Discerning Diamonds: What’s the difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds?

A diamond is forever, or so the saying goes. But a number of groundbreaking new developments in diamonds have emerged over the past decade that has raised a number of questions regarding what is and is not technically a diamond in the form of lab-grown diamonds. 

Fundamentally, a “lab-grown” diamond refers to any diamond that was manufactured in a lab, whereas a “natural” diamond refers to a diamond that was mined from the earth. Although these two forms of diamonds are physically and structurally identical, there are a number of key distinctions to keep in mind if you and your partner are deciding between lab-grown and natural diamonds.

Lab grown diamonds

Lab grown diamonds are formed by simulating the conditions that lead to natural diamonds in the real world. Scientists use a machine to create the effects of  extreme pressure and heat in order to form a diamond quickly and efficiently. Since these diamonds are grown in an artificial setting, lab grown diamonds are not exposed to other organic matter, thereby preventing exposure to matter that would contribute to variations in a diamond’s color or clarity. In fact, lab grown diamonds are so perfect, they can readily be distinguished from diamonds that were not grown in a lab. ALthough natural and lab grown diamonds are structural and chemically identical, the absence of imperfections serves to tip off jewelers of the differences between a lab grown and natural diamond, as a natural diamond will almost always have at least some degree of imperfection. 

However, these imperfections are not the only factor distinguishing natural and manmade diamonds. Here are the four most important differences between lab grown and natural diamonds:

4 Key Differences Between Lab Grown and Natural Diamonds:

Lab Grown and Natural Diamonds

1. The Carbon Footprint

Lab-grown diamonds are often lauded as environmentally friendly options. However, this is an overgeneralization. The diamond industry has garnered a negative reputation for being less than transparent when it comes to the mining of diamonds, and many consider lab-grown diamonds to be a more ethical alternative. However, this is not necessarily true.   

Lab-grown diamonds are produced through electricity. In order to simulate the environment that natural diamonds form in, lab-grown diamonds require copious amounts of electricity. Specifically, it requires 250-kilowatt hours of electricity to form a one-carat lab-grown diamond. 

Unfortunately, using this electricity contributes to an unexpectedly high carbon footprint. A report from the Diamond Producers Association revealed that lab-grown diamonds contributed to higher carbon emissions than naturally mined diamonds. Therefore, it’s imperative to look at lab-grown diamonds lucidly. If you are interested in mitigating your potential carbon footprint, recycled diamonds may provide a better alternative. 

Recycled diamonds have been reclaimed from a secondary source. Since these diamonds have often been owned in the past, they offer a clear conscience for the environmentally minded, as they offer one step of removal from the diamond’s mining process. Opting for a recycled diamond gives new life to a diamond, providing extra sparkle, guilt-free.

Carbon Footprint
2. Price

Price may be one of the primary considerations for people who are entertaining purchasing a lab-grown diamond. Reports have estimated that lab-grown diamonds may cost 40 to 50 percent less than comparable mined diamonds. The price difference can be particularly apparent if you are interested in a lab-grown diamond of larger carat weights since natural diamonds tend to become more costly as their size increases. 

Lab-grown diamonds are a new development in the jewelry industry. Consequently, it can be difficult to estimate fluctuations in their price over time, as it is impossible to glean an idea of how it may change. It should also be noted, however, that the price of lab-grown diamonds has decreased over time. The price of a lab-grown diamond has fallen dramatically since the emergence of manufactured diamonds, meaning that this distinction between natural and man-made diamonds is only likely to get larger over time. Typically, innovations become less costly over time, so this decrease in price is only likely to intensify as more competitors enter the lab grown diamond industry.

lab grown diamond industry

3. Rarity 

The reason why lab-grown diamonds cost less than their natural counterparts may be attributed to the rarity of these diamonds. Fundamentally, a diamond’s price is dependent on how rare the diamond is. The more rare a diamond, the more its cost will increase. This is why larger diamonds, more flawless and more colorless diamonds cost more than their smaller, more imperfect and more colorful counterparts. However, by nature, lab-grown diamonds are not rare. A diamond manufacturer can always produce more lab-grown diamonds. Unlike mined diamonds, which are finite, there are virtually an unlimited number of lab-grown diamonds. Although this is good news when it comes to the price of your diamonds, it can have a negative impact on their long-term value.

diamond manufacturer

4. Value

As you may have expected due to the price discrepancy, lab-grown diamonds are also worth less than natural diamonds on the secondary market, especially as more competitors enter the man made diamond market. If you find yourself looking to upgrade a lab-grown diamond engagement ring or to sell a lab-grown diamond in the future, the lack of rarity for lab-grown diamonds may lead to disappointment. Since there are a virtually limitless number of manufactured diamonds available, these gemstones tend to hold less value over time than their natural counterparts. Consequently, if you are interested in a lab-grown engagement ring it can be a good idea to hone your expectations in advance to avoid disappointment should you ever part with your ring in the future.

diamond rings

Despite these differences, lab-grown and natural diamonds are still structurally identical. Although jewelers can distinguish between the two gemstones, lab-grown diamonds continue to provide customers with an alternative to traditional natural diamonds. Ultimately, choosing which diamond is right for you and your partner is a deeply personal decision. Although lab-grown diamonds may not be right for everyone, they may be a good fit for you. Consider consulting with one of Buchroeders diamond experts through a convenient online appointment to evaluate whether lab grown diamonds may be a good fit for you.