How to Buy a Lab-Grown Diamond in 2024
7 Minute Read
This guide explains the basics of lab-grown diamonds, the Four Cs, and how to buy a lab-grown diamond. You'll have all the information you need to get started on your buying journey.
Lab-Grown Diamonds: The Basics
Lab-grown (or synthetic) diamonds are created in a lab, as opposed to natural diamonds, which are mined. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds, unlike diamond simulants like cubic zirconia or moissanite. They have the same chemical composition and structure as natural diamonds and are beautiful gem-quality stones.
There are two major methods to create lab-grown diamonds: high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). With both methods, diamonds grow over a period of several days to weeks. This is practically instantaneous compared to the millions of years it takes for natural diamonds to form.
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This article is also a part of our Lab Grown Diamonds Fundamentals Mini Course, in the unit Lab-Grown Diamond Business Trends.
Lab-grown diamonds are a great alternative to natural diamonds. Since they are made in a lab instead of being mined from the earth, they are guaranteed to be conflict-free and more environmentally friendly. However, lab-grown diamonds aren't the only conflict-free choice. Most diamonds on the market today were mined according to the Kimberley Process, which aims to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the market. Natural diamonds mined in Canada are also conflict-free and environmentally friendly.
Lab-Grown Diamond Cost
Both of these James Allen diamonds are 1.01 carat, F color, VVS2 clarity, and ideal/excellent cut. The diamond on the left is natural and costs $6,620, and the diamond on the right was made in a lab and costs $2,420.
Lab-grown diamonds have the same quality and appearance as natural diamonds but cost from 10 to 50% less. Like natural diamonds, the cost of a lab-grown diamond is based on its properties. Lab-grown diamonds with higher cut, color, and clarity ratings will command higher prices.
Unlike natural diamonds, the price of a lab-grown diamond does not increase exponentially with carat size. A round-cut, 2-carat natural diamond starts at about $14,000. You can get a similar lab-grown diamond for about half the cost. If you want a large diamond for your engagement ring or a statement jewelry piece, consider a lab-grown diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds can also be colored and cost far less than natural fancy colored diamonds. They are a great option if you want a fancy colored blue or pink diamond but don't want to pay a huge price.
One downside to lab-grown diamonds is that they have little to no resale value. Unlike natural diamonds, more lab-grown diamonds can be created at any time. Advances in technology have made it easier to create diamonds in a lab, causing the price of lab-grown diamonds to decrease over time. (However, natural diamonds also have little resale or investment value).
Lab-Grown Diamonds and the Four Cs
Shouldn't lab-grown diamonds be perfect since they're man-made? No. Although they are grown in a lab under careful conditions, lab-grown diamonds aren't perfect. Lab-grown diamonds are created under conditions that are very similar to the conditions in the Earth where natural diamonds form. Imperfections occur while the diamond is growing in both processes.
Colorless or white lab-grown diamonds can range from faint yellow/brown to true colorless. The same color scale is used to grade both lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds can have inclusions, which affect their clarity grades. Inclusions are tiny flaws that form while a diamond is growing. In natural diamonds, these flaws can be from foreign material (water, gas, or pieces of other minerals) that get into the diamond's structure as it grows. Natural diamonds can also have tiny cracks, as they form under very high pressure.
Similar cracks can form in lab-grown diamonds, as they are grown under high pressure in the lab. It's also common for graphite inclusions to form inside lab-grown diamonds. Graphite is simply another form of carbon. (All diamonds, natural and synthetic, are made of the element carbon).
Most inclusions in lab-grown diamonds are so small you can't see them without magnification. This is also the case with natural diamonds. The clarity scale is the same for lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds.
Cut and carat for lab-grown diamonds are evaluated in the same manner as natural diamonds. However, lab-grown diamonds have an interesting advantage when it comes to the cutting process. All excess material cut from a finished diamond gem is discarded, which ultimately decreases the diamond's carat size. Some diamond cutters will skimp on cut to preserve a diamond's size, resulting in a Good or Very Good cut, but not Ideal or Excellent. This is more common if the diamond is large or close to the coveted 1 or 1.5-carat weight. The price of natural diamonds also increases exponentially with carat size, as large diamonds are rare. This isn't an issue with lab-grown diamonds, as they can be grown as large as the lab decides.
Grading Lab-Grown Diamonds
Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds can receive grading reports. Cut, color, and clarity of lab-grown diamonds affect how they perform. Evaluating these properties is important when buying any diamond online. Online retailers have done a great job of making lab grown diamonds easily searchable on their sites and clearly labeled so you know exactly what you are buying.
Lab-grown diamonds are graded by many of the major gem labs: the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the International Gemological Institute (IGI), HRD Antwerp, and the Gem Certification and Assurance Lab (GCAL).
Although the GIA has been grading lab-grown diamonds since 2007, their reports have changed in the past few years. GIA reports for lab-grown diamonds used to have ranges for clarity and color. For example, VS Clarity Range instead of VS1 and Near Colorless instead of E.
Now, GIA grading reports for lab-grown diamonds are the same as reports for natural diamonds. This change makes it much easier for consumers to compare the properties of natural and lab-grown diamonds.
Buying Lab-Grown Diamonds Online
The process of buying a lab-grown diamond online is very similar to buying a natural diamond online. Always review the diamond's properties before you buy. Reputable online retailers will have detailed information about the diamond's cut, color, clarity, and measurements.
Make sure to look at pictures and videos of the diamond too. James Allen, Ritani, and With Clarity have high-resolution pictures and videos of their lab-grown diamonds, so you can see the entire diamond and how it interacts with light.
Of course, make sure your diamond comes with a grading report! Grading reports from the IGI, GIA, HRD, and GCAL are common for lab-grown diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are a modern, cost-effective alternative to a natural diamond. If you're interested in buying a lab-grown diamond online, check out the stones offered by these retailers:
James Allen: James Allen sells loose lab-created diamonds that can be set in engagement rings. On their website, you can search for loose lab-created diamonds by shape, color, clarity, cut, and carat, just like natural diamonds. All of their lab-created diamonds are sold "as grown," meaning they have not been treated or enhanced in any way.
Blue Nile: Blue Nile does not sell loose lab-grown diamonds or lab-grown diamond engagement rings. Instead, they offer a variety of Lightbox lab-grown diamond necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. The Lightbox Collection has colorless diamonds and fancy-colored pink and blue diamonds. Compared to natural fancy-colored diamonds, Lightbox lab-grown colored diamonds are an amazingly affordable option at $800 per carat.
CustomMade: With CustomMade, you can design a one-of-a-kind engagement ring. CustomMade offers lab-grown diamonds and works with each customer to create their ideal piece of jewelry.
Ritani: Ritani sells loose lab-grown diamonds for engagement rings. They have colorless lab-grown diamonds in all of the popular shapes. Each diamond has detailed information about its properties so you'll know how the diamond will perform.
With Clarity: With Clarity sells loose lab-grown diamonds for engagement rings. Their lab-grown diamonds are colorless and available in all of the popular diamond shapes. You can search by property and view detailed information about each diamond.
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