One of the most common queries we receive when it comes to engagement rings is whether or not lab-grown diamonds are considered 'real diamonds.'
The reason why some people hesitate to call a lab-grown diamond a 'real' diamond comes down to the fact that most people automatically think of diamonds as being formed deep within the earth, and then mined. That being said, the only difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is the process through which they are formed.
Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are the hardest material on earth (a 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness), use the same colour and clarity grading scale as natural diamonds, and follow the exact same rules as the rest of the 4 C’s used to grade diamond quality. A lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond of the same clarity, cut, colour, and carat size would be identical to the naked eye when put side-by-side.
This means that, to put it simply, yes lab-grown diamonds are absolutely real diamonds.
So What's the Difference Between Lab-Grown Diamonds And Natural Diamonds?
Despite common misconception, the origin of a lab-grown diamond is the only thing that makes it 'different' to a natural diamond.
Natural diamonds are created approximately 90 miles (150 kilometres) beneath the earth’s surface when carbon is exposed to extreme heat and pressure levels over millions, or even billions, of years.
Lab-grown diamonds are also created by exposing carbon to extreme heat and pressure, except instead of this happening ‘naturally’ within the earth, it happens in a laboratory, allowing a diamond to be created within a matter of weeks or months, rather than millions of years.
Can You Tell If A Diamond Is Lab-Grown?
Once a diamond is formed, lab-grown or natural, there are no differences between the two that can be seen by the naked eye. Even certified gemologists will find it a challenge to tell the difference between a natural diamond that was created 5 billion years ago and a lab-grown diamond that was created 2 months ago.
Unlike popular diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia or moissanite, which have very different physical properties to diamonds, lab-grown diamonds carry the exact same sparkle, colour, and brilliance as their naturally-occurring counterparts. As long as a lab-grown diamond is well-cut, it will sparkle just as brilliantly as a natural one. Similarly, if a diamond tester is used to check the authenticity of a lab-grown diamond, the lab-grown diamond would 'pass' the test just as a natural diamond would.
The easiest way for a jeweller to be able to tell whether a diamond is lab-grown or natural is to look for a tiny laser inscription on the girdle (the widest part of the diamond) that many lab-grown diamonds are marked with. This inscription is invisible to the naked eye and can only be viewed under a microscope at 10x magnification.
If there's no laser inscription on the diamond however, things become much more complicated. The next step would be to check the diamond for 'inclusions,' which are tiny flaws that are trapped in the diamond while it is forming. This is because certain inclusions, such as feathering or cloud inclusions, are tell-tale signs that a diamond was formed naturally within the earth. Likewise, 'metallic inclusions' can only be present in lab-grown diamonds.
As you can see however, none of these 'checks' could be carried out by just looking at a diamond.
Why Are Natural Diamonds More Expensive Than Lab Grown Diamonds?
Despite lab-grown diamonds being the same as natural diamonds in every way except how they were made, there is still currently a higher consumer demand for natural diamonds. Since natural diamonds are rarer than lab-grown diamonds, the high demand and comparatively low supply of the precious gems results in their high price tag.
Another factor that causes natural diamonds to be pricier than diamonds created in a lab is the labour and energy that goes into mining natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds have a far shorter journey from origin to retail, since they can be created over a number of weeks or months in a laboratory, making the entire process far less labour-intensive.
Is A Lab-Grown Diamond Right For Me?
Someone might prefer a natural diamond over a lab-grown diamond for any number of reasons, such as tradition, a personal preference for a diamond that was formed many millions of years ago, the misconception that lab-grown diamonds are 'less realm' and even the higher price tag attached to natural diamonds, which sometimes holds its own appeal.
To summarise, the 4 key reasons why you might prefer a lab-grown diamond are as follows:
A common reason to spring for a lab-grown rather than a natural diamond is the lower price tag attached to a lab-grown diamond. On average, lab-grown diamonds are 30% - 40% cheaper than natural diamonds. For this reason, if you or your loved one are set on a certain carat size, ring design, or diamond colouring that falls outside of your budget, a member of our team may suggest a lab-grown diamond, allowing you to have the piece of your dreams at a price that works for you.
2. Personal Style
A popular choice for engagement ring shoppers are coloured diamonds, also known as 'fancy' diamonds, which come in tones of reds, pinks, blues, and greens. Fancy diamonds are created as the result of a chemical being trapped in the diamond as it is forming. Because it's so rare for this to happen naturally, fancy natural diamonds are among the most expensive diamonds. Lab-created fancy diamonds can be a more cost-friendly alternative for those who would like their diamonds to have an eye-catching splash of colour.
3. Ethical Concerns
Another reason some prefer lab-grown diamonds is due to concerns they may hold regarding the amount of energy consumed during the mining process necessary to harvest natural diamonds, or the labour conditions of those working in the mines.
4. Changing Opinions
While there’s no denying that natural diamonds are highly valued by many jewellery shoppers, a study conducted by MVI Marketing revealed that millennials are less interested than older generations in buying mined diamonds, and most millennials show a strong level of interest in lab-grown diamonds. Similarly, an uptick in the popularity of non-diamond engagement rings that feature other precious stones such as sapphires and rubies, shows an increasing interest in non-traditional bridal jewellery.
This chart shows increasing search trends for lab-grown diamonds since 2004.
Still unsure whether a lab-grown diamond is right for you? Here at Sonny's, we offer both lab-grown and natural diamonds. Don't hesitate to contact us – we're happy to help you make this all-important decision.