Looking for an in-depth comparison between lab created white sapphire and diamonds?
Perfect, you're in the right place! In this expert Learning Jewelry guide, you'll learn:
- How does a lab created white sapphire compare to a diamond?
- What're the differences in appearance between a lab sapphire and diamond?
- How do the prices compare between lab created white sapphire and natural diamond?
- And much more!
For a lot of people, when they hear the word sapphire, a beautiful blue gemstone pops into their mind. And why shouldn't it? Blue sapphire is the birthstone for September, so it's advertised a lot more.
While a lab created sapphire may be encouraged or advertised as "just like diamond", it really isn't. Diamonds are a class of their own. Let's talk a little about where each of them come from and the process it takes from mineral to your ring finger.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamonds: Origin
Sapphire is the commercial name for the polished mineral corundum. Sapphires actually come in every color of the rainbow, however, there's no such thing as a red sapphire. Red corundum is called ruby. White sapphire is the name for colorless corundum.
Lab Created White Sapphire
Natural white sapphire is very rare, so it's safe to assume that all white sapphire jewelry seen in stores and online will be lab-created by gemologists. Sapphires and rubies were actually some of the first gemstones to by synthesized, or lab-grown.
Sapphires have two ways of being synthesized: melting and solution. In the melting process, they do what's called flame fusion. It is the very first process they came up with and the most inexpensive.
During flame fusion, aluminum oxide powder is melted by means of a flame. Aluminum oxide is the main mineral within corundum. The melted powder forms into a long teardrop shape referred to as a boule. To create other color varieties of corundum, they add other minerals to it.
The solution process is also called hydrothermal synthesis. This process imitates the natural way sapphires form. But instead of being deep beneath the earth under pressure and high temperatures, they are put in their own little chamber full of heat and pressure. They actually place a tiny seed crystal from a natural sapphire into said chamber. Under those intense conditions, the pressure forces the seed to create sapphire crystals as the mineral solution starts rising.
This process is actually similar to how lab created diamonds are made.
Mined diamonds are often referred to as natural diamonds, but it confuses the thought of lab created diamonds, or synthetic diamonds. All of these are real diamonds, but only mined diamonds are considered natural, since they've formed in the ground.
It takes billions of years for diamonds to form beneath the surface. Around 100 miles, to be a little more specific, deep into the mantle of the earth. Within the mantle, the heat and pressure cause graphite to change its molecular structure. Graphite is the mineral form of carbon, which is what diamonds made of.
However, it might surprise you to know that this is what we think happens. Truth is, we can't actually see it for ourselves. We have no know equipment that is able to drill down that far to those conditions. But, scientists say they're pretty confident.
If you don't know a whole lot about diamonds, the old Snow White version might be playing around in your head. You know, the big sparkly diamonds jutting out of the dwarves' mine? Wildly misinforming, actually.
Not only does diamond rough not sparkle when excavated out of a mine, it doesn't just appear on the earth's crust. No, something actually takes those diamond crystals from the mantle and send them up to the crust, where they are found. That something is through what's called kimberlite pipes. Kimberlite pipes are volcanic pipes.
When a volcano erupts, material is brought from depths to the surface of the volcano, right? Well, we believe that billions of years ago, these eruptions were stronger than we see today or in history. At full force, the diamond material shot up those kimberlite pipes in an eruption so full force, it rocketed to the crust. In the crust, it cools from the heat of the mantle, and becomes diamond rough.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamonds: Appearance
To the untrained eye or uneducated customer, lab created white sapphire and diamond will appear the same. The both may look colorless and sparkly. This is the main reason why some purchase white sapphire jewelry as a simulated diamond.
However, the brilliance between the two is different. In a diamond, the light refracted gives off subtle rainbow light, with white light mixed in. Cubic zirconia, another diamond alternative, also gives off a rainbow light, but is more overpowering than a diamond.
White sapphire's dispersion is not rainbowy or bright at all. It is actually a silvery light, which looks more dull than a diamond. This is because diamond has a higher refractive index, resulting in beautiful dispersion of light. Check out this video comparison of white sapphire and diamond (on the right) side by side.
When the refraction is higher, the more rainbow light is produced. A high refractive index also lets you know how good the stone is at displaying brilliance through the dirt and oil on the daily. Diamonds hit a 2.42 on the index while white sapphires are at 1.77. This means that white sapphires will need more cleaning in order to stay looking beautiful.
Because diamonds are natural and grown from the ground, many lower clarity graded diamonds may have what we call diamond inclusions, flaws, or blemishes. The inclusions are usually bits of crystal that has formed within the diamond. The diamond is considered more rare or valuable when they have no visible inclusions under magnification or with the naked eye. These are often more expensive. Completely flawless diamonds are rare, especially in larger carat weights. In lower clarity grades like SI or I diamonds, diamond inclusions can be very unappealing and impact the overall brilliance of your diamond.
The lab created sapphire also has inclusions. Even though colored gemstones don't go by the same clarity grade diamonds go through, the best white sapphire is eye-clean. White sapphire inclusions are usually more cloudy, rather than dark like you might see in a diamond with lower clarity.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamonds: Price
The price difference between white sapphire is going be big. While natural white sapphire prices are more expensive, lab created white sapphires are very affordable, for larger stones too.
White sapphire engagement rings are going to range based on which metal they're set in. Many white sapphire rings are set in sterling silver, just because it's considered more of a fashion gemstone than a precious one.
But, you can still find lab created sapphire engagement rings like the princess cut solitaire below. It is 5mm which is close to a 1 carat size diamond from Zales.com.
It's set in 10K white gold, which is the least expensive gold. This ring is $299 retail price.
Lab created white sapphire pricing isn't really reflected on price, as large white sapphires are very common. This is another reason why one my opt for a white sapphire instead of a real diamond. If you want a big diamond, you know it's going to cost you much more than a large white sapphire.
There are quite a few reasons why diamonds are more expensive than white sapphires. One is lab created, which means that we can always make it. Natural diamonds are only as many as we can find in the earth.
Another reason is because diamonds are graded for quality very differently than a sapphire is. Even though white sapphire is considered a colorless stone, the sapphire family still falls under the category of colored gemstones. Colored gemstones have different types of grades than diamonds.
Diamonds follow the 4Cs of diamond quality, put forth by the Gemological Institute of America. The GIA set the guidelines for diamond quality, and they are strict. Diamond quality is broken down in 4 parts: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat Weight. Carat weight is probably the easiest way to increase the cost of a diamond, because your other grades like clarity and color have to be a higher grade to compensate for the larger diamond.
Most diamond engagement rings are also setting in 14K, 18K, and platinum. It may be incredibly difficult to find a lab created white sapphire set in 18K or platinum, since these are usually reserved for diamonds, or even some moissanite rings. Also, it's worth noting that rings made of platinum are stronger, but heavier as well. They don't need rhodium plating like white gold.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond: Value
There's a big difference in value between lab created white sapphire and natural diamonds. Shocker, right? You already know that lab created white sapphire is exponentially cheaper than a nice high quality diamond. And you know reasons why.
Many of those reasons why its cheap also has to do with its value. But first, you have to consider what is valuable to you. For some, value is what it might be worth some day, and other may regard engagement ring value as sentimental value.
If interested in either kind of value, you should consider purchasing a diamond over a lab created white sapphire. While diamonds don't hold the same value you paid for it when trying to resell to a jeweler, they are still worth more than a lab created white sapphire. They have absolutely no resale value, because they're not unique.
Similarly, many people become very attached to their engagement rings and weddings. One can only speculate why, right? You want to make sure you take good care of it and that it can withstand the day to day grind.
But with a lab created white sapphire, you have to keep cleaning it and making sure its in good shape. Even doing so, the stone will eventually cloud. When a white sapphire clouds, it actually leaves the stone look dull and milky white, permanently.
If you bought it because it was similar to a diamond, you'll want to replace it. But you lost the sentiment of that ring and stone by needing to replace it. But if it was diamond, it could last for generations with some TLC.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond: Other Factors
There are a couple unobvious reasons why someone might swing towards CZ rather than lab diamond or the reverse. Here are the ones you might not have thought of.
Another advantage that a lab created white sapphires have over natural diamonds is that you can be sure that it is a conflict-free stone, being as we can trace exactly where it comes from.
You've probably heard of blood diamonds, or at least seen the movie. Before the Kimberley Process was developed in 2000, we weren't really able to trace where natural diamonds were coming from. For countries like Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, diamonds are used to facilitate war and oppression dealt to the people by the government. Many, many people die over these diamonds.
The jewelry industry didn't want to support these uses of diamonds, so they gathered in Kimberley, South Africa to come up with a system where their diamonds could be avoided being distributed from these areas. Thus, the Kimberley Process was born. This was their way of ensuring that the commercial diamond industry could run without being part of these awful wars and atrocities in other countries.
However, there is argument that the Kimberley Process doesn't ensure that you get a conflict free diamonds. Brilliant Earth, an online diamond retailers explains that the Kimberley Process is not strict enough. With their natural diamonds, Brilliant Earth can tell you the exact origin and history of that diamond. This is part of their "Beyond Conflict Free" campaign.
The Kimberley Process doesn't protect colored gemstones, but it's safe to say that because white sapphire is both lab-created and inexpensive, it is less likely to be used that way.
Another way to ensure that you are purchasing conflict free diamonds is to purchase lab grown diamonds, also known as synthetic diamonds. Lab diamonds are grown in a chamber just like white sapphires, yet they remain identical to a natural diamond. Only a skilled jeweler may be able to tell the two apart. Did I mention that they can be up and over 50% cheaper than buying a mined diamond?
So if you're absolutely against purchasing a mined diamond because of this unlikely problem, you still don't have to go with lab created white sapphire. You can actual choose a lab created diamond and get the exact same benefits as having a natural diamond engagement ring, but pay a much lower price than one!
Durability is a big factor in determining which stone is right for you. Assuming you're buying an engagement ring, chances are you're going to want to wear it everyday. Of course, there's exceptions, like people who can't wear their wedding rings on the job and whatnot. But you're expecting it to last for years.
Diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth, reaching a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Corundum, or sapphire material (and ruby) is a 9. It has the closest hardness to diamond out of minerals.
However, many are misguided when it comes to the meaning of hardness. Simply put, hardness in a mineral means unscratchable. It doesn't mean that it can't be chipped or broken. Both diamonds and lab created white sapphires can chip, crack, and even shatter.
Many people assume that jewelry should last forever for it to be considered high quality. But these are natural materials and minerals, if we're talking about both gold and gemstones. Chipping and breaking can happen to center stone if hit hard enough, including a center diamond.
Bear in mind that chipping either of these stones is not a common thing, but it can happen. There are ways to help minimize the chances of it happening to either gemstone. You should always consider what kinds of ring setting you're going with and which diamond shape you've chosen.
Ring settings like bezel settings, flush settings, and some tension settings can help you protect your diamond. These ring settings are set low, which means your diamond is less likely to get knocked around. Be aware of high set cathedral settings, because they are notorious for sticking out and catching fabrics. When your center stone's prong starts snagging, your prongs are wearing down, leaving you vulnerable to a missing center stone. Imagine losing a colorless diamond in this case!
You should be careful with tension settings though, because their protection only goes so far on different diamond shapes. Many tension settings leave the culet of the diamond exposed. You are more likely to chip the culet on princess, cushion, and round cut diamonds. Basically, any shape that has a more elongated pavilion and pointed culet. Emerald and Asscher shapes are less likely to have such problems, though good luck finding a tension setting for them.
Bottom Line: Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond
If you've learned anything from this article, I hope it's how many different factors go into determining which gemstone is better suited for you, and it's not just the pricing.
Buying a lab created sapphire as a center stone for your engagement ring will save you money, sure, but not much else beyond that. It does have a great resistance to scratching, but diamond has even better resistance.
Diamonds hold their value or at least more monetary value when trying to resell or even trade-up via a policy from the online store they bought it from. James Allen will allow you to trade in your James Allen diamond for another diamond as long as it's twice the price you paid for the original. This means you can get up to 50% off a more expensive diamond by trading it in.
You won't see added benefits for white sapphires. However, stores like Kay offer a free lifetime warranty on all sapphire jewelry that covers loss of stone as long as you get it inspected instore every 6 months. If you lose a stone they'll replace it free of charge.
It's no secret that white sapphire is a price saver, but is the price worth the value? You already know that white sapphire dulls over a short period of time and the stones will lose their lustrous appearance if not constantly maintained. Diamonds don't have those issues. Diamonds are resistant to many conditions, which the exception of extreme temperatures, but that's pretty much all of us, right?
If you haven't figured it out already, we recommend purchasing a diamond (lab created or natural) over a white sapphire for an engagement ring. It will be much easier to find, you'll get tons of added benefits, many loose diamonds online to choose from, and the longevity needed over the years to withstand day to day life without compromising its appearance.
But we are aware that a diamond's cost might not be in everyone's budget, so if you don't have that much to spend, and still want a diamond alternative, we recommend to a moissanite engagement ring.
Lab created white sapphire jewelry is beautiful, and so is diamond. There are added benefits and downsides to each, but in the end, the choice is ultimately up to you!.