamond, but there are additional minor differences as well.
How to Buy a Lab-Grown Diamond
Buying lab created diamonds is almost the same as buying earth made diamonds. They both follow the 4cs of Diamond Quality, put forth by the Gemological Institute of America. Both lab grown diamonds and earth grown diamonds are judged based on their Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight.
The cut of a lab created diamond can be referring to one of two things: the way it has been cut and faceted, or its shape.
In this case, we're talking about they way the lab grown diamond has been cut. Round cut diamonds can have specific cut grades, but other shapes don't.
There's different proportion recommendations you should stick to for each diamond shape. Instead of choosing from sorted categories, you should match your lab created diamond with its proper proportions.
The clarity of your lab diamond is how free of blemishes and natural inclusions it is to the naked eye. Lab grown diamonds have better clarity than mined diamonds do. That's because they don't come into contact with too many other minerals or materials.
Lab created diamonds still have inclusions, but they're less noticeable. It's very common to find lab grown diamonds with high clarity at affordable prices.
Check out the price difference between this VVS1 lab grown diamond and natural diamond.
Read also: Natural Diamonds vs Lab Created Diamonds
The color of your diamond refers to the presence of any yellow or brownish tint in your diamond. The color grade of your diamond is difference than fancy colored diamonds.
If you're going for a colorless lab diamond, you don't want any tint. Thankfully, lab grown diamonds have less tint than natural diamonds because they're isolated. It's easier to make colorless rather than mining it.
Likewise, it's much harder to get natural fancy colored diamonds than it is for fancy colored lab grown diamonds. With natural diamonds, the color has to be somewhat saturated, and then the rest can be fixed with treatments.
With lab colored diamonds, the impurity is manually introduced. Colored lab diamonds are much less expensive than natural colored diamonds. Blue Nile has a very pretty collection of Lightbox colored lab diamond jewelry. The most popular pieces are their lab created pink diamonds and lab created blue diamonds.
The carat weight of your lab diamond is how much is weighs. Everyone thinks it's the size of the diamond, but it changes based on diamond shape. Some shapes have to be cut deeper, so they have smaller face-up size. Other shapes are more shallow, so they end up with a bigger surface area.
Carat weight is a big part of the diamond price. The higher carat weight you go, the better your color and clarity grades need to be. Colored tints and inclusions are more noticeable in bigger diamonds.
That's why two 1 carat lab grown diamonds don't necessarily equal the same cost as a 2 carat lab grown diamond. However, the difference between those two are nothing between the difference between a 2 carat lab diamond and a 2 carat natural diamond.
How to Avoid Red Flags When Buying Lab-Created Diamonds?
You're probably not going to run into someone selling you an earth mined diamond under the guise of a lab created diamond. Still, there's other things you should watch out for when buying a man made diamond.
Know Your Diamond Simulants
Just like earth mined diamonds, lab grown diamonds have imitations. They're essential the same as natural diamonds-so the same diamond simulants apply.
Any gem material that can be faceted and colorless can be used to simulate diamonds. Some are gemstones in their own right and others are man made materials.
Read also: Simulated Diamonds vs Lab Diamonds
Popular simulated diamond materials for lab grown diamonds are:
- White Sapphire
- Cubic Zirconia
- White Zircon
- White Topaz
Most of these stones are valued much less than a lab grown diamond of the same size. Moissanite and natural white sapphire may get up to the same prices of a synthetic diamond as they are the most high quality diamond alternatives.
The #1 intentional fake diamond found in gem markets is actually faceted glass. Natural glass comes in all shapes and colors and can be faceted to look like a synthetic diamond or an earth made diamond. Cubic zirconia is the second most popular and can also be made in any color.
You need to test your diamond, there's many ways to do so. A lab grown diamond will test "diamond" with a diamond tester. However, a diamond tester can be fickle depending on the amount of pressure and angle you're using it.
Buy From a Trusted Lab-Grown Diamond Retailer
Buying diamonds online instead of in-store is much cheaper than going to your local mall jewelry store like Jared or Zales.
The same goes for lab created diamonds diamonds. Those big corporations begrudgingly have just started introducing lab grown diamond engagement rings into their brick and mortar stores. But they're still more expensive.
That doesn't mean everybody that sells lab grown diamonds online is legit either. You should always buy from a retailer with a bigger reputation, real reviews, and a good return policy.
Buy Certified Lab-Grown Diamonds
You shouldn't buy an uncertified diamond, ever. Places like Kays and Zales hand uncertified engagement rings out all day, and charge you more than they're worth.
Not every grading lab is a good one. Thankfully, there's more more choices that are good for lab grown diamonds. There's less approved grading labs for earth mined diamonds.
Part of that is because grading lab grown diamonds is easier than earth mined diamonds. Lab created diamonds have more desirable clarity features than natural stones because of their limited environment.
How Much Do Lab Grown Diamonds Cost?
Just like an earth grown diamond, the cost of a cultured diamond varies based on its diamond grades. Aside from the 4Cs, its polish, symmetry, and fluorescence have a smaller impact.
I mentioned that lab created diamonds are cheaper online. When people first hear that, they're pretty skeptical. The reason why lab grown diamonds cost less than natural diamonds is because the middleman is cut from the supply chain.
A jewelry store has to pay for their engagement rings and wedding bands to bring them into store. An online retailer displays the lab created diamonds directly on their site. They don't have to put anything down in order for you to view it online. Ring settings also tend to be much cheaper online.
Overall, buying a lab grown diamond ring online instead of in-store can save you around 20-30%.
Buying a lab grown diamond ring instead of a natural diamond ring can save you 20-70%.
Are Lab Created Diamonds Ethical?
Diamond mining has been a hot topic since the movie Blood Diamond came out. Since then, more people have become skeptical of the jewelry industry
Learning Jewelry only supports and recommend brands that follow the Kimberley Process. However, there are some companies who don't believe that is enough to cover the subject of conflict diamonds. Other concerns such as working conditions, environmental impact, and measly pay persuade more to go for lab grown diamonds instead of mined ones.
Brilliant Earth is one of those companies. Famous for their Beyond Conflict Free Diamonds, they offer natural diamonds with secure history and tracking from the very beginning.
In addition, Brilliant Earth also offers diamonds that have been recut and repurposed as well as lab grown diamonds. They pack all of their jewelry in eco-friendly shipping materials.
All lab created diamonds are 100% conflict free diamonds. They're also better for the environment than natural diamonds. Mining diamonds uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuels and explosives to blow up the earth's crust.
That doesn't mean all lab grown diamonds are "green" or sustainable. You should verify any claims with a company saying their lab grown diamonds are sustainable.
A lab diamond still uses extreme heat energy, but less energy than diamond mining. They still have carbon footprints, unless the company has its own evidence.
So, what is a lab grown diamond?
Lab grown diamonds are a more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective approach to buying diamond jewelry. They are the best way to purchase an ethical engagement ring.
Lab Grown Diamonds Have:
- The same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds
- Different approved grading labs for diamond certification
- Better prices for the same grades than earth grown diamonds
- Better clarity than natural diamonds
Lab grown diamonds are an excellent choice for engagement rings, wedding bands, and other fine jewelry.