Lab-Grown Diamonds: The Good, The Bad, The ...
Lab-grown diamonds are becoming an increasingly popular center stone option. They are optically, chemically and physically identical to natural diamonds and dawn a smaller price tag; a seemingly perfect option for the budget-savvy buyer. These controversial gems have gained a lot of attention in recent years as an affordable natural diamond alternative. They're being praised for their ethical sourcing and environmental impact (or lack there of) but, most retailers are leaving out a key piece of information that is needed to make an informed purchase -- their future in the jewelry industry.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
It is important to start off by saying that Lab-Grown Diamonds arenot diamond simulants. A diamond simulant would be visually similar to a diamond but the materials used to create a simulant are completely different; like in the way a Cubic Zirconia (CZ) and Moissanite mimic the look of a diamond but are not a true diamond. Diamond simulants can be made up of materials like glass and other unknown materials.
A lab-grown diamond is just as ‘real’ as a natural diamond. They are optically, chemically and physically identical to natural diamonds. The difference between the two is that lab-grown diamonds are produced in a lab using processes that replicate the growth of a natural diamond. Both natural and lab-grown diamonds are ‘carbon crystals’.
How are lab-grown diamonds different from natural diamonds?
The biggest difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is the level of nitrogen in the stone. 98% of natural diamonds contain nitrogen. Colorless lab-grown diamonds have no measurable level of nitrogen. With this said, this difference is not as cut and dry as we’d hope it would be. About 2% of natural diamondsdo not contain nitrogen and could be mistaken for a lab-grown diamond using this nitrogen detection method. On the other side, there are some lab-diamonds with color that contain nitrogen.
It is nearly impossible to detect a lab-grown diamond from a natural diamond with a loupe or your naked eye. Special screening and testing equipment is needed and, even with these tools, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. Proper identification (typically a serial number laser inscribed on the girdle of the diamond) to disclose its formation is needed to tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond.
How are lab-grown diamonds made?
The lab creators who grow these diamonds start with rough diamond crystals and use either HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) or CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) methods to grow the diamonds.
High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT):
The HPHT process grows diamonds using a diamond press. These machines mimic the earth’s natural creation process and produce the extreme pressure(725,000 – 870,000 PSI) and heat (2,300–2,900 degrees Fahrenheit) that is needed to create a diamond. In this process, diamond source powder dissolves in molten metal flux and deposits on diamond seed crystals. This process takes several days to a few weeks.
Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD):
The CVD method starts with a natural diamond slice placed in a chamber and exposed to temperatures that are much less than HPHT (approximately half) and much lower pressure: 100 – 550 PSI compared to the 725,000 – 870,000 PSI needed for the HPHT process.
Recent advancements have made this growth process more advantageous. Methane and hydrogen gas are injected into the chamber and combined with high heat. The electrons separate, forming plasma gas. The freed carbon then rains down on the seed, growing new diamond crystals. Typically, this process produces brown or gray diamonds, which are turned colorless through an HPHT annealing process. This process takes several days to a few weeks.
Are lab grown diamonds graded like natural diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are graded exactly the same as natural diamonds. A gemologist will grade a lab-grown diamond using the 4C’s: color, cut, clarity and carat.
What are the benefits of choosing a Lab-Grown Diamond?
- You can get a bigger diamond for your budget.
- There are better clarity options for lab-grown diamonds due to the controlled growing process.
- Fewer imperfections
- Traceability to ensure your diamond is sourced from a reputable diamond manufacturer.
What are the drawbacks to purchasing a Lab-Grown diamond?
(It's truth time)
There are a lot of jewelers who despise lab-grown diamonds and will tell you that they are terrible for our industry. This mindset is largely due to a lack of communication between the retailer and consumer. Some major retailers will tell you how lab-grown diamonds are environmentally friendly and ethically-sourced (which is arguable but, I'll save that for another day). What they won't tell you about is the truth about Lab-Grown Diamond's foreseeable future.
Lab-grown diamonds are drastically, and quickly, losing their value.
In recent years the lab-grown diamond industry has boomed with many diamond manufacturers flooding the market. As more lab-grown diamonds are being produced, their price and value will decrease.
It is extremely important to know that the lab-grown diamond you buy today will not hold it's value over time.
If your desire is a large diamond within a budget and you’ve considered that there could be little to no resale value in the coming years, lab-grown diamonds could be a great option for you.
Ready to shop for lab-grown diamond jewelry?
Check out our collection of lab-grown diamond jewelry or get in touch with me to create a one-of-a-kind piece. I can walk you through the process of purchasing your natural or lab-grown diamond and assist with any questions you might have