Lab-Grown Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds: Quality and Price Comparison

lab diamonds vs real diamonds

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Lab-grown diamonds vs real diamonds is a controversial topic to cover. Here is a quick brief to get you started:
 
  • Lab-grown diamonds have identical chemical and optical characteristics to natural diamonds.
  • Both look the same to the naked eye. You won’t be able to tell the difference.
  • Even a professional gemologist can’t tell the difference by inspecting the diamond with the naked eye or with a diamond loupe.
  • There is a way to tell the difference; however, only gemological labs have the right equipment.
  • You can save up to 70% of your money by picking a lab-grown diamond, compared to what you can get with a natural diamond. 
  • A 1.00 carat E VS1 like this one is sold for $1,700, while most 1.00 carat E VS1 natural diamonds would start from $8,800 as you can see here.
  • With around $6,000 you can get a perfect 2.00 carat diamond like this one.
  • Whether you decide to buy natural or lab-grown, make sure to buy a certified diamond from a reliable seller like this one.

Test yourself: Is this diamond natural or lab-grown?

Table of Contents

Background story: Lab-grown diamonds VS natural diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are taking the diamond industry by storm. These diamonds are sold as the ultimate mined-diamonds alternatives, gaining popularity among millennials.

On the flip side, this product has a lot of haters too. A large group in the diamond industry doesn’t want to lose its market share to this rising product. They spread many misconceptions about those so-called “synthetic” and “fake diamonds.”

But politics aside, let’s look at those diamonds from the customer’s point of view.

On the left, you can see a natural diamond, also known as an earth-created and mined diamond. On the right, you can see a lab-grown diamond, also known as a lab-created diamond and a man-made diamond. Both share almost the identical quality:

  • Shape: Round
  • Carat weight: 1.00
  • Color: E
  • Clarity: VS1
  • Cut: Excellent/Ideal
  • Triple X with no fluorescence

So what’s the difference? The price.

Take a good look:

Earth-created diamond: $7,100

Lab-created diamond: $1,680

You save: $5,420

As you can understand, you have two options

  1. Turn left, pay a nice sum and go with a natural diamond.
  2. Turn right, save money and get an identical lab-grown diamond. Continue right, invest the full budget and get a larger and nicer lab-grown diamond.
 

One might ask me: “lab diamonds vs. natural diamonds…. which one is better?”. It depends on what you are looking for. Let’s break it down with more questions and answers.

What is a lab-grown diamond?

Simply put, a lab-grown diamond is a diamond grown under lab conditions through a process that mimics the same conditions in nature. The end result is a pure lab-created diamond, 100% pure carbon, that shares the exact same chemical and optical characteristics of a natural diamond.

Lab-grown and natural diamonds are so much the same that an untrained eye and a professional gemologist with a diamond loupe won’t be able to tell the difference.

Above all, the main difference is their origin. While earth-created diamonds grow naturally beneath the earth’s crust, lab diamonds grow in highly controlled laboratory environments using advanced technological processes that duplicate those conditions.

Are lab-grown diamonds real diamonds

To declare if a gemstone is a diamond or not, it must follow one rule: A diamond is a precious stone consisting of crystallized pure carbon. Since both natural and lab-grown diamonds follow this rule, we can easily say that a lab-grown diamond is a real diamond. The only difference between the two is their origin: One comes from nature, and one from the lab.

diamond molecular structure

How are natural diamonds formed?

Natural diamonds (also known as mined diamonds) were formed around 3 billion years ago, typically around 150 miles below the earth’s surface, under specific conditions of extreme heat & high pressured carbon gasses. Carbon-containing fluids dissolved minerals and then grew into diamonds. The growth process took around one month in the earth’s mantle layer, and later the diamonds were carried to the surface in volcanic eruptions.

How natural diamonds are formed? - Photo by phys.org

How are lab-grown diamonds made?

Lab-grown diamonds are made with 2 methods: CVD or HPHT.

HPHT diamonds

HPHT (high-pressure high-temperature) is a method invented in the 1950s, allowing the lab to grow genuine colorless diamonds within 2-4 weeks. It’s also commonly used to enhance the beauty of natural diamonds, for example, by changing a K color to a D color. The process includes the following steps:

  1. A tiny diamond seed is placed into pure carbon and starts the 4-week diamond growth.
  2. The seed is subjected to extreme heat and pressure.
  3. The conditions melt the carbon, and a diamond builds around the seed.
  4. The resulting substance is then cooled to create a diamond that shares the same chemical makeup as a mined diamond.
  5. Finally, the rough diamond is ready for cutting and polishing, getting a grading report, and being set into fine jewelry or a diamond engagement ring.

CVD diamonds

The lab uses chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to mass produce these diamonds. Usually, a post-growth treatment (HPHT) is needed to enhance the color of the diamonds. Only a couple of labs in the world have the technology to produce CVD colorless diamonds without needing post-growth treatment. The process includes the following steps:

  1. A small part of natural diamond is being used as a seed and placed in a vacuum chamber
  2. The chamber is filled with high-content carbon gases and heated to over 1000 degrees
  3. The high temperatures make the gases turn into plasma.
  4. The plasma creates layers over layers on top of the seed, building a rough diamond that shares the same chemical properties as a natural diamond.
  5. The rough diamond goes through the HPHT process to enhance its color if needed.
  6. The rough diamond is ready for cutting and polishing.
A rough lab grown diamond emerges from the CVD plasma reactor - Picture by Lightbox

Are natural diamonds higher quality than lab-grown diamonds?

The colors and clarities of diamonds vary according to their created conditions. This is true for both natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds. For that reason, we can find both in all qualities. In addition, while we have zero control over the conditions in nature, we do have some control over the conditions in labs. In many cases, it enables us to grow higher-quality diamonds than the average quality of natural diamonds. 

The most common natural diamonds that customers buy are nearly-colorless, between J-H color grades, 0.7-1.00 carat, and SI2-SI1 clarity. For the same budget or even less, customers that choose to go with natural diamonds can get a stunning 1.00 carat with E colorless and VS1 eye-clean clarity. In other words, lab-grown diamond buyers get a higher-quality diamond for the same price.

Learn how to pick the best quality diamond within your budget

Do lab-created diamonds test as real? Can a jeweler tell the difference?

A lab-grown diamond can pass simple tests as a natural diamond simply because both share the same chemical and physical properties. However, an honest professional jeweler will tell you that to run a proper test, you need to send the stone to a geological lab. A professional gemologist can tell the difference only by using expensive equipment that tests the diamond fluorescence. 

The naked eye, untrained and professional, cannot distinguish between lab-grown and natural diamonds. In fact, videos on Youtube show people bringing lab diamonds to jewelers and being told “that’s a natural diamond.” If you ask me, that’s unprofessional. 

Are lab-grown diamonds considered Synthetic diamonds?

In 2018 the federal trade commission announced that Lab-grown diamonds are not considered synthetic diamonds nor diamond simulants, unlike cubic zirconia and moissanite. The market should sell these diamonds as real diamonds, with a disclaimer regarding their lab-grown origin. In August 2020, the GIA announced they will grade lab diamonds as well, remove the word “synthetic” from the certificate, and write “Laboratory-grown diamonds” instead.

GIA lab-grown diamond certification

Pricing comparison

Nowadays, when young people struggle financially, an engagement ring is a significant expense. Buying a diamond ring that you’ll feel confident about and that your significant other will be happy with can be pretty expensive. Buying a lab-grown diamond allows you to get up to 30%-75% more size for the exact cost.

We will make a side-by-side comparison of both natural and lab-grown diamonds. All diamonds are E VS1 Ideal cut, Triple excellent with no fluorescence.

Diamond grading Natural Diamond Lab-Created Diamond Price Gap
0.50 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $1,560.00 $520.00 -67%
1.00 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $8,610.00 $1,680.00 -80%
1.50 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $18,940.00 $3,190.00 -83%
2.00 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $33,740.00 $5,879.00 -83%
2.50 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $49,890.00 $11,590.00 -77%
3.00 Carat E VS1 Ideal Cut $82,980.00 $15,630.00 -81%

How much is 1 carat lab diamond

Same as with natural diamonds, the price of lab-grown diamonds depends on two factors:

  1. Market supply and demand
  2. The quality of the diamond, also known as the 4c’s: carat, color, clarity, and cut.

If you agree to compromise over color and clarity, you can find a nearly-colorless diamond with low clarity for as low as $1,100. For a tight budget, it’s a good value. However, the minimum I recommend getting is a 1.00 carat with F colorless and VS2 eye-clean clarity. It’s about $500 extra, which is relatively still very affordable.

Why are lab diamonds so expensive?

To answer this question, we need to ask “Compared to what?”. “expensive” is a relative term. As we covered before, a lab-grown diamond is much more affordable than natural diamonds, with a huge price gap of 50%-75%. It allows you to either save some money or invest it in a larger and better lab-grown diamond. For example, if you dearm about a 2.00 carat diamond, you have two options:

  1. Buy a natural diamond for $8,600
  2. Buy a lab-grown diamond for $1,680 and save $6,920

Lab-grown vs. natural diamonds price comparison:

Natural diamond

$8,600

Natural diamond

$1,680

The truth about lab-grown natural diamonds' resale value

If you are looking to buy a diamond and earn from it in the future, let me tell you my friend, you are looking in the wrong direction. Did you know that the moment you buy a natural diamond, its value drops by 40%-60%? In fact, money-wise, most diamonds aren’t a good investment. You better invest in some gold or a nice Rolex watch.

Only scarce diamonds, extremely large or with fancy colors like pink, red, and blue, can maintain a good resale value.

And the same goes for lab-grown diamonds. My point is, if you buy a diamond, focus on making your significant other happy. Hopefully, you’ll never sell this diamond.

By the way, this retailer offers a 100% upgrade policy, so you won’t lose a dime on your diamond if you want to upgrade it in the future.

Are lab-grown diamonds getting more popular?

According to MVI research, nearly 70% of millennials consider buying a lab diamond for an engagement ring. In 2019 lab-grown diamonds made up an estimated 3 percent of the $14 billion rough diamond market, around $420 million, and are estimated to grow to 5%-10% in online sales of the entire jewelry industry.

Based on Google Trends, laboratory-grown diamonds started to gain massive popularity around December of 2014. The younger generation has started to look for alternative and sustainable products that can give high value for money while being eco-friendly.

Conclusion

Should you choose a lab-grown diamond or a natural diamond? Some people love the sentimental value of a natural diamond and don’t get the same feeling with a lab-grown diamond. Others get the same sentimental value with lab diamonds and enjoy the higher quality and larger diamonds they can get for the same budget. At the end of the day, each person knows what’s suitable for them. Do what is right and make the most of your money. Buy smart, and if you need help, contact me here.

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