Lab-Created Diamonds: The Ultimate Guide
Separate fact from fiction and you’ll find lab-created diamonds make great alternatives to mined diamonds. Our guide will show you how to shop for them.
6 Minute Read
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Lab-Created Diamonds vs Mined 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, and the other forms over time in the uncontrolled environment of the Earth. Both lab-created and natural diamonds are real diamonds.
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.
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This article is also a part of our Lab Grown Diamonds Fundamentals Mini Course, in the unit Introduction to Lab-Grown Diamonds.
Lab-Created Diamonds: An Analogy
"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 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.
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.
The Advantages of Purchasing Lab-Created Diamonds
Lab-created diamonds surpass mined diamonds in three major ways.
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.
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.
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:
- Color Grading White Diamonds
- Color Grading Fancy Colored Diamonds
- Clarity Grading Diamonds
- Traditional Diamond Cut Grading Methods
- Modern Diamond Cut Grading Methods
- Carats and Gemstone Grading
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:
- What diamond cutting style will work best for your jewelry design?
- How thick a girdle should your diamond have for your setting?
- What combinations of diamond color and metal color work best for you and your design?
- Will diamond fluorescence affect the color you will actually see from your jewelry?
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:
- Yellow Diamond Buying Guide
- Blue Diamond Buying Guide
- Pink Colored Diamond Buying Guide
- Buying Diamonds Online? Match Your Shopper Personality Type to an Online Store
- Searching for Diamonds Online
1. Are laboratory diamonds worth anything?
Even though lab-grown diamonds are not as rare and expensive as mined diamonds, they still fetch a high price. Lab-grown diamonds cost at least 30% less than mined diamonds, which makes them more budget-friendly but still pricey gems.
2. Are lab diamond prices dropping?
Lab diamond prices are decreasing as technology improves and larger quantities of lab diamonds are produced. As more and more diamond buyers are becoming interested in lab-grown diamonds for their reduced price and more ethical production methods, companies have been able to ramp up production and decrease prices.
3. How much cheaper are lab diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are at least 30% cheaper than mined diamonds of the same carat weight. Even though the process requires expensive equipment and advanced technology, creating a diamond in a lab still costs far less than moving tonnes of Earth across the world to mine natural diamonds.
4. Do lab diamonds hold resale value?
Unfortunately, lab diamonds often do not hold very much resale value, but neither do mined diamonds. Most mined colorless diamonds have significantly less resale value, so when purchasing a diamond it's best to choose a gem that suits your style and budget rather than making an investment purchase.
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