They say that diamonds are a girl's best friend and for good reason. Diamonds are gorgeous, glittering jewels that capture the light and enchant the senses. They're a beautiful addition to bracelets, rings, and necklaces and they're a simple of true love.
While in the past, natural diamonds were the go-to for anyone purchasing these precious stones, those days are quickly fading into oblivion. Instead, people are choosing to invest in lab-grown diamonds.
To help you understand the difference between these new, lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds when you visit the jewelry store, we've put together this helpful guide. Let's take a look at what lab-manufactured diamonds are and what makes them so special.
Before we jump into what makes lab-grown diamonds so special, let's take a minute to talk about what these diamonds are. Lab-grown diamonds are simply man-made diamonds that are grown inside a lab by scientists instead of found occurring naturally in mines.
Even though the diamonds are grown in a lab, they have identical chemical, optical, and physical properties as natural diamonds do. They also have the same luster and scintillation, meaning that you'll still get that gorgeous sparkle that we know and love about diamonds.
The reason that the two types of diamonds are identical is that they are grown in the same circumstances. Both contain crystallized carbon atoms that grow in specific structures.
Even though naturally occurring diamonds are created thousands of miles below the Earth, laboratories can create the same conditions using advanced technology. That enables the diamonds to form in the same manner and to develop the same structures.
What many people don't realize is that lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds are the same chemically, optically, and physically. The only difference is how the two types of diamonds are cultivated.
The real reason that people differentiate natural diamonds from lab-grown diamonds is that natural diamonds are quite rare. This means that there is a limited supply of natural diamonds on earth.
Eventually, that supply will run out and we will no longer be able to find diamonds. This is especially true when considering natural diamonds that are of high quality or large.
In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are created in a matter of mere weeks. Scientists can create large quantities of these diamonds to be used in jewelry. Since we can keep growing these well into the future, we know that these diamonds will not run out which makes them more affordable than natural diamonds.
It's important to note, however, that both these types of diamonds are real diamonds. They can only be differentiated using specialized machinery. Typically, lab-grown diamonds have certificates that state they are grown in a lab. If you ever want to sell your diamond, you'll need this certificate.
So, now you know what lab-grown diamonds are. However, you don't know how they're made! Let's take a look at the steps that are needed to grow a diamond in the lab.
To grow diamonds in a lab, scientists use two main processes. Both of these processes require a tiny diamond "seed", made out of a repeating carbon atom lattice.
From there, the seeds are placed into a chamber where they undergo chemical processes that turn them into real diamonds. After the rough diamond has been grown, diamond artisans will create custom jewels by shaping and polishing the diamonds.
The chemical vapor deposition method is one of the main methods of growing diamonds in the lab. When scientists use this method, they place the seed diamond into a plasma reactor chamber.
From there, the scientist releases a blend of various gases containing carbon into the chamber at low pressure. Then, he or she uses microwaves to heat the gases and release plasma.
The chamber begins to heat up, reaching temperatures of more than 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. As that happens, the gas molecules break up and the remaining carbon atoms bond to the diamond seed.
Each time the carbon atoms latch onto the seed, they crystalize. This grows the seed layer by layer. Eventually, a rough diamond is grown and is ready to be sent to diamond artisans to be turned into the beautiful diamond rings and necklaces we love.
The second method for growing diamonds in a lab is called the high-pressure high-temperature method. It's more commonly known as the HTPHT method.
Just as the name implies, this method applies extremely high temperatures and pressures to the diamond seed. This is done using a large, mechanical press. Under these conditions, the carbon atoms start to grow and create additional layers on the seed.
Over time, this allows a rough diamond to be created. The rough diamond is sent to a diamond artisan where it is transformed into stunning pieces of jewelry or individual jewels.
Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are cared for by a diamond artisan. The artisan will polish the stone and grade them according to the four C's:
These four C's are used to grade natural diamonds, too. However, unlike natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds can be certified by institutions such as IGI, HRD, and GIA. These institutions specialize in grading diamonds and ensure that the lab-grown diamonds meet industry standards.
Remember, lab-grown diamonds have the same optical, chemical, and physical characteristics that naturally occurring diamonds do. Because of this, it's nearly impossible to differentiate the two types of diamonds.
The differences between natural and artificial diamonds can't be seen with the naked eye or with a microscope. Because of that, diamond artisans and professional institutions use specialized, high-tech equipment.
This machinery allows you to tell diamonds apart due to nuances in the growth patterns of the diamond. They also highlight differences in the fluorescence of the diamond, making it apparent whether the diamond was mined or grown.
Even though lab-grown diamonds are not as rare as natural diamonds, they still have several benefits. Buyers often choose lab-grown diamonds over natural diamonds thanks to the benefits that lab-grown diamonds have to offer.
Did you know that there is a great deal of conflict surrounding diamond mines? In fact, "blood diamonds" is a term used to refer to diamonds that are mined in a conflict zone and used to fund wars or insurgency. Many diamonds fall into this category and are then sold to unsuspecting jewelers.
On top of that, many diamonds are mined under unethical and inhumane mining conditions. They offer poor wages and implement child labor to extract the diamonds from the mines. Once again, these diamonds are then sold to companies that are unaware of the poor ethics surrounding the mine's practices.
In contrast, since lab-created diamonds are grown inside a laboratory, you know that you are purchasing a product that is ethically sourced. You also know that your money is not supporting harmful war efforts or dangerous political uprisings.
Diamond mining, while useful to the technology and jewelry industries, is quite harmful to the environment. Just one carat of a naturally occurring diamond removes about 250 tons of soil, emits 140lbs of carbon dioxide, and requires 120 gallons of water to remove from the earth.
In contrast, lab-grown diamonds do not require any soil removal. The methods used to produce these diamonds don't waste electricity or water and do not emit harmful air pollutants, either.
Interestingly enough, because man-made diamonds are created in a lab, they don't have any impurities such as dirt and debris in them. Plus, their controlled conditions mean that they have fewer defects in their crystal structure.
The result is that these diamonds tend to be of better quality than natural diamonds. They are often brighter, whiter, and generally better looking than natural diamonds.
One of the biggest reasons why people choose to purchase lab-grown diamonds is because they are more affordable. Since they are cultured in a lab, they are more readily available.
This means that larger diamonds can be produced at more cost-effective prices. That makes them an excellent choice for expensive statement pieces or for engagement rings that might otherwise be outside of someone's budget.
We've stated a few times now that lab-created diamonds are more affordable than their natural counterparts. However, the question is, what exactly does that mean for someone who is planning to purchase lab-created diamonds?
When shopping for jewelry, you can expect cultured diamond jewelry to cost between 30% and 40% less than jewelry made using natural diamonds. This is the case for two reasons.
For one, because lab diamonds do not have the same scarcity as mined diamonds, they are not considered as rare. This makes them far more affordable for anyone wanting to purchase them.
Additionally, mined diamonds are often handled by middlemen or diamond cartels. These third parties are less transparent about pricing and do not always offer fair valuations of their gemstones.
One major point of confusion for people shopping for diamonds is the difference between synthetic stones, such as moissanite or cubic zirconia, and lab-grown diamonds. After all, both look quite similar to diamonds and are used in the same types of jewelry such as engagement rings.
The difference between moissanite, cubic zirconia and lab-grown diamonds is that all three of these materials are different stones. Because of that, they are the same chemical makeup. They are made from completely different materials.
Whereas lab-grown diamonds are made by reproducing the natural conditions of diamonds in mines and are made to mimic the structure, composition, and material of the jewels, cubic zirconia and moissanite are not. Because of this, the chemical makeup, optical, and physical properties vary from those of diamonds. Let's take a deeper look at how lab-grown diamonds differ from these two types of stones.
Cubic zirconia was created to look similar to diamonds but to provide jewelry buyers with a more affordable option for stones. It is made out of a blend of zirconium dioxide and powdered zirconomium.
Because cubic zirconia is not made out of the same materials as a diamond, it does not have the same sparkle and is not as hard as diamonds. Additionally, cubic zirconia cannot be found in nature and can only be grown in a lab. Because of this, it is not considered a gemstone.
Unlike cubic zirconia, moissanite is a naturally occurring mineral. It is made out of silicon carbide and forms crystalline structures.
It can be found in nature, although it is more often grown in labs to be used as a more affordable option for people looking for diamonds. Just like cubic zirconia, moissanite does not have the same shine, color, or hardness of a diamond.
As a jewelry buyer, understanding the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds can help you choose which pieces to purchase. It makes it far easier for you to understand the nuances between these types of diamonds so that you can make an informed decision.
With your newfound knowledge in mind, you're ready to visit us at Unique Gold and Diamonds. We'll help you find the perfect piece of lab-grown diamond jewelry to add to your collection or gift to that special someone.