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Lab Grown vs. Natural Diamond: What's the Difference? | Linjer Jeweler

Growing diamonds in a lab may sound too magical to be true. For hundreds of years, alchemists dreamed of chrysopoeia—-turning lead into gold. Now, chemists are actually able to turn graphite (that’s carbon), not into gold, but into brilliant diamonds! Lab-grown diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically the same as natural diamonds. So, what’s the difference?

Lab Diamonds vs. Natural - What do the experts say?

By definition, a “diamond” is a mineral made of “pure or nearly pure crystalized carbon in a tetrahedral, isometric system.” Lab diamonds are indeed materially and structurally identical to natural diamonds.

Indeed, experts, like those at the Gemological Institute of America, tell us that lab diamonds are identical to natural diamonds.

The only thing that is simulated when it comes to cultured diamonds is the environment in which they are formed, which simulates or replicates the same circumstances found in the organic environment that produces diamonds in the Earth–which we traditionally extract from the ground through mining.

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Lab Diamonds vs. "Real" Diamonds - What are the differences?

Lab diamonds are real diamonds, but we suppose you are referring to earth-mined diamonds. The main difference between lab diamonds and earth-mined diamonds is their formation. Natural diamonds are formed deep in Earth’s mantle, eons ago and at an incredibly slow pace. On the other hand, lab grown diamonds are formed in either a High Pressure High Temperature chamber, or a Chemical Vapor Deposition chamber.

The very first manufactured diamond was achieved in 1954, and most lab diamonds used in jewelry were grown within the last 1-5 years. Also, because of the environment in which natural diamonds are formed, it’s common for a diamond to contain trace amounts of nitrogen and some marks or impurities called inclusions. In contrast, today, the technology has advanced to the point where jewelers using the CVD method can grow a nearly flawless diamond in under 30 days.

Earth Mined Diamonds:

  • are formed 150-200 km below Earth’s surface
  • take billions of years to form
  • grow in a diamond shape
  • contain trace amounts of nitrogen
  • may contain some marks or impurities called inclusions

Lab-Grown Diamonds are:

  • are formed in a chamber
  • take days to form
  • grow in a cube shape (CVD diamonds)
  • contain no nitrogen (CVD diamonds)
  • are almost completely flawless

For all the details on lab grown diamonds and the two different processes used to make them, check out Our Complete Guide to Lab Grown Diamonds!

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Is a lab grown diamond a real diamond?

Yes, a lab grown diamond is a real diamond! So, let’s talk about what it means for a diamond to be real. To qualify as a diamond, a stone must meet two qualifications: chemical composition and crystal structure.

Chemical composition: Diamonds are made of carbon atoms—just carbon. No other elements from the periodic table are found in the diamond's molecular makeup. On the other hand, imitation diamonds and diamond alternatives—like cubic zirconia and moissanite—are different substances altogether and so, visually look different.

Crystal structure: A diamond also has a specific molecular structure: the carbon atoms are arranged tetrahedrally, like a pyramid. This is what makes a diamond super hard and transparent, unlike carbon graphite.

Any gemologist will classify this particular type of material as a real diamond, whether it was found in the earth or grown in a lab.

Can you see the differences between lab and natural diamonds?

No, there is no visual difference between a cut and polished lab diamond and a natural diamond. Lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds are physically, chemical and optically the exact same.

A raw, uncut lab grown diamond looks visibly different to a raw natural diamond due to how they’re grown. Organically formed diamonds take on the famous diamond shape (like two pyramids connected at the base, or two triangles when represented two-dimensionally). HPHT diamonds grow as what’s called a cuboctahedron, with 14 sides. CVD diamonds are easily recognized for their cube shape. That said, once a diamond is cut and polished, no visible differences can be seen with the naked eye.

Can a jeweler tell if a diamond is lab grown?

Yes, jewelers can tell the difference between lab grown and natural diamonds using special equipment. Even though jewelers can’t tell the difference with their naked eyes, they can employ several methods to spot a natural, HPHT, or CVD diamond. Because they are grown differently, each type of diamond has different growth patterns, thermal conductivity, and spectroscopy (the absorption and emission of light and other radiation), as well as differing yet specific types of inclusion or impurities.

So, with sophisticated equipment (that includes powerful microscopes, UV light, X-rays, and features that can detect wavelengths, fluorescence, and phosphorescence), IGI, GIA, and other high-end jewelers can tell if your diamond came from the ground or from a lab.

Are lab grown diamonds less expensive than natural diamonds?

Yes, lab grown diamonds are usually sold at lower prices compared to natural diamonds. However, this is not a reflection of the quality (as lab grown diamonds are chemically, physically and optically identical to natural diamonds). Rather, it’s a reflection of the supply chain for earth-mined diamonds.

The supply chain for natural diamonds is heavily controlled by monopolies and the process from mining to sales, also requires the involvement of many middlemen. These monopolies have spent decades trying to convince consumers of the intrinsic value of diamonds extracted from the earth through careful marketing. Without the traditional markup, lab grown diamonds are more fairly priced and can be around half a quarter of what natural diamonds cost!

Are lab-grown diamonds valued less than natural diamonds?

No, lab-grown diamonds are better value for money because of their low markups. Generally speaking, if you buy earth-mined diamond jewelry from a household brand and intend to resell it, you probably will not make back the money that you initially paid for.

Traditional luxury jewelers put big markups on their products. Why would they buy a diamond from you at the same price (that you paid a 10x or 20x markup for), when they could source a new diamond from a dealer for 5 or 10% of the price you paid? (FYI, our markups are way lower than that!)

If there is any difference in resale value between a lab grown diamond and a mined diamond, in our opinion, it’s only relevant for particularly large or special, naturally occurring diamonds which would reflect the scarcity of such naturally occurring stones. Though, it is uncertain whether the market will continue to value scarcities like this as lab grown diamonds become more and more commonplace.

If we can create the gorgeous diamond jewelry of our dreams, and they look, smell and act like mined diamonds, AND we know that they’re conflict-free...well, we’re not so concerned about scarcity!

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Do lab diamonds test as real diamonds?

Yes, lab diamonds test as real diamonds. They are chemically, structurally, and optically equal to diamonds found in nature; the major difference is that they are formed more quickly in a chamber that simulates the processes occurring in nature.

The International Gemological Institute and the Gemological Institute of America grade lab diamonds the same way they grade natural diamonds, using the 4 Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat. If you want to get your diamond graded, you can send it to either and have it returned with a report.

GIA, for example, will not only tell you if your diamond is lab or earth-mined, but they’ll also use slightly different vocabulary and imagery for a lab diamond report card.

Are lab grown diamonds more sustainable than natural diamonds?

Lab grown diamonds are considered more sustainable than natural diamonds because the production and sourcing processes do not require mining. Mining compromises local ecosystems and there are labour and social concerns surrounding diamond mining in many countries. More commonly than you think, diamonds plays a big part in funding violence and criminal activities.

However, it is worth mentioning that the lab grown diamond production is energy-intensive because it requires high heat and pressure to form diamonds in a lab. That said, manufacturers are continuously optimizing production processes. We are still in the early years of lab grown diamonds and we expect that this industry will only get more efficient in the future.

Which diamond is better, lab grown or natural?

Lab grown diamonds are physically, chemically and visually identical to natural diamonds, and neither one is objectively better than the other.

It’s ultimately up to personal choice.

Some people prefer lab grown diamonds because they are more affordable, sustainable and guaranteed conflict-free.

Some people prefer natural diamonds because they like the sense of romance.

At Linjer, we love that lab grown diamonds provide diamond-lovers everywhere with beautiful, high-quality, and conflict-free diamond jewelry that is truly affordable! Not to mention stellar options in terms of clarity, carat, color, and cut, characteristics that are not as accessible with mined diamonds.

Feel free to fall in love with the stunning designs in our Diamond Collection because, at Linjer, we only use high-quality, 100% conflict-free lab grown diamonds!

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