If you’re shopping for a diamond, you have plenty of options. You can choose your ideal diamond size, shape, color, and quality-- then, nowadays, you can also choose how you’d like your diamond to have been made. Thanks to advancements in technology, lab-grown diamonds are more available than ever, allowing people to freely choose between lab-grown and natural mined diamonds for their diamond jewelry.
Natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds have the exact same chemical, physical, and optical properties, making them equally beautiful and strong. These two gemstones do have some differences, however, which can affect which you may prefer. To help you understand which option would be right for you, below, we’re going over the most important similarities and differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds.
The main difference between natural mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds is in how they’re made. Mined diamonds form deep under the earth’s surface over billions of years when pure carbon is exposed to extreme heat and pressure. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are made by scientists in a lab who create their man-made diamonds in carefully controlled laboratory conditions.
Lab-grown diamonds will generally be made using one of two methods: high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The HPHT method mimics how diamonds form naturally in the earth. When using the HPHT method, scientists place a tiny diamond fragment called a diamond seed in a chamber alongside pure carbon. Scientists then expose the chamber to extreme pressure and heat, which causes the carbon to melt and begin to form a diamond around the seed. The CVD method also begins with the use of a diamond crystal seed. When scientists use this method to create a lab-grown diamond, they place their seed into a vacuum chamber, which they also fill with gases that are high in carbon. The vacuum chamber is then heated to extreme temperatures, causing the carbon in the gases to cling to the diamond seed and build a diamond layer by layer.
The fact that natural and lab-grown diamonds form differently plays a big role in why some people prefer one of these gemstones over the other. Many people love that natural diamonds form in the earth over billions of years, as they feel it gives them a romantic sense of history. Other people prefer lab-created diamonds specifically because they didn’t form in the earth and, therefore, they never involve mining.
Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds: Pricing
Another major difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds is their price. A lab-grown diamond can cost up to 30% less than a natural mined diamond with the same carat weight and qualities. This price difference makes lab-grown diamonds very attractive to people who are shopping within a more limited budget. The lower price point of lab-grown diamonds is also appealing to people who want to maximize their budget to get a larger or higher quality diamond, and to people who just don’t want to spend more on a diamond if they don’t have to.
Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds: Visual Qualities
People often wonder if you can tell that a diamond was lab-grown due to how it looks. Since lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds have the exact same chemical structure and physical properties, they also look exactly the same. So, you cannot tell that a diamond was lab-grown just by looking at it with the naked eye. Even an expert gemologist at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) would not be able to tell that a diamond had been lab-grown unless they used highly specialized equipment.
Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds: Color Options
If you’re looking for a colored diamond rather than a colorless diamond, you should consider the fact that lab-grown and natural diamonds come with different color options. Mined diamonds come in virtually every color you can imagine. Lab-grown diamonds, however, currently come in a more limited color range, since the technology for creating every diamond color isn’t quite there yet. If you’d like a colored lab-grown diamond, your options are yellow, pink, or blue.
With that said, natural colored diamonds are extremely rare and are therefore very expensive, which puts them out of many people’s price ranges. Colored lab-created diamonds can help people who have always wanted a yellow, pink, or blue diamond get the diamond of their dreams, while also staying within their budget.
Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds: Not Diamond Simulants or Fake Diamonds
Lab-grown and naturally grown diamonds have an important similarity: neither is a diamond simulant or a “fake diamond.” People often ask if lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds or if they’re fake diamonds. Lab-created diamonds are certainly not fake diamonds-- they’re just made in a lab instead of in the earth. While lab-grown diamonds are sometimes called “synthetic diamonds,” this doesn’t mean that they’re fake. It simply means that they were created by chemical synthesis in a lab. A fake diamond would usually be made of one of the more popular diamond simulants, which are stones that look like diamonds but are not diamonds. Examples of diamond simulants include moissanite, white sapphire, cubic zirconia, and high-leaded glass (better known as rhinestones).
Final Thoughts on the Differences Between Natural Diamonds and Lab-Grown Diamonds
Natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds have the same beautiful shimmer and excellent durability, but they do have some differences that can affect which you prefer. Ultimately, whether a natural diamond or a lab-grown diamond would be right for you is very personal. Everyone has their own unique perspective on diamonds, which can affect what type of diamond they want for a diamond engagement ring, a pair of diamond studs, or any other piece of diamond jewelry. That’s why we carry both natural and lab-grown diamonds at BVW Jewelers, so that you can choose the diamond that works for you. Note that if you’re looking for a diamond and you’re not sure whether you should go natural or lab-grown, we’d be happy to help you compare your options in person at our showroom.