Learn the differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds.
Everything you need to know.
At Alexander’s Jewelers, we’re here to answer any and all of your diamond questions. There has been a lot of recent interest, and more than a few questions across the counter about lab-grown diamonds.
It’s important to understand the differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds before purchasing an engagement ring, one of the biggest decisions of your life! Although they are less expensive, and technically have the same physical and chemical properties as natural diamonds, you may find yourself asking, ‘What’s not to like about lab-grown diamonds and are they worth the purchase?’
Buying a diamond is a very personal choice. Ultimately, the perfect diamond for you will depend on what matters the most to you.
The biggest questions we hear.
Q. Are lab-grown diamonds “fake” or “real”?
Lab-grown diamonds are not fake. They are identical to their natural counterparts in every way, except they are grown in a lab from a diamond seed instead of mined from the earth. Diamonds are made up almost entirely of pure carbon. That's why both lab-grown diamonds and naturally mined diamonds have the exact same physical properties.
Because of the contrasting conditions of natural and lab-grown formation, lab-grown diamonds display several features which allow them to be distinguished by jewelers from natural diamonds. As noted by the Natural Diamond Council, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a lab-grown or created diamond cannot be called “real” because it does not come from the Earth. They are made in a lab. It is not considered a traditional gemstone because of this. Is the chemical make-up that of an earth-mined diamond? Yes. Are they similar to cubic zirconia? No.
One important fact:
A natural diamond is the oldest thing you will ever own. It takes billions of years in the making. It makes them unique.
Q. What makes them different?
You have to start from the beginning to understand how earth-mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds are created. An organic, natural diamond forms when pure carbon undergoes intense temperature and pressure over billions of years within the Earth’s mantle. It only forms in the “diamond stability zone”, 80 to 120 miles deep, and extremely hot temperatures (up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit), where the conditions are just right. Then, over eons of violent volcanic eruptions, diamonds get brought to the surface, embedded in large chunks of rock.
Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are grown in highly controlled laboratory conditions that reproduce the Earth’s natural growing environment: high pressure and high temperature. Yes, they have essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, and optical and physical properties of diamonds found in nature. They aren’t technically “synthetic diamonds” or “fake diamonds” since their chemical composition is that of naturally occurring diamonds. They can exhibit fire, scintillation, and sparkle as natural diamonds do, but they also include specific, identifiable internal characteristics that a jeweler can distinguish. Lab-grown diamonds can also be endlessly replicated, where natural diamonds are one of a kind, just like a snowflake or fingerprint.
Q. Are lab-grown diamonds identical to natural diamonds?
No, they are not identical, mainly because they are mass-produced in factories located primarily in China, India, and Singapore in industrial microwave reactors. Their artificial production process occurs in just 2 weeks and there are tell-tale marks within the diamond which enable a professional (like us) to easily detect them.
Q. Are lab-grown diamonds more socially conscious than natural diamonds?
83% of water used in modern diamond recovery is recycled. Three times the land used for diamond recovery is used for conservation and biodiversity. Furthermore, the estimated greenhouse gas emissions in the recovery of natural diamonds is three times less than that of lab-grown diamond production. The diamond sector also supports the livelihood of 10 million people globally. $16 billion net annually feeds communities, builds schools, and protects native lands. Today, conflict diamonds have been virtually eliminated from the market through the UN-mandated Kimberley Process.
Most eco-claims made by lab-grown diamond manufacturers are unsubstantiated and are in violation of US federal guidelines. Lab-grown diamonds are made by chemical reactors that burn more than 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the surface of the sun. They also require a significant amount of freshwater to manufacture them, one producer reporting requiring 4.5 million gallons of water in one year at one facility. The wealth generated by lab-grown diamond companies largely benefits only a few venture capitalists and investors who have yet to demonstrate similar socio-economic contributions. Read more about this at diamondsdogood.com.
Q. Are natural diamonds worth the cost?
Natural diamonds obtain their value because of their rarity. In the last 10 years they have appreciated by 4% each year on average. Right now, lab-grown diamonds are sold at a cost significantly less than a natural diamond, so you can purchase a near flawless diamond in a larger size than an earth-mined diamond for less money. However, because they are not rare, they will not hold their value. Therefore, they have little or no resale value.
While most people do not purchase a diamond as an investment, some will decide to trade their initial diamond later on in life for a bigger diamond. Most retailers, including us, will not buy a lab-grown diamond back because of its lack of resale value. That’s important to understand.
Both earth-mined and lab-grown diamonds are beautiful. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. And Alexander’s Jewelers is here to guide you every step of the way!