Lab-Grown Diamonds: 6 Things You Need to Know

Diamonds have a mixed reputation. On one hand, they are valuable, exclusive and sought-after, and on the other, they are very much unethical and bad for the environment. While they last forever and are someone’s best friend, the way we look at them has changed in the past ten-twenty years.

Traditionally, diamonds are acquired by mining. This technique has always had a bad rep, but it especially exploded after the 2006 movie Blood Diamond. Thanks to this movie, retailers adopted much stricter regulations on humane conditions in which diamonds are sourced, making sure they are ethically mined. Still, even though most retailers respect the Kimberley Process of ethical conduct, we have learned that we don’t have to get diamonds through human labor and the devastation of the environment. This is where lab-grown diamonds come in. But what are they, how do they appear and what do they look like? It will all be explained below.

What are lab-grown diamonds?

You might have heard about lab-grown diamonds, but you probably don’t know how they get created. Well, long story short, lab grown diamonds are diamonds that are created in the lab by humans instead of by processes that happen in the ground. They have many names—man-made, laboratory-created, synthetic or cultured—but are very much real diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds should not be confused with “stimulants” that are made with other materials and have a role to simulate the appearance of real diamonds, such as for example moissanite.

Are they real diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds, period. When scientists look at the molecular properties of lab-grown diamonds, they will see the same properties as the diamond created by natural processes underground. The industry that grows diamonds is transparent, sustainable and ethical.

If you ask any respectable jeweler which is better, lab-grown or natural, they will not be able to give you an answer since they know that both options are great if you’re looking to satisfy your aesthetic desires. One is not better or more real than the other, they are just different, so it depends on your priorities.

How are they made?

Scientifically, there are two ways scientists can create diamonds in artificial conditions. Both of these ways are similar since they use tiny bits of natural diamonds called “seeds” and both simulate the natural conditions in the earth’s crust to form the diamonds. The process is the same as Mother Nature’s but it’s just sped up. Instead of billions of years of pressure, lab-grown diamonds can appear in weeks.

The two processes of lab-growing diamonds are HPHT (high pressure, high temperature) and CVD (chemical vapor deposition). In the first case, synthetic diamonds start as small seeds which are placed into carbon and exposed to conditions similar to those in the earth’s crust—extreme pressure and temperature. The second process has diamond seed slices that are placed in a chamber with high heat and carbon-rich gases. With technology and natural processes, carbon bonds with the diamond seed, crystallizes and creates a diamond. Usually, it takes only between 6 and 12 weeks to grow diamonds in the lab.

How are they graded?

Lab-grown diamonds are graded in the same way that “real” diamonds are graded and experts use the same standards for both lab-grown and mined diamonds—the four Cs scale that includes color, cut, clarity and carat. Every lab-grown diamond is graded by gemologists. Also, it’s important to say that lab grown diamonds can be turned into all kinds of jewelry from rings to diamond hoops and bangles. Additionally, you might have a chance to grow a 100% unique diamond in the lab. This diamond created specifically for you can be cut by master cutters and even laser-engraved. It doesn’t get more special and unique than that—you can’t have a diamond made specifically for you with mining.

What are the benefits of lab-grown diamonds?

Besides being able to grow a diamond specifically for your special person, growing diamonds in a lab has other benefits. Compared to blood diamonds and other mined diamonds, lab-growing is ethical and eco-friendly. There are no known negative effects associated with lab-grown diamonds, so you can enjoy your purchase without remorse.

Additionally, they are more affordable than mined diamonds since it costs much less to create a diamond than to dig it out of the earth. In some cases, you can save more than 50% on your purchases.

Can people tell the difference?

Only gemologists can tell the difference between mined and lab-grown diamonds. Experts need to look at the growth structure of the microscopic crystals and the appearance of the inclusions. To inspect a diamond this way, one needs a lot of knowledge and training, as well as scientific instruments like UV transparency devices and phosphorescence imaging tools—nothing you or anyone you know will have handy.

All in all, you can freely invest in lab-grown diamonds since they look and feel the same as mined ones. Finally, it all comes to your preference and your budget, so do what your heart tells you—you’ll be satisfied with your purchase either way.