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Lab-Created Diamonds: the Ultimate Guide

Lab-created diamonds have an undeserved stigma. However, they make excellent, lower cost alternatives to natural, mined diamonds. In this article, we’ll debunk some widespread myths about lab-created diamonds and offer some advice for buying lab-grown diamond jewelry.
By International Gem Society 6 minutes read
engagement ring lab created diamonds
Find this Ring at CustomMadeThis engagement ring features a lab-created 0.9-ct round brilliant diamond center stone in a delicate 14k white gold filigree setting with milgrain edging. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Lab-Created Diamonds are Real Diamonds

Lab-created, lab-grown, or synthetic diamonds have the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as their mined counterparts. The only significant difference between a lab-created and mined diamond is that one forms in a controlled environment in a laboratory, the other forms over time in the uncontrolled environment of the Earth. Both lab-created and natural diamonds are real diamonds.

GE synthetic diamonds - lab-created diamonds
General Electric successfully synthesized diamonds in 1955. At first, these stones were very small and the process too complex and costly for these lab-created gems to compete with mined diamonds. In the decades since, methods have improved and costs have decreased. Many companies now create diamonds in labs. Green, lab-created diamonds, about 1.0 mm in size, made by General Electric in 1984. Photo by ph0rk. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

CVD diamond crystal - lab-created diamonds
This single, freestanding, unpolished lab-created diamond crystal weighs 155 carats and measures 1.6 ± 0.25  mm thick and 92 mm across. Photo by Matthias Schreck, Stefan Gsell, Rosaria Brescia & Martin Fischer. Licensed under CC By-SA 4.0.

Note that diamond simulants, such as cubic zirconia and moissanite, differ from both lab-created and mined diamonds. These gem materials have different properties than diamonds. Though they may resemble or “simulate” the appearance of diamonds, they are not diamonds.

“Get That Ice or Else No Dice”

To understand what’s the same and what’s different between a lab-grown gem and a natural gem, think of ice. You can create ice in your freezer or scrape some off your driveway (in the winter). Both pieces would constitute real ice. Both consist of frozen water. However, cutting a chunk of ice off your driveway takes some time and physical effort. Ice is ice, but you may still want to take some extra time to find a piece you’d like to put in your drink. Not to mention you’d have to wait until winter. In contrast, your freezer generates excellent, uniform pieces of ice all year round (probably), although it costs money to run your freezer. Freezer ice is also (hopefully) a lot cleaner than driveway ice, and you’ll spend less time and effort getting it.

The same holds true for lab-created diamonds. Creating a gem-quality diamond in a laboratory is very expensive. However, that process still costs far less than mining for diamonds. Did you know that the vast majority of mined diamonds don’t meet gem-quality standards? While they still have the properties of diamonds, they don’t meet the subjective standards for use in jewelry. (The same way most driveway ice won’t meet the subjective standards for going in your drink). Thus, lab-created diamonds are less expensive than mined diamonds.

ice on a beach - lab-created diamonds
“Diamond beach – Iceland – Seascape photography,” ice on a black sand beach. Photo by Giuseppe Milo. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Myths About Lab-Created Diamonds

Now, let’s debunk some myths.

Myth #1 – Mined Diamonds are Rare, While Lab-Created Diamonds are Common

Actually, neither mined nor lab-created diamonds are rare. Diamond rarity is one of the most pervasive myths about gemstones in general. If you want to buy a rare gem, don’t buy a diamond at all. However, if you insist, look for extremely rare (and expensive) mined diamonds over 5 carats or very large natural fancy colored diamonds, such as blues or pinks.

Myth #2 – Mined Diamonds Hold Their Value, Unlike Lab-Created Diamonds

It’s true that the market for lab-created diamonds is newer, smaller, and, therefore, less “liquid” than the secondary market for mined diamonds. As a result, selling a lab-grown diamond may prove harder than selling a mined diamond. However, mined diamonds aren’t a good store of value either! Ask anyone who has ever tried to sell a diamond if they were happy with the price they got. Diamonds don’t make good investment purchases, since their markup is usually very low.

If you’re buying a diamond, mined or lab-grown, with the intention of reselling it, you may want to rethink what you’re doing for a whole host of reasons. 😉

Myth #3 – Since Lab-Created Diamonds Require a lot of Energy to Produce, They’re Not Good for the Environment

Every mined diamond literally requires moving X tons of earth, fossil fuel use, etc. Diamond mining is about as destructive an activity as you could possibly imagine from an environmental perspective.

2.01-ct lab-created diamond - lab-created diamonds
Find this Ring at CustomMadeEngagement ring with a 2.01-ct lab-created round brilliant cut diamond and a platinum, pavé shank. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

The Advantages of Purchasing Lab-Created Diamonds

This lab-created diamond is equivalent in quality to the earth diamond to the right but costs thousands less. © James Allen. Used with permission.
Earth diamond of similar quality. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Lab-created diamonds surpass mined diamonds in three major ways.

Price

A lab-grown diamond is less expensive than a mined diamond. How much so depends on your targeted size range. However, you can expect a drop in price of at least 30% when comparing stones of similar qualities.

Cut

When it comes to diamonds, the cut is a critical — if not the most critical — driver of beauty and value. Lab-created diamonds tend to receive better cuts than mined diamonds.

Mined, natural rough may occur in irregular shapes or contain mineral inclusions and flaws. This may dictate what a faceter can profitably cut. Whatever leftover rough can’t be cut into a gem is wasted. Since lab-created diamond rough forms in a controlled environment, it tends to be both cleaner and cheaper to produce. Thus, faceters face fewer constraints and compromises to the cut when optimizing the yield or size of the finished gem. Less material is wasted and better quality diamonds can be cut from lab-grown rough. The finished gems usually perform better optically compared to cut mined diamonds of the same size, due to superior cutting.

Size

At any given price point, you can get a better and bigger diamond if you buy lab-created instead of mined. For example, take a mined diamond of 1.45 carats, color G, and clarity VS1. For the same money, you could a lab-grown diamond of the same color and clarity but at 2 carats! That’s a big difference in size.

Advice for Evaluating Lab-Created Diamonds

When it comes to evaluating, selecting, and buying diamonds, the same rules apply to mined and lab-created stones. The 4 Cs of color, clarity, cut, and carat will form the basis of your decision. (And don’t forget the fifth C, cost).

For detailed information on determining diamond value and evaluating each property, you can consult the following articles:

Advice for Buying Lab-Grown Diamond Jewelry

You can purchase lab-created diamonds from many places, online as well as brick-and-mortar. In either case, rather than purchasing a loose diamond and having it set later, you should secure the assistance of the jeweler who’ll actually make the finished jewelry piece when buying the stone. The jeweler can help you consider numerous other factors beyond the 4 Cs. For example:

Some popular online retailers have made the decision to stick to earth-mined diamonds. However, online retailers such as With Clarity and James Allen have thousands of lab-diamonds for sale. For a more bespoke shopping experience CustomMade.com has a great depth of experience specifically with lab-created diamonds. It also has excellent sources and exceptional pricing.

These buying guides should also prove helpful:

earrings with lab-created fancy blue diamonds - lab-created diamonds
Find this Ring at CustomMadeModern-styled two-tone earrings featuring two 0.5-ct lab-created fancy blue diamonds. © CustomMade. Used with permission.