Lab Grown Diamonds Versus Natural Diamonds
Published: 29th October 2023
Over the last few years there has been a lot of discussion comparing natural diamonds to Lab Grown diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are not new to the market but in the last 4/5 years have become much more accepted as well as available in much larger quantities than was previously the case.
It is extremely important, however, that whoever is involved in the selling and buying of natural and lab grown diamonds understands exactly what they are, as well as the similarities and the differences.
What are lab grown diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced in a controlled technological process.
Unlike diamond simulants, lab grown diamonds are composed of the same material as naturally formed diamonds – pure carbon crystallized in an isotropic 3D form – and share identical chemical and physical properties.
The History of Lab Grown Diamonds Entering The Market
- 1950s: Union Carbide produces the first Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) diamonds in 1952. Others produce diamonds using the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method soon after. These diamonds are used for industrial purposes, such as in telecommunications and laser optics and as abrasives and more.
- 1970s: General Electric researchers create the first gem-quality laboratory-grown diamonds. They are of high enough clarity and large enough size to be used in jewellery. GIA scientists publish the first scientific study of laboratory-grown diamonds in 1971.
- Mid-1980s: Manufacturers grow commercial quantities of gem-quality Laboratory Grown diamond crystals. These laboratory created diamonds are initially mostly small and yellowish or brownish in colour, but their quality improves over the ensuing decades.
- 2000s: Gem-quality diamonds are created using the chemical-vapor deposition (CVD) method, which requires lower pressures and temperatures than the HPHT method.
- Mid-2010s: Colourless Laboratory Grown diamonds are available in the jewellery market in commercial quantities. Both HPHT and CVD continue to be popular methods of Laboratory Grown diamond production.
How are lab grown diamonds identified?
Lab grown diamonds require advanced testing to be identified with certainty. There are a number of machines which have been developed which are able to confirm if a diamond is natural as part of an initial screening process. These can be generally, of differing accuracy. The reports generated as part of The Diamond Assure Programme by the Natural Diamond Council is regularly being updated to present these varying accuracies.
If a stone is put into one of the machines and it is not definitive that it is natural, then it will suggest that this be referred for further specialist testing. This is when it would need to go to a specialist diamond laboratory where they have the expensive specialist pieces of testing kit and skilled staff who are able to interpret the analysis and give a definitive result .
Are lab grown diamonds real diamonds?
Chemically, physically, and optically, lab grown diamonds are identical to natural ones.
They ARE real diamonds with the same crystal structure and beautiful sparkle as natural diamonds. They have the same durability as natural diamonds.
The one big difference is the price. This is the reason that understanding what you are selling is vital to ensure that there is no confusion for the end consumer and no cross contamination can take place within the manufacturing process.
What is a lab grown diamond called?
Lab grown diamonds have been labelled in many ways i.e. Lab-made, Lab Grown, Lab-created, Synthetic, Cultured, and Created can all describe diamonds made in a laboratory.
CIBJO however will state they should only be described as Laboratory Grown for complete transparency for Customers within the Trade and Consumers.
Can you tell the difference between a lab grown diamond and a natural one?
Since a lab grown diamond appears identical to a mined diamond, it is impossible to tell the difference by simply looking at a diamond, even through a loupe and even by a highly skilled and experienced gemmologist, with all the usual desk top testing equipment. Screening and where referred, specialist testing can only guarantee a definitive result.
Many lab grown diamonds are supported by gemmological reports. In the same way you would need to check with a natural diamond presented with a report, you need to check that the report refers to the stone it is presented with. This can be verified by stone weight, dimensions, characteristics etc.
How are lab grown diamonds made?
There are two processes that can create lab grown 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. 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.
They generally take up to 6-10 weeks to produce.
Isn't it "cheap" to buy lab grown diamonds?
The answer to this question is “Yes”, they are cheaper than buying natural diamonds. However there are also different things to be taken into consideration:
Some people feel that lab grown diamonds are inappropriate for an engagement ring because they are "cheap." Others say that a diamond is a diamond, whether it came from the ground or a laboratory.
Still others prefer lab grown diamonds over mined diamonds for ethical and environmental reasons.
As more lab grown diamonds have entered the market attitudes towards them have changed. It is now possible to buy a certified lab grown diamond which has exactly the same type of certification as a natural diamond, therefore guaranteeing the quality of the stone.
The big difference, as said, the price, is constantly changing, or generally dropping. As there are more stones entering the market the price of lab grown stones has dropped dramatically. This is why it is so important that the consumer understands what they are purchasing and is able to make a personal choice based on all the facts presented to them.
Isn't a lab grown 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. Moissanite was also a very popular alternative.
Lab grown diamonds have none of those issues. They are just as durable and sparkly as any natural diamond, as they have the same characteristics, and are exactly the same material.
Are lab grown diamonds worth anything?
Lab grown diamonds are less valuable than natural diamonds, as their “value” and cost of purchase is lower, and it is still very difficult to predict where the prices will finish as they are currently still dropping. This is all OK however if you or your customer are not looking to buy it as an investment or intend to sell it at a later date for a profit.
If the reason for purchase is investment then the chance is the value will have definitely dropped. To what level we will need to monitor ongoing.
What if I want to leave my jewellery as an heirloom?
Even as heirlooms, lab grown diamonds may not be a bad option, as children and grandchildren will want to inherit the jewellery because it was a family member’s, not for its value alone. Where the stone came from will just be an afterthought and information.
Is it more ethical to buy lab grown diamonds instead of natural diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds can be advertised as more ethical and environmentally friendly than natural diamonds, although some argue that you need a large amount of energy to produce them.
For CVD diamonds you also need a “natural seed” to start the process. It then depends on what type of energy is being used as to how environmentally friendly the process is.
Some countries still do use fossil fuels, however it is possible to situate a lab anywhere in the world where older forms of fuels do not have to be used. This will be a discussion which continues over the coming years. Many are looking at how these claims can be verified by external and independent recognised auditors so these claims can be authenticated.
Sheffield Assay Office have invested in the latest technology to enable us to test to see whether stones are natural or need to be referred. For further details contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01142 231 2121.
The Sheffield Assay Office was established in 1773, under an Act of Parliament and today the company assays and hallmarks the precious metals - silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Sheffield Assay Office is one of only four UK assay offices who all work to uphold the Hallmarking Act of 1973 and continue to ensure consumer protection for customers purchasing precious metals.
To find out more about the whole range of services offered by Sheffield Assay Office, such as our hallmarking and analytical services, please email us at email@example.com or complete the contact form on our website at http://www.assayoffice.co.uk/contact-us,