One of the hottest topics of discussion in the diamond industry is: How can you tell if a diamond is lab-grown? Not only are buyers curious about the differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds, but also some jewelers.
Since lab-grown diamonds have become a thing, there’s a certain stigma surrounding them that turns off a lot of people. The bad reputation mainly comes from these diamonds being created in labs, leading people to assume that they’re not natural.
While it’s only natural to greet something that comes out of a lab with skepticism, the assumption that lab-grown diamonds aren’t real isn’t true. They’re just as real as diamonds mined in nature.
Moreover, the difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds is harder to tell than you might think. This article will discuss lab-grown diamonds and compare them to natural ones. Some facts may shock you, so stay tuned.
What Are Lab-grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are, as their name suggests, diamonds made in labs with the help of cutting-edge technology. Some other names for lab-grown diamonds are synthetic diamonds, lab-created diamonds, and artificial diamonds.
You may think that lab-created diamonds are the same or at least similar to diamond simulants, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A lab-grown diamond is the same as a mined diamond, with the only difference being its origin. In other words, diamonds created in labs are as real as they can get. Diamond simulants, on the other hand, are quite a different story.
Unlike natural and lab-grown diamonds, diamond simulants such as zircon, cubic zirconia, moissanite, and white sapphire, aren’t as clear and brilliant. The visual differences are more pronounced, and you don’t have to be a professional to tell a diamond simulant from a real diamond.
That said, it can be incredibly hard to differentiate a lab-grown diamond from a natural one.
The stigma that surrounds lab-grown diamonds of them not being the real thing is by no means justified. Just because a diamond is artificially made doesn’t mean it has poorer quality than the one mined in nature.
Related Read: How Much Does It Cost To Make A Synthetic Diamond?
How Are Lab-grown Diamonds Made?
Natural diamonds are formed under intense heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust. Carbon atoms are heated up and compressed to a point where their structure starts to change into the brilliant gemstones we know as diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are made the same way, only in a lab. Lab-created diamonds start as tiny diamond seeds. These seeds are small chunks of pre-existing diamonds placed in a chamber where the diamonds can grow.
The chambers use cutting-edge technology to produce the ideal conditions where the diamond can grow, like those deep under Earth’s surface.
These chambers use cutting-edge technology to simulate high temperatures and pressures to grow diamonds from a small lump of pure carbon.
The two methods used to grow diamonds in labs are:
- HPHT (high-pressure, high-temperature) method – This method utilizes temperatures of around 1500 degrees Celsius and pressures of around 103400 Bar to induce diamond growth.
- CVD (chemical vapor deposition) method – The CVD method utilizes less heat and pressure than the HPHT method. Instead, it introduces a mixture of gasses that breaks down and transforms into crystalline carbon.
Learn More: What Is The Difference Between HPHT And CVD?
How Long Does It Take To Grow A Diamond?
The formation of diamonds in nature is a very slow process because the conditions under the Earth’s crust aren’t ideal. It takes around 1 to 3 billion years for a diamond to complete its formation.
Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, don’t need nearly as much time. Usually, they need between 6 and 10 weeks to form. The long formation time for natural diamonds is one of the main reasons they’re valued much more than lab-grown diamonds.
Differences Between Natural and Lab-grown Diamonds
Now that we’ve concluded that natural and lab-grown diamonds are very similar, let’s talk about how you can tell if a diamond is lab-grown.
A visual inspection will tell you little about whether you’re looking at a lab-grown or natural diamond. Both have the same shine and brilliance you expect from a diamond.
However, there are ways to tell if you’re holding a natural or artificial diamond. Most lab-grown diamonds have a tiny laser inscription on the girdle that’s visible under a magnifying glass.
The inscription is necessary because the value of natural and lab-created diamonds isn’t the same. Without it, there’s almost no way to tell which one you’re looking at.
Moreover, you can identify a lab-grown diamond with the help of the lab report number inscribed on the girdle. All you have to do is visit the laboratory’s website and enter the inscribed number. The website will pull up information about the diamond, including whether it’s mined or lab-grown.
When there are no inscriptions, the only thing left is to take the diamond to a gemological laboratory to help you identify its origin.
What About The Chemical Differences?
Lab-grown diamonds are created the same way as natural diamonds meaning they have the same chemical structure.
However, some types of inclusions can help identify an artificial diamond that doesn’t have a girdle inscription. These are:
- Nitrogen and boron inclusions – Almost every diamond mined in nature has traces of nitrogen or boron. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, don’t contain these elements. These inclusions can be visible to the naked eye, or so tiny only an expert can see them.
- Metal inclusions – Artificial diamonds are grown in molten metal solutions, which is why they contain tiny metallic inclusions that are visible only under a magnifying glass. Diamonds formed in nature don’t have metal inclusions.
These are the only chemical differences natural and lab-grown diamonds can have, which only a professional can tell. And with professionals, we don’t mean jewelers but gemologists.
This is because fancy colored diamonds can be created in labs too. So, a diamond that contains nitrogen (yellow diamond) or boron (blue diamond) isn’t necessarily natural.
Many think lab-created diamonds aren’t as hard and durable as organic diamonds.
This is mainly because we associate something artificially made to be of poorer quality than something made in nature. In many cases, this assumption is true, but with diamonds, it isn’t.
A lab-grown diamond is as durable, timeless, and everlasting as a mined diamond.
Learn More: Lab-created Diamond Vs. Natural Diamond
Price of Lab-grown Diamonds
Why is there an obvious price difference when there’s almost no difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are made in a matter of weeks, while natural diamonds are formed throughout billions of years. This is the main reason why lab-created diamonds cost significantly less than natural diamonds.
Another big factor impacting lab-grown diamonds’ price is the low demand.
Although the demand for lab-grown diamonds has slightly increased in the past years, they still don’t have a good enough reputation that would encourage more people to want to buy them.
An artificial diamond costs around 20%-50% of what you would pay for a diamond mined in nature. Lab-grown fancy colored diamonds can cost even less.
To put the percentages in real numbers, the price per carat of a lab-grown diamond is around $500-$1500, and a natural diamond is around $2000-18000 per carat.
So, if you stumble upon a beautiful diamond with a price too good to be true, it most likely is.
Are Lab-grown Diamonds Too Expensive?
Even though lab-created diamonds cost significantly less than natural diamonds, their prices are still pretty high to be affordable for everyone.
A laboratory must have the necessary equipment to produce a diamond in a matter of weeks, including specialized machinery, diamond cutters, experts who’ll be watching over the growth process, and more.
The lab staff must be highly experienced, and the machines must be regularly maintained to make a diamond grow. In other words, this is neither a cheap nor easy process.
Why Do Lab-grown Diamonds Have A Bad Reputation?
Lab-grown diamonds have a negative connotation for most people because they aren’t familiar with the fact that synthetic and natural colored diamonds have the same properties.
Some consider lab-grown diamonds to be tacky. This has some truth to it, but not all artificial diamonds are tacky. The same applies to natural diamonds.
Moreover, lab-created diamonds are by some considered inappropriate as engagement rings or even gifts. This is because of their low price, which makes many believe lab-grown diamonds are a cheap and lousy alternative to the real thing.
Can Jewelers Tell If A Diamond Is Lab-grown?
Every jeweler can tell if a diamond is lab-grown only if it has a girdle inscription, lab report number, or certificate. Without one of these, most jewelers will be clueless, just as you are.
Only jewelers who are also trained gemologists may be able to tell you about the origin of a diamond.
Not even the most experienced jewelers can tell a lab-grown diamond by the naked eye. They’ll have to use a magnifying glass or even a microscope.
However, even those with the most knowledge and the best microscope can’t say that a diamond is 100% natural or artificial.
To be 100% sure that a diamond is natural or lab-grown, the jeweler will need to send the diamond to a gemological institute to be examined in a laboratory.
Related Read: Will A Lab-created Diamond Pass A Diamond Tester?
GIA Certificate for Lab-grown Diamonds
If you’re wondering whether GIA gives out certificates for lab-grown diamonds, the answer is yes.
The grading system for lab-created diamonds is the same as for natural diamonds. The 4Cs (cut, color, carat, and clarity) are what determine the value of your lab-grown diamond.
That said, the highest grade lab-grown diamond will still cost less than a natural one of the same size and lower grade.
Before 2019, the GIA grading report used the word synthetic for lab-grown diamond. However, this term is no longer used, meaning GIA also considers lab-grown diamonds real diamonds.
Moreover, the GIA report also states which method was used to grow the diamond, has a description for color and clarity, and tells whether the diamond has undergone color treatment.
Can Lab-grown Get Appraised and Insured?
Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds can get appraised and insured.
There’s a big discussion about whether a lab-grown diamond should be appraised. The price of natural diamond drops immediately after you buy it, meaning a lab-grown diamond will practically lose its value once you get your hands on it.
So, why appraise it then?
Well, it’s always good to have your diamond appraised regardless of its origin. You never know if you’ll need it one day.
Related Read: Can You Insure A Lab-grown Diamond?
It’s extremely hard to spot the difference between a lab-grown and natural diamond, even if you’re a professional. Visually, physically, and chemically lab-grown diamonds are the same as natural diamonds.
There are small differences in inclusions that can give a hint to what the origin of a diamond is. However, only gemologists in a professional laboratory can tell if a diamond is 100% real or artificially made.
But don’t think you can sell a lab-created diamond as a natural one. The only way to do it is to scam someone to believe you by the word that it’s a natural diamond.
Most people, especially jewelers, will require evidence in the form of a certificate.
Lab-grown diamonds can be graded, appraised, and insured like natural diamonds. Each document states the origin of your diamond with its other characteristics.
We hope you found this article interesting and that you now know how you can tell if a diamond is lab-grown.