Lab-made diamonds have the same physical and chemical characteristics as natural diamonds and are grown in a lab in a matter of week with the seed of a real diamond instead of forming naturally over billions of years beneath the earth's crust.
This article attempts to highlight key insights on what lab-grown diamonds are, how they are grown, the best places to buy them, and the available types in the marketplace today.
This article will explain:
- Benefits of lab-grown diamonds
- The growth process, properties and types of lab-made diamonds
- The inspection process of lab diamonds
- Resale Value of lab-grown diamonds
- Buying lab diamonds online
- Shapes of lab diamonds
- Color in lab-made diamonds
What are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds grown in labs and can also be called man-made, lab-made, or synthetic diamonds. These diamonds are engineered and cultured in a controlled environment using a unique technological process that mimics the natural process of diamond formation beneath the earth. Such diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically similar to natural, mined diamonds. In short, they look like real GIA-certified loose diamonds.
While synthetic diamonds have been in the experimentation phase for hundreds of years, the research became a success in the last few decades. The experiments are still ongoing with the aim of growing diamonds with purer physical, chemical, and optical structures.
Benefits of Man-Made Diamonds:
- Lab-made diamonds are affordable. Getting the same value as natural diamonds at a low price is one of the significant benefits of man-made diamonds. A lab-grown diamond costs about 50% or less than a natural diamond.
- Man-made diamonds are conflict-free, unlike naturally mined diamonds that may affect native communities and leave the environment degraded. These diamonds are conflict-free because they are cultured, treated, and cut in a controlled laboratory environment.
- Lab-made diamonds are as beautiful as natural diamonds in every way.
- Man-made diamonds have good clarity, color, excellent cut, and good carat size. Also, they can be manufactured in a variety of colors, ranging from white to yellow, green, pink, and blue.
The Manufacturing Process of Lab-Made Diamonds:
The two main methods for growing lab diamonds include:
- HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature)
- CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition)
The process of creating man-made diamonds is simple; you only need a carbon seed to initiate it. The engineered diamonds are made by placing a "seed" into a chamber of extreme heat, pressure, and a special deposition process. This chamber mimics the natural environment of diamond formation.
The primary process used for synthesizing artificial diamonds is crystallization. It allows a diamond seed to grow and mature for six to ten weeks before being cut and polished. Afterward, the grown diamond is graded by a diamond grading lab to determine its 4Cs and other quality factors.
In both colored and white man-made diamonds, the trace elements’ composition differs slightly from naturally mined ones. This difference can only be measured via special equipment capable of detecting minor differences in the growth of crystals and trace elements.
HPHT vs. CVD:
The High Pressure High Temperature method was introduced in the 1950s and is the original method of manufacturing lab-made diamonds. In addition to growing diamonds, this method can also enhance the color of lab diamonds to blue, pink, and yellow colors, among others.
The Chemical Vapor Deposition method was introduced in the 1980s. It imitates how diamonds form in interstellar gas clouds, using lesser pressure and smaller machines. Under this method, after placing a diamond seed in a vacuum chamber, the chamber fills with carbon-rich gas and is heated to up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures turn the gas into plasma and then carbon, allowing the seed to grow.
Both HPHT and CVD come with their own respective advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it is essential to assess each stone on its own merits. Some dealers are agnostic, while others prefer HPHT to prevent crystal strain and CVD to avoid any blue nuance or phosphorescence changes. Admittedly, the bulk of diamonds in the marketplace available today are CVD, especially in the D/E color and more than 1.25ct. range.
It is noteworthy that in lab-grown diamonds, traits that are symptomatic of poorly/cheaply produced CVD and HPHT items are sought.
Brown and grey undertones, black polycrystalline inclusions (especially on the girdle), strain or graining in the diamond, signs of iterative growth patterns called striations, and obvious HPHT post-growth treatment (which can give a CVD diamond a "straw" or light-yellow grey color) are all indicators of CVD.
Lab experts search for boron's blue nuance, titanium's grey undertone, phosphorescence (which is not the same as fluorescence), growth sector zoning, and metal flux inclusions when it comes to HPHT. From little bags of melee to bigger certified items, the methodology adopted is usually crafted with extreme care.
Major properties of the lab-made diamonds include:
- On the Mohs scale, it has a hardness of ten
- Face centered cubic internal crystal structure
- Hardness comparable to 2.42 vs. mined at 2.42
- SP3 Carbon Diamond Bonds (%) – 100%
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How are Lab-Grown Diamonds Inspected?
Most dealers hand-pick lab-grown diamonds and bring them to their showrooms for examination, where they are confirmed, studied, assessed, videotaped, and tested. To assess the quality of the diamonds, both conventional tools and sophisticated laboratory technology are employed, conducted in a private space with full-spectrum illumination. Some jewelers prefer not to buy diamonds at trade exhibitions or offices where the lighting may be adjusted or enhanced to disguise flaws.
Most of the quality control criteria, like mined diamonds, are based on gemological foundations. The main questions addressed are:
- Is the grade of the diamond correct?
- Is the color, clarity, and cut/make of the product consistent with what they see in person?
Afterward, the cut is thoroughly investigated. An assessment is carried out for bow ties, light leakage, crown paneling, pavilion bulge, culet size, fish eyes, empty and lifeless centers, irregular chevrons, and other features in fancy forms in the above 2 carat diamonds. Taking Ideal Scope or ASET photographs is also an option, but it is believed that ASETs do not tell the whole story of a diamond's look.
Several methods are utilized to measure some of the abnormal properties of lab diamonds after they are obtained. Comparing a lab diamond to others of lesser and superior quality is more effective than examining it in isolation. Dealers worldwide trust the eyes and judgment of lab experts, which is why several clips, comparisons, and opinions are shared with them.
Given that the product has been around for a relatively short time and only a few dealers deal in it, the resale market for lab diamonds is far less than that for mined diamonds. However, if you buy a high-quality lab diamond, there will certainly be a resale market for it. Jewelers who frequently buy lab diamonds from the general public usually face availability shortages.
Diamonds, whether mined or created in a lab, are not investments. These are high-end purchases because a jeweler who buys your diamond secondhand must resell it for a profit. Therefore, you should not expect to receive retail value for your diamond. Consumers have been tricked into believing that diamonds increase in value, which can be irritating. But it is far from being factual; as observed, the value of mined diamonds has not increased in proportion to inflation.
Are there any exceptions, you might inquire? What about an auction sale of an extraordinarily rare 5ct natural blue diamond? Most probably. However, for the average consumer purchasing a 1.5ct G VS1 round, the resale market for natural and lab-grown diamonds is typically a discount off of the retail price. If you are in the trade or have a connection through friends or family, things may differ.
If you buy a mined diamond at retail and then walk with it down the hall to another jeweler and ask them to buy it from you, you will likely be given 25-35 percent of the retail price.
In all honesty, jewelers are not concerned with how much you have spent on your lab-grown diamond when they make an offer for it. Their offers are largely based on market availability of comparable gems and Rapaport discount rates, which is why whether you could get a great price or overpaid while buying it rarely matters. Differently put, an offer is not predicated on a percentage of your payment; it happens to be that way. But if you choose a low-quality, super-cheap lab diamond, you will have a hard time selling it, just as you would with a poor real diamond.
How Obvious is the Difference Between Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are anatomically identical, which is why even a skilled diamond specialist cannot identify the difference with the naked eye. Thus, as some experts suggest, unless you have the services of a 10x microscope magnification, you will not be able to tell the difference. But if you are still concerned, you must bear in mind that mined diamonds are also 40-60% more expensive, implying that a ring with a natural diamond will be significantly smaller than that with a lab diamond. However, some experts believe that 10x magnification may not do the job if a lab-grown diamond is not laser engraved, which some are not.
Be that as it may, blue nuance is a genuine concern since a diamond that has it appears unnatural. HPHT diamonds appear to have a great deal of blue nuance.
CVD stones have strain lines as well and carry a pattern through which they can be identified as lab-grown. These patterns look like internal graining but are visible throughout the stone. In some cases, you may also observe that some post-growth treatment has been carried out to boost their color. As a result, CVD diamonds in the hues D, E, and F do not develop in those colors—they have a brown hue to them as they mature.
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Buying Lab-Made Diamonds Online:
Buying a stone online is not always a horrible idea, especially if you are confident that someone has examined, vetted, and signed it off. In fact, many local jewelers may bring in, though often reluctantly, 1 or 2 lab diamonds to show you, but they may lack the education or product understanding to help you build trust. If you can easily counter the rationale of a salesman with simple chemistry inquiries, you are probably not in the best situation to make this purchase.
You may always buy a diamond loose and inspect it at home, but this method has its own set of constraints. You cannot always buy many stones for a side-by-side comparison, and you can only buy and return enough times until a website rejects your business.
But if shopping online is the only feasible option for you, your best bet is to ensure that you have enough clarity regarding the following points/questions:
- Is the company educated about the product, and do its salespeople appear to be informed about it?
- Will they provide you with several videos or other evidence that a person examined the diamond? Is it merely drop-shipping from a wholesaler, or do they have a quality control process in place?
- Is their return policy reasonable? Do they offer trade-in, resale, or anything relevant indicating that they are willing to accept the diamond back if you do not like it? In other words, do they back their products?
- What are their Yelp ratings like? Many online review sites are easy to fake, but Yelp and Google reviews are more difficult to falsify.
- Although the diamond is an important part of the procedure, do not overlook the rest of the engagement ring. What is the setting's quality like? Where do they come from?
- You have many options when it comes to purchasing an engagement ring, but keep in mind that serenity comes at a price. Expect to pay a premium for the convenience of a stress-free, low-risk, high-quality transaction. Here is our list of best places to buy diamonds or engagement rings for your reference.
- The most unexpected aspect of seeing lab diamonds in person, especially exotic forms such as ovals, is how different they appear from their v360 movies. Low exposure and bright LEDs are frequently used to disguise dark color and light leakage in online videos. Bow ties, in particular, are extremely difficult to discern from videos as compared to in-person. On the other hand, some v360 movies are of such poor quality and improperly recorded that a lab diamond can look stunning even if the video is hideous.
With consideration to the above factors, the following three are the best companies for buying lab-grown diamonds:
James Allen has a large collection of exquisite lab-grown diamonds in a variety of shapes and pricing points. They provide consumers with the greatest quality diamonds and the most extensive variety at extremely competitive prices. If you want to create a unique engagement ring, James Allen offers every tool you will need and makes the process exceedingly simple and enjoyable. "We aim to take what is a famously intimidating process and make it both more transparent and more enjoyable," says Brantner, a James Allen official.
What makes James Allen Special?
James Allen understands that while purchasing an engagement ring online may be simple and fast, it can be difficult to predict how it will look in person. To solve this difficulty, they show their jewelry in spectacular 360-degree video technology mixed with 24/7 customer service and unmatched prices to provide customers a genuinely one-of-a-kind shopping experience, all from the comfort of their own homes. With the Ring Studio, James Allen’s newest services, they are taking a step further by giving clients complete creative control over their setting style, enabling them to choose the metal and design for both the head and shank.
On top of their large stock of natural diamonds, they offer over 35,000 loose lab-created diamonds, which may be placed in any engagement ring. There are also over 1,000 fancy colored lab diamonds available, albeit the great majority are yellow.
James Allen provides exceptional customer service. You may start a real-time diamond consultation if you need assistance. Without making an appointment, you will be required to share your screen with an expert who can assist you in comparing stones and reviewing specifications.
Brilliant Earth is a well-known jeweler selling ethically sourced diamonds, following their policy of "beyond conflict-free" that appeals to socially responsible buyers. It is widely regarded as the best location to buy lab-created diamond engagement rings, with over 30,000 IGI-certified lab diamonds and outstanding ring settings.
What makes Brilliant Earth Special?
Brilliant Earth has a virtual try-on app to help you if you are unsure about what to opt for or want to get a better idea of what a ring might look like in person. This handy service, as the name suggests, allows you to virtually try on engagement rings by just uploading a photo of your hand and picking your preferred ring type. Brilliant Earth also provides virtual sessions and consultations with their jewelry professionals if you need professional advice or want to learn more about lab-grown diamond education.
Brilliant Earth has one of the largest online inventories of loose lab-created diamonds, with over 75,000 available. It also provides a wonderful range of colored lab diamonds, most of which are pink or blue.
The company’s work is not limited to ethical stones; they also create their rings out of recycled metal, decreasing the need to mine new metals. Their ring boxes are crafted from natural wood that has been responsibly sourced. The corporation also has a strong social mission emphasizing giving back to mining communities and supporting rainforest conservation initiatives.
Since its inception in 1999, Blue Nile has grown to become one of the world's most reputable jewelry shops, widely regarded as the industry leader in the internet market for diamonds and engagement rings. Blue Nile can offer stunning engagement rings without sacrificing quality or craftsmanship thanks to their tried and reliable online business model and cheap overhead expenses. In collaboration with Lightbox, the company launched a gorgeous collection of lab-grown diamond rings in 2020. Engagement rings set with white, blue, or pink lab-grown diamonds are featured in this tiny yet eye-catching collection of jewelry.
What makes Blue Nile Special?
In addition to engraving, Blue Nile provides free ring resizing for the first year on all bespoke engagement rings. It also offers a lifetime manufacturer guarantee and a flexible payment plan.
The jewelry items strike a good mix between aesthetics, value, and quality. Every lab diamond is guaranteed to have a minimum clarity of VS and a cut grade of Very Good. Besides, all of Lightbox's lab diamonds are priced at $800 per carat. You may choose from white, baby blue, or blush pink lab diamonds for most jewelry designs. No matter which color you choose, the pricing remains the same. This is an excellent approach to obtaining a colored diamond at a reasonable price.
Available Colors of Lab-Grown Diamonds:
As mentioned earlier, lab-grown diamonds have different colors, ranging from white to green.
Below we will review the colors of man-made diamonds, the available shapes, the cut and clarity, their growth time, and price compared to natural diamonds.
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White Lab-Made Diamonds:
A carbon diamond with zero impurities is referred to as a colorless diamond. However, both natural and man-made diamonds have impurities mainly in nitrogen because nearly every diamond, natural or man-made, starts as a yellow diamond.
The nitrogen lattice in natural diamonds is separated after millions of years of exposure to heat and pressure. The diamond shines white because of the separation.
Our lab-grown diamonds do not have millions of years to split, though growing the diamond with little or low nitrogen produces the same outcome.
To grow a white diamond, an incredibly controlled environment with high temperatures and pressure is needed.
The process of extracting nitrogen and boron from the cell makes the growth slower, for which reason 1.0 carat of a diamond grows in up to two weeks.
Given that the growth of white diamonds is temperamental and time-consuming, their supply is very limited. On the other hand, white, natural diamonds are in abundance, making their cost comparable. The price of natural and man-made white diamonds per carat will fall within the range of $2,100-$8,000, depending on the carat, cut, size, and clarity.
Lab-made diamonds have a clarity ranging from IF to SI2.
Yellow Lab-Created Diamonds:
Like white diamonds, yellow lab-created diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically identical to the naturally mined yellow diamond. Yellow man-made diamonds are available in the yellow color range, from fancy yellow to vivid yellow.
Nitrogen is the primary source of color for naturally mined and artificial diamonds. Introducing impurities at a controlled rate during the culturing process gives the yellow man-made diamond color. The more nitrogen is added to the process, the yellower the diamond, though adding excess nitrogen makes the diamond brownish in appearance.
It takes five to six days to complete a 1.0 to 2.0-carat diamond production cycle in the growth machine. The growth of yellow man-made diamonds is faster because the nitrogen impurities speed up the growth.
Yellow lab-made diamonds are not abundant in nature. Besides, since yellow man-made diamonds cost about 75% less than the scarcely available natural yellow diamond, the yellow man-made diamond is always a good option.
Since yellow man-made diamonds are easier to make, they are less expensive than their natural counterparts.
Most yellow-shaped diamonds grow in a truncated octahedral shape. Shapes like Asscher and Emerald are typically acquired to maximize the yield.
Blue Lab Diamonds:
Blue lab-grown diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically identical to the naturally mined blue diamond. Blue man-made diamonds cost about 90% less than the naturally mined pink diamond. A blue diamond made in the lab ranges from fancy blue to fancy intense blue diamond.
Boron is the source of color for both the natural and lab-made blue diamond. Controlled introduction of boron results in a varied lab-made blue diamond.
A 1.0-carat blue diamond takes approximately 7–10 days to produce. Boron helps in speeding up the growth of the diamond.
A lab-made blue diamond amounts to only 10% of the cost of a natural blue diamond. Besides, it falls within the range of $7000-$12,000 per carat.
Blue diamonds grow in hexa-cubic shapes, while the best produced are usually round and have corner shapes like Cushion and Asscher.
Pink Man-Made Diamonds:
Like white, yellow, and blue diamonds, pink lab-made diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically identical to naturally mined pink diamonds. Pink man-made diamonds cost about 95% less than naturally mined pink diamonds. Pink man-made diamonds range from fancy pink to deep pink diamonds.
While the white, blue, and yellow engineered diamonds get their color during the growth process, the pink lab-created diamonds get their color after growth treatment. The process is referred to as irradiation and annealing.
Pink diamonds can also be made from slightly yellow lab-made diamonds through irradiation. Irradiation means showering the diamonds with neutrons and electrons.
Other diamond colors, such as green, red, and purple, are also available, and their growth process is the same as that of the pink man-created diamond.
Naturally mined pink diamonds cost between $56,000 and $150,000 per carat because of the availability, but a synthetic diamond costs between $3,000 to $10,000 per carat.
The shape of a pink diamond is the same as that of a yellow one.
It depends on the saturation of manufactured diamonds. The lesser the saturation, the lower the clarity.
Other Points Worth Highlighting:
The color of diamonds after production is permanent and is also resistant to wear and tear.
One should be careful when trying to repair the settings of a diamond. Moreover, servicing it to avoid exposure to high temperatures also demands care because exposing the diamond to high temperatures may result in color variance.
Before you decide whether to buy lab-made diamonds, check out lab-made versus natural diamonds for more insights.