What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds, also known as synthetic diamonds, have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. More people want diamonds that offer a more ethical and sustainable alternative to natural diamonds.

I’d never heard of lab-made diamonds until my daughter brought them up. She works in a university lab so she’s up on all the latest technology. I had no idea that you could basically grow a diamond in a lab.

However, once I heard about it, I wanted to educate myself — and my readers — about this option. This could be a great idea if you want to buy diamond anniversary gifts or other kinds of jewelry.

lab grown diamonds report
Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

Lab-Grown Diamonds: What Are They

Lab grown diamonds are diamonds that are created in a laboratory setting rather than being mined from the earth. These diamonds are also known by the following terms:

  • lab-created diamonds
  • man-made diamonds
  • engineered diamonds
  • cultured diamonds

Thanks to advanced technological processes, companies that make diamonds in a lab are able to duplicate the conditions that create diamonds deep beneath the Earth’s crust.

Interestingly, lab-grown diamonds have essentially the same chemical, optical, and physical properties and crystal structure as natural diamonds. Basically, if you put natural diamonds next to ones grown in a lab, you would have a hard time telling them apart.

A “greener” alternative

One of the key benefits of lab-grown diamonds is that they are more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds. The process of mining diamonds can have a significant impact on the environment. This includes soil erosion, water pollution and deforestation. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, have a much smaller environmental footprint.

Diamond mining also has some ethical concerns. According to Human Rights Watch, diamond mining can involve human-rights abuses, including child labor. Plus, there is a connection to wars, killings and displacement of indigenous peoples.

How you make diamonds in a lab

There are two ways to make diamonds in a lab, according to the International Gem Society:

  • High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
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Both methods pretty much mimic the natural creation of diamonds. However, thanks to technology you can make diamonds faster.

This process of making a diamond can take several weeks to several months — not millions of years. The duration all depends on how big of a diamond you want or what quality the lab is trying to achieve.

It all starts with a diamond seed

So, what is a diamond seed? It’s a teeny tiny piece of a natural diamond.

Like growing a plant, you use this “seed” to start the process of “growing” a diamond. Thus its name including the word seed.

High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)

In the HPHT method, you take this small diamond seed and place it in a high-pressure press. Then, you subject it to high temperatures and pressures.

Once you add a carbon source, it dissolves. Then, it forms a diamond around the seed.

What is a carbon source

According to the International Gem Society, this aforementioned carbon source is often graphite.

I’m most familiar with graphite and pencils — it is the part that lets you write with a pencil. How interesting that something you used in elementary school can help someone grow a diamond.

The same graphite in pencils help make a diamond in the lab. Photo credit: Canva.

Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)

On the other hand, the CVD method starts the same way — with a diamond seed. However, from there it’s very different.

Lab workers place that diamond seed in a vacuum chamber filled with carbon-rich gas. That gas helps to break down the carbon atoms. Once that occurs, they attach themselves to the diamond seed and crystallize into a larger diamond.

Are these “real” diamonds

Remember: lab-grown diamonds have the same properties as natural diamonds. In fact, they began as a legit diamond seed.

They are simply a different type of diamond, because you make them in lab. So, they aren’t “fake” or “imitation” diamonds like cubic zirconia is. They are the real deal.

Who Sells Lab-Made Diamonds

Many reputable jewelers and retailers now offer lab-grown diamonds. For example, even Swarovski has its own version of man-made diamonds. They call them Swarovski Made Diamonds.

Swarovski Made Diamonds. Photo credit: Swarovski.

Here are some of the most popular places to buy lab-grown diamonds.

Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth is a well-known retailer that specializes in ethically sourced diamonds and jewelry. They offer a wide selection of lab-grown diamonds in various shapes, sizes and colors. Their lab-grown diamonds are certified by the International Gemological Institute and come with a lifetime warranty.

Nordstrom

You’ll find lab-grown diamonds at Nordstrom under the Sustainable Style heading. There you’ll find pendant necklaces, stud diamond earrings and rings. Plus, the jewels come in a variety of colors — pink, blue, red and, of course, white.

Blue Nile

The original online jeweler, Blue Nile offers lab diamonds in a variety of styles and setting. They are:

Celebrities who wear lab-created jewels

Photo credit: YayImages.

According to Brilliant Carbon, the following celebrities have been known to accessorize with lab-made diamonds:

  • Penelope Cruz
  • Meghan Markle
  • Lady Gaga
  • Emma Watson
  • Billy Porter

Lab-Grown Diamonds vs Natural

Lab grown diamonds are a relatively new addition to the diamond market. I’m not surprised that they are gaining popularity among buyers who want an ethical and sustainable alternative to natural diamonds. It’s just like the rise in sustainable travel — you want options that are good for Mother Earth.

Here is a comparison of lab-grown and natural diamonds to help you decide which one is right for you.

How do lab grown compare to real diamonds?

Lab grown diamonds are chemically and physically identical to natural diamonds. They have the same crystal structure, hardness and brilliance as natural diamonds. The only difference is their origin.

According to GIA, lab-grown diamonds have the same physical, chemical and optical properties as mined diamonds. This means that they are just as durable and beautiful as mined diamonds.

Purity

Lab-grown diamonds are also purer than mined diamonds. This is because they do not have any dirt or imperfections entrenched in them.

Because they are produced under precisely regulated circumstances, they have fewer flaws. Also, you’ll find that they exhibit fewer indications of strain in their crystal structure. This means that they are more visually appealing than mined diamonds.

What are the benefits?

One of the main benefits of lab-grown diamonds is that they are ethical and sustainable. They are produced without the environmental and social concerns associated with traditional diamond mining.

Lab grown diamonds are also free from the ethical concerns surrounding conflict diamonds. These are diamonds that are mined in war zones and sold to finance armed conflict.

Cost of Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab grown diamonds are generally less expensive than natural diamonds. The price of a lab-grown diamond depends on its size, color, clarity and cut — the same considerations that affect the price of natural diamonds.

According to Brilliant Earth, lab-grown diamonds can cost up to 30 percent less than mined diamonds. This is because they do not require the same level of resources and labor to produce.

Over the years, the cost of lab-grown diamonds has decreased. That’s due to advances in technology and an increase in demand.

In 2023, the price of a one-carat lab-grown diamond can range from $1,000 to $8,000, depending on the quality and characteristics of the diamond. In comparison, a natural diamond of the same size and quality can cost upwards of $10,000.

Lab-grown diamonds are also available in fancy colors. This includes:

  • pink
  • blue
  • yellow

These colors are rare and expensive in natural diamonds. The lab version is much-less expensive.

For example, a one-carat natural pink diamond can cost over $1 million. On the other hand, a lab-grown pink diamond can cost around $10,000 to $20,000. Sure, that’s still expensive but it isn’t a million dollars.

This makes them an attractive option for buyers who want a high-quality diamond at a lower price point.

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