Lab-Grown Diamonds FAQ
Lab-grown diamonds are becoming popular options for engagement ring stones. Learn the truth about these gems in our FAQ and make your own informed choice.
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Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds?
Chemically, physically, and optically, lab-grown diamonds are identical to natural ones. They're real diamonds with the same crystal structure and beautiful sparkle as natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds also have the same famous Mohs hardness of 10. They're just as durable as natural diamonds, but they're a bit easier on your pocketbook.
That's why they've become so popular, and why top diamond jewelers like James Allen have opted to offer them along with their selection of natural 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.
What is a Lab-Made Diamond Called?
Lab-made diamonds can go by a few different names. Lab-made, lab-grown, lab-created, synthetic, cultured, and created can all describe diamonds made in a laboratory.
Can You Tell the Difference Between a Lab-Made Diamond and a Natural One?
At first glance, there's no way to tell the difference between a lab-made diamond and a natural one. However, there are two small details you could look for.
With a magnifying glass, try to find a tiny laser inscription on the girdle — the widest part of the diamond that forms its outline when you look at it from the top. See if you can read it. Many lab-made diamonds have an inscription that identifies them as lab-made.
Diamonds can also have a lab report number inscribed on the girdle. If you go to the laboratory website, you can enter this number to get the report, which will tell you whether the stone is mined or lab-grown, along with plenty of other information.
If there's nothing on the girdle, only a major gemological laboratory can tell you whether the diamond is mined or created.
Can a Diamond Tester Detect Lab-Created Diamonds?
Can a Jeweler Tell the Difference Between Lab-Made and Mined Diamonds?
Since a lab-grown diamond appears identical to a mined diamond, most jewelers won't be able to tell the difference. (Assuming, of course, that the diamond has no girdle inscriptions). However, jewelers who are also trained gemologists may be able to tell whether a diamond is lab-grown with the aid of a powerful microscope. Still, the only way to be certain is to send it to a gemological laboratory.
How are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?
Two processes can create jewelry-quality diamonds: HPHT and CVD.
HPHT stands for High Pressure/High Temperature. This process mimics the way that diamonds grow in nature, subjecting carbon to high temperatures and pressing it together. This costly method requires a lot of energy.
CVD stands for Chemical Vapor Deposition, and it's not as scary as it sounds. In this process, a mixture of hydrogen and methane gas is placed in a chamber with a seed crystal. Typically, microwave power heats the chamber to a high temperature, which excites the gas. The diamond grows on the seed crystal. The CVD method is cheaper than HPHT and has become more common in recent years, as new technology has made higher-quality diamonds possible.
Isn't it "Cheap" to Buy Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Some people feel that lab-made diamonds are inappropriate for an engagement ring because they're "cheap." Others say that a diamond is a diamond, whether it came from the ground or a laboratory. Still others prefer lab-made diamonds over mined diamonds for ethical and environmental reasons.
Not too long ago, a majority of consumers considered lab-made diamonds "cheap." However, attitudes are rapidly changing. About ⅔ of people aged 21-40 who are shopping for an engagement ring are now willing to consider lab-grown diamonds. Due to natural diamond sticker shock, that's not too surprising. Lab-grown diamonds average about 30-40% of the price of comparable natural ones. Plus, they look the same. With lower prices and guaranteed ethical sourcing, a lab-grown diamond is a practical and guilt-free alternative.
Isn't a Lab-Created Diamond Just a Fake Diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds are a far cry from fake diamonds. Historically, fake diamonds were typically glass. Glass is much less durable and has a lot less sparkle than a well-cut diamond. Other diamond imitations, like synthetic cubic zirconia and natural zircon or topaz gems, are likely to chip with wear. Lab-created diamonds have none of those issues. They're just as durable and sparkly as any natural diamond.
Still, there's nothing wrong with opting for a diamond lookalike. For example, moissanites are a durable and affordable alternative to diamonds with a huge fan base. They look very similar to diamonds, too. Only an expert could tell the difference!
Are Lab-Created Diamonds Worth Anything?
Lab-created diamonds are less valuable than natural diamonds. But, unless you're dropping some serious cash on a large, high-color white diamond — or a rare fancy colored diamond, like a blue diamond — a natural diamond isn't going to appreciate much in value.
In reality, all diamonds dramatically drop in value the second you buy them. After that, a mined diamond will slowly regain value, but it's unlikely you'll be able to sell your natural diamond and break even within your lifetime. (That is, unless you spent millions on a world famous diamond with an exciting provenance).
So, whether lab-grown or mined, diamonds aren't a good investment. That's why you should always choose what will make you happiest. If you're shopping for an engagement ring stone, what would you prefer: a mined diamond or some extra cash for the honeymoon?
What if I Want to Leave my Jewelry as an Heirloom?
Even as heirlooms, lab-made diamonds aren't bad options. Odds are, your children and grandchildren will want your jewelry because it was yours. Where the stone came from will just be an afterthought.
Whether lab-made or mined, your diamond will certainly last long enough for your heir to enjoy it.
Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Get Cloudy?
Lab-made diamonds typically have good clarity. Like a high-quality natural diamond, lab-made diamonds won't get cloudy.
Is it More Ethical to Buy Lab-Made Diamonds Instead of Natural Diamonds?
Ethical diamond mining has become a hot topic, and the easiest way to avoid unethically mined diamonds is to choose a lab-made one. Diamonds grown in a lab are never "blood diamonds" and have a smaller environmental footprint than mined diamonds. That makes lab-made diamonds a more environmentally sustainable option, too.
Still, there are ways to purchase ethically mined diamonds. Diamond mines in Canada, Botswana, and Australia have opted for a more transparent supply chain. You can also shop for a "recycled," secondhand diamond.
If you're concerned about ethical diamonds, check out our guide to ethical engagement rings.
Why Do Some Lab-Made Diamonds Come in Colors?
The colored diamond option is a major "plus" for lab-grown diamonds. Fancy colored diamonds can be some of the most expensive gemstones — but also some of the most remarkable. Pink diamonds, in particular, are always in demand, but getting one in a nice size for an engagement ring just isn't an option for most budgets.
If you're interested in a fancy colored diamond for your engagement ring, a lab-grown stone might be your best option for a nice color, cut, and size at an affordable price.
Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Sparkle?
As long as they have a nice cut, lab-grown diamonds will sparkle!
For more on finding a great diamond online, check out this article. Or, click this link to search the James Allen website with Gem Society recommended parameters.
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison’s interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth’s geological processes began in her elementary school’s environmental club. When she isn’t writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
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