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Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

When most people think about diamonds, they think about a precious gemstone that nearly every girl wants to see in her engagement ring. Diamonds have become synonymous with clever marketing slogans like “diamonds are forever” and “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

Although diamonds have no intrinsic value, they came to symbolize wealth and success. It was only a matter of time before fake or imitation diamonds such as cubic zirconia began to appear. However, they’re no match for a natural diamond.

The only real match for a natural diamond is a lab-grown diamond. In case you’re wondering, a lab-grown diamond is a real diamond.

There is a lot of confusion about natural versus lab-created diamonds. And as usual, hype and clever marketing strategies can be very misleading.

Natural versus lab-grown diamonds

The #1 Difference Between Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds

Natural diamonds were mostly formed between one billion and three billion years ago under conditions of intense heat and pressure. The process took millions of years.

It takes about a week to grow a one carat diamond and a month to grow a three carat diamond in a lab. There are two methods to create lab-grown diamonds, namely:

  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) – Uses heat to break down a carbon-rich gas into carbon and hydrogen atoms that are deposited on a “seed crystal” (tiny diamond seed).
  • High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) – Uses extreme pressure and temperature to replicate the way natural diamonds are formed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Identical to Natural Diamonds?

Most diamond manufacturers will tell you there’s no physical difference between a natural diamond and a lab-created diamond apart from its origin. They are not completely wrong.

The facts are:

  • You can’t tell the difference between a natural diamond and a lab-created diamond with the naked eye.
  • For all practical purposes, lab-grown diamonds are identical in appearance and composition to natural diamonds.
  • Traditional diamond detectors cannot tell the difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds.

 

However, institutions such as the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) can easily differentiate between natural and lab-made diamonds.

Natural diamonds typically contain trace amounts of nitrogen. Diamonds created in a lab don’t have any nitrogen. 

There are also screening devices on the market such as GIA iD100® that uses spectroscopic technology to identify lab-grown diamonds through fluorescent patterns.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Cheaper Than Natural Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds used to be about 25% cheaper than natural diamonds. However, the production of lab-grown diamonds increased in recent years as large diamond conglomerates like De Beers joined the fray.

Diamonds manufactured in a lab are currently about 50% – 60% cheaper than mined diamonds.

How Do I Know If I Am Buying a Natural Diamond?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires sellers to accurately describe the diamonds and jewelry they are selling.

This is what the FTC says about lab-created diamonds:

“If you sell laboratory-created diamonds, you should tell consumers that they are not mined diamonds by describing them as “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” or some other word or phrase of like meaning so as to disclose, immediately preceding the word “diamond” and equally conspicuously, the nature of the product and the fact it is not a mined diamond.” 

Despite the above, lab-created diamonds are hard to tell apart from natural diamonds, especially if they have not been graded. It’s conceivable that some sellers might sell jewelry containing lab-grown diamonds thinking they are naturally mined diamonds.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Environmentally Friendly?

Many manufacturers and sellers of lab-grown diamonds promote them as an environmentally friendly alternative to natural diamonds.

Whether natural diamond mining operations are environmentally friendly or not is open for debate. However, the intense heat and pressure required to manufacture diamonds hardly make them environmentally friendly.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) admonished several advertisers for advertising jewelry containing lab-grown diamonds as “eco-friendly,” “eco-conscious,” or “sustainable.”

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds a Good Investment?

In principle, no diamond is a good investment. In many cases, the moment you walk out of the jewelry store your diamond’s market value drops by about 70%. The same principle applies to lab-grown diamonds.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing appraisals done for insurance purposes with evaluations that are based on market value.

For a detailed explanation read our article on how pawn shops determine value.

The only exception to this rule is if it’s a very rare, large, and flawless diamond or it has historical significance. And lab-created diamonds don’t fall into this category.

Conclusion

Lab-made diamonds are real diamonds that are nearly identical to natural or mined diamonds.

The main difference is that natural diamonds were formed about one billion to three billion years ago in a process that took millions of years. Lab-grown diamonds can be manufactured in under a month.

We trust that after reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds.

If you have any questions about diamonds or jewelry you want to sell, pawn, or have evaluated don’t hesitate to contact Maxferd.

Call us at (800) 888-7296 or visit one of our five locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles to find out how we can assist you.

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