When you shop for diamond jewelry, you have a choice between natural diamonds and laboratory-grown diamonds. Lab diamonds and natural diamonds are made differently, but they’re both compositionally real diamonds. Both are beautiful options for diamond jewelry–but how do you decide which is right for you?
The key is understanding how lab-grown and natural diamonds compare. Determine which diamond is right for you as we go over the similarities and differences between lab and natural diamonds, and answer your top lab vs. natural diamond FAQs.
Lab-Grown Diamonds and Natural Diamonds: Similarities
Laboratory-grown diamonds and natural diamonds are both diamonds. This means they have the same chemical composition, physical properties, and optical properties.
Natural and lab-grown diamonds have the exact same chemical composition. Both are made of carbon atoms that are arranged in a specific crystal structure. On a chemical level, lab-grown and natural diamonds are identical.
Lab and natural diamonds are chemically identical, so they share the same impressive physical properties. The diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material on earth, so both lab-grown and natural diamonds are extremely tough and able to stand the test of time.
Natural and lab-grown diamonds share the same optical properties. They have the same refractive index, so they reflect and refract light in exactly the same way. Put simply, they’re equally beautiful and sparkly.
Lab-Grown Diamonds and Natural Diamonds: Differences
Lab diamonds and natural diamonds are the same material, but they have differences that can’t be seen by the naked eye. The main difference between the two stones is how they’re created. Then, this creation process also affects each stone’s price, connection to mining, and availability.
How They’re Created
Natural diamonds are formed by natural processes, then mined. Most natural diamonds form when carbon deposits deep in the earth are exposed to extreme heat and intense pressure. Natural diamonds also sometimes form at asteroid impact sites and on meteorites in space.
Lab diamonds are made by scientists in a lab, so they do not require mining. There are two common methods used to make lab diamonds: high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).
The HPHT method mimics the way diamonds form in the earth. A diamond seed, a tiny piece of rough diamond, is placed in pure carbon, then exposed to intense heat and pressure. The carbon reacts by forming a larger diamond around the seed diamond.
The CVD method involves using carbon-rich gas to create a diamond layer by layer. A diamond seed is placed in a growth chamber filled with carbon-rich gas. The gas is vaporized, causing the carbon in the gas to separate and stick to the diamond seed. Slowly, a diamond forms around the diamond seed.
Natural and lab-grown diamonds are quite different in price. Lab diamonds can cost 30% to 50% less than natural diamonds.
For many people, this price difference is the main draw of lab-grown diamonds. This lower price point can allow you to save money on your diamond jewelry or get a larger, higher-quality stone while staying within your budget.
Mined vs. Not Mined
Whether or not a diamond has been mined is a major consideration for many people as they shop for a diamond. Natural diamonds are mined, while lab diamonds are not mined. Natural diamonds need to be vetted and traced to be certified as conflict free, while lab diamonds are always conflict free and always have a traceable source. For those who don’t want to have a mined stone, lab diamonds are a clear choice.
Lab diamonds are still fairly new, so they’re not as widely available as natural diamonds. For the same reason, there tends to be less variety in the lab-grown diamond category. While this is improving each year, lab-grown diamonds can be harder to find for the time being. This is especially true if you’re looking for a diamond with a very specific shape, color, carat, and quality.
Lab-Grown Diamond Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are lab-created diamonds real diamonds?
A: Yes, lab diamonds are real diamonds that are made in a lab.
Q: Are lab-grown diamonds diamond simulants?
A: Lab diamonds are real diamonds, so they are not diamond simulants. Diamond simulants are things that look like diamonds but are not diamonds, such as cubic zirconia.
Q: Are lab-grown diamonds always high quality?
A: Lab diamonds are not always perfect. While scientists can control the environment a lab diamond is made in, they can’t control every aspect of how it forms. Like rough natural diamonds, rough lab diamonds can vary in things like color and clarity.
Q: Should I choose a lab diamond for my diamond engagement ring or wedding band?
A: An engagement ring is an incredibly personal piece of jewelry. Only you can decide whether you want a lab diamond for your ring. The most important thing about an engagement ring is that you love it. If you love the idea of a lab diamond engagement ring, it’s the right ring for you.
Q: Do lab-grown diamonds come with diamond certification?
A: Yes, lab-grown diamonds come with grading reports that can tell you about their qualities. A variety of grading labs, IGI, GIA, and EGL USA, now grade man-made diamonds.
Q: Can you tell a diamond is lab-grown by looking at it?
A: There is no visual difference between earth-mined diamonds and lab diamonds. Even a highly trained jeweler or gemologist can’t tell the difference between the two with the naked eye.
Q: How can you tell if a diamond is a lab diamond?
A: Whether a diamond was man-made will be noted on its grading report. A jeweler or gemologist can also use specialized equipment to tell the difference between natural and lab diamonds. Things like laser inscriptions and metallic inclusions can help an expert tell whether a diamond was made in a lab.
Q: How long does it take to grow a diamond in a lab?
A: The lab diamond growth process can take anywhere from one week to 10 weeks depending on the method used and the carat weight of the diamond.
Still Deciding Between a Lab Diamond or a Natural Diamond?
Still unsure which type of diamond is right for you? Visit the Bridal Rings showroom in downtown Los Angeles. We’d love to work with you directly and show you a beautiful selection of diamonds.