In recent years, the jewelry industry has embraced one of its most remarkable technological advances – the creation of lab-created or synthetic diamonds. Now, you might be wondering: What are lab-created diamonds?
Chemically and optically, lab-created diamonds are exactly the same. Apart from the difference in the time it takes them to form, the price difference is substantial. So, what are the benefits of lab-created diamonds, and what are the downsides?
In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about synthetic diamonds, so without further ado, let’s dive in.
Lab-Created Diamonds: Introduction
Lab-created diamonds – which are also known as lab-grown diamonds, artificial diamonds, and synthetic diamonds – are manufactured diamonds that mimic natural diamonds.
Since they consist of carbon atom structures, lab-created diamonds showcase the same optical and chemical characteristics of natural diamond crystals created by Mother Nature’s process.
Lab-created diamond prices are generally lower than mined diamonds. The cost of lab-grown diamonds continues to go down due to them not having any resale value, and the demand for them decreases continuously.
How Are Lab-Created Diamonds Made
Lab-created diamonds are created by replicating the actual process that leads to the formation of natural diamonds. Natural diamonds are made through intense pressure and heat, transforming carbon atoms into gorgeous gemstones we know as diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are made the same way – only through an artificial process that takes several weeks instead of billions of years. These synthetic diamonds begin with a small diamond, also called a diamond seed. This seed is placed inside a special chamber designed to recreate conditions deep below Earth’s surface.
Diamond seed coated in pure carbon eventually transforms into a lab-grown diamond – one that is chemically and optically identical to a natural, mined diamond.
There are two methods used for lab-grown diamonds – HPHT (high-pressure, high temperature) and CVD (chemical vapor deposition).
- HPHT places intense temperatures (around 1500 degrees Celsius) and pressures (103400 Bar) on the diamond seed and the carbon atoms around it.
- CVD, on the other hand, uses less pressure and heat. Instead, it introduces a chemical gases mixture that breaks down and hardens into crystallized carbon.
With both of these processes, the result is the same: A lab-created diamond grown from scratch in a matter of several weeks.
Lab-Created Diamond Pricing
Just as with natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds’ prices can fluctuate greatly. For example, synthetic diamonds can go low as $1500 or expensive as $60000 – depending on the stone’s quality.
Here are the main aspects that affect the price of lab-grown diamonds:
- Shape: The most popular shape of a diamond is the round brilliant, which is also the most expensive one – mainly because it offers the most brilliance and sparkle. After the round brilliant, the next most expensive and sought-after shapes are oval and Asscher cuts.
- Cut: A diamond’s cut affects its beauty more than anything else. A stone that has been cut ideally will be more stunning and more expensive than a gem with a “good” or “very good” cut grade.
- Carat weight: The weight of the stone also impacts the price – the heavier the diamond, the more it will cost.
- Color: Lab-grown diamonds are graded on a scale of D to Z – a D-colored stone is colorless while a Z stone has a noticeable brown or yellow tint. Diamonds with a better color grade are generally more expensive, even though the difference isn’t always that evident. Because of this, we recommend searching for a gem in the G to J color range since they still appear colorless to the naked eye and cost less than D, E, and F diamonds.
- Clarity: When discussing the clarity of a certain diamond, we refer to how clean it is of inclusions and blemishes. Stones that don’t feature inclusions are generally more expensive than those with noticeable imperfections. Generally, we recommend searching for VS1 or VS2 diamonds since they’ll be eye-clean and cost much less than FL or VVS stones.
- Certification: The certification in itself doesn’t affect a diamond’s price – it verifies what it is you’re paying for, so it’s worth getting one.
For lab-created diamonds, we recommend an IGI certificate. It offers the most extensive grading for lab-grown gems. And by selecting an IGI certificate, you will ensure that the synthetic diamond you’re getting is what the jewelry store says it is.
Related Read: How Much Does It Cost To Make A Synthetic Diamond?
Lab-Created Diamond Certification: What To Watch For
Diamond certificates (or grading reports) aren’t the same across the different grading entities. That’s why the price of synthetic diamonds isn’t comparable based on the certification alone.
You should select a lab-grown diamond with a trustworthy certificate as well as review the stone yourself.
Detailed Grading Matters
With natural diamond certification, every grading entity provides a single grade for factors like clarity and color. That isn’t any different with lab-grown diamonds. The IGI provides detailed grades for synthetic diamonds.
When shopping for lab-grown diamonds, you can – and should – compare IGI grading reports to determine which stone offers more beauty for the price.
Diamond Grading Is Subjective
All diamond grading is subjective. For example, no central organization defines what a VS1 clarity or an H color grade looks like in a diamond.
If a diamond grading lab consistently refers to one clarity grade VS1 while another entity consistently calls the same clarity grade VS2, it’s perfectly fine – as long as it’s consistent.
But even when a grading entity is consistent, it doesn’t mean the lab is entirely trustworthy. For example, purchasing a lab-grown diamond with a weak certificate at a higher price point isn’t a good decision.
Compare Diamonds With The Same Certificate
It’s best to compare lab-created diamonds graded by the same lab, such as IGI. Since the same third party evaluates diamonds, you’re more likely to be comparing apples to apples.
Consider The Price Over The Certification
Regardless of the grading report, you should thoroughly evaluate the price of the lab-created diamond. As we already mentioned, the price of a synthetic diamond should reflect the actual beauty and quality of the stone.
If you’re unsure if a lab-grown diamond is priced too high, you can have an expert examine and review it before you make the purchase.
Why Is IGI Certification The Best For Lab-Created Diamonds
The International Gemological Institute, also known as IGI, began as the blue-collar workhouse of the industry. It became one of the most popular gem laboratories for major jewelry chains in the US and Canada.
IGI tends to work fast, and its certificate prices are lower than the GIA. Diamond sellers benefit from the lower cost.
However, this isn’t necessarily true for the end consumer.
For natural diamonds, we wouldn’t recommend the IGI since the grading is lax and inconsistent compared to the GIA. Even though GIA has complete grading reports for lab-created diamonds, there aren’t many of them.
The GIA is the most respected diamond grading entity in the world. It’s incredibly consistent and gives reassurance when buying natural diamonds. However, there are still very few GIA-certified synthetic diamonds.
IGI also provides specific grades, such as clarity and color for lab-grown diamonds and the lab market uses them. That allows you to compare stones and make sure you’re getting what you pay for here.
By purchasing an IGI lab-grown gem, you’ll have peace of mind – you’ll know that your stone is equivalent to the quality that’s claimed.
Lab-Created Diamond Color Scale Chart
As you compare synthetic diamonds, it’s vital to verify what you’re looking for. That’s why we recommend having a certificate for every lab-grown diamond you consider.
The IGI grades lab-created diamonds on the following scale from D to Z, with D being almost entirely colorless and Z having a noticeable yellow or brown tint.
- Colorless – As the highest color grade, D represents the grade for diamonds with almost no color, even under magnification. E and F grades look identical to the naked eye. Only a diamond expert can detect the differences between these three grades.
- Nearly Colorless – Diamonds with G to J color have almost no color – and look mostly white to the naked eye. These stones will appear the same as D to F stones but are still priced considerably lower in most cases.
- Faint Tint – Synthetic diamonds in K to M range exhibit a slight yellow tint when looked at with the naked eye. Some people prefer these diamonds, especially in a yellow gold ring setting.
- Very Light Tint – The noticeable brown or yellow tint of the N to R color range makes these diamonds available at much lower prices. We don’t recommend you buy stones in this color range.
- Light TInt – Lab-grown diamonds in the S to Z color range will have a distinct brown or yellow tint. As with the previously mentioned color range, we don’t recommend this one either.
How To Tell The Difference Between Natural And Lab-Created Diamonds
You can’t really tell the difference between natural and lab-created diamonds without using specialized equipment, even if you’re an expert gemologist. The best way to differentiate natural diamonds from lab-created diamonds is to look at the grading report.
If a diamond expert determines if a diamond is natural or grown in a lab, they use magnification to inspect the nature of inclusions. The natural diamond’s inclusions appear slightly different than those found in lab-created diamonds.
Sometimes, there are differences in how the natural stone reflects light compared to a synthetic one. In general, when looking at a lab-grown diamond next to a mined diamond, you can’t distinguish the two, though.
Why Choose A Lab-Created Diamond
Diamond mining companies have indeed made some inroads towards becoming more socially and environmentally conscious in the last two decades. However, growing a gem in a laboratory still has a less negative effect on our planet.
You see, 250 tonnes of the earth must be extracted just to mine a single 1-carat diamond. Also, deforestation can occur, destroying ecosystems in the area of the diamond mine.
Mining companies in certain countries have to adhere to environmental standards – but others don’t have any regulations in place whatsoever.
Another concern for customers buying diamond jewelry is conflict diamonds – more commonly known as blood diamonds. These gems have been extracted in war zones to fund rebel militias fighting civil wars. The majority of blood diamonds have already been eliminated from the market thanks to the establishment of the Kimberley Process back in 2003.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme places requirements on its member countries that enable them to certify shipments of diamonds as “conflict-free” and prevent these stones from entering the legitimate trade.
However, this system has been heavily criticized for failing to bring up workers’ often poor working conditions in the mines. Other problems, including health and safety and child labor, still exist.
On the other hand, the buyer can be 100% certain that no staff was forced to work in terrible conditions with lab-created diamonds. In addition, lab-grown diamonds provide confidence that the cost wasn’t used to fund violence of any type.
Read Also: Can You Insure A Lab-grown Diamond?
What Are The Downsides Of Lab-Created Diamonds
While lab-created diamonds’ money-saving and ethical advantages are substantial, we can still confidently say that synthetic diamonds don’t appeal to everyone.
Some couples love the history of mined diamonds and that every diamond is unique in its way. Mined, natural diamonds are forged by the power of nature over billions of years.
When compared to lab-created diamonds that can be mass-produced in laboratories in a matter of several weeks, natural diamonds seem like a more romantic option.
Also, there are many misconceptions about lab-created diamonds since they’re relatively new in the jewelry world. Many couples might be concerned that family and friends will think they have purchased a cheap or “fake” diamond.
Related Read: Are Lab Grown Diamonds Tacky? Is There A General Rule?
So, what are lab-created diamonds?
Lab-created diamonds – also known as synthetic or lab-grown diamonds – are chemically and optically the same as natural diamonds. The crucial difference between natural and synthetic diamonds is their time to form:
While natural diamonds take billions of years to create underneath the Earth’s surface, under extreme heat and pressure, synthetic diamonds are formed in several weeks in conditions that replicate the formation of the natural diamonds.
Another difference between natural and lab-created diamonds is the price. Lab-grown diamonds are substantially less expensive than their natural counterparts.
And remember, when purchasing a lab-created diamond, always make sure that it comes with certification. More importantly, be sure to review the certification and the stone itself before you make the purchase.