Diamonds are incredibly resilient and beautiful, so they’re super pricey and feature on a wide range of jewelry designs. But not everyone subscribes to their use, as these gemstones are plagued with specific ethical and financial drawbacks. So, to tackle these issues, scientists discover a new way to offer you the same value with less bother on your conscience by providing lab-created diamonds.
But to a newbie, the term can be a bit confusing and discouraging in many cases. Not everyone understands what lab-created diamonds are. And to those who have an idea of these gemstones, there may still be a bit of lingering doubt regarding whether they match the real deal. Here, we’ll discuss what these lab-made stones comprise and touch how they compare to mined diamonds. We’ll also examine the price ranges and analyze how this factor and others perform next to regular diamonds. And finally, we’ll help you decide if choosing a lab-grown diamond is the best fit for your needs.
Lab-Grown Diamonds- Definition and Manufacturing
From its name, a lab-created diamond is self-definitive, meaning it’s manufactured in a lab. But it’s also so much more, and the distinct physical and chemical properties it exhibits are just as impressive as mined diamonds. Technically, a lab-created, cultured, engineered, or lab-grown diamond is a manufactured diamond crystal created through similar processes and materials as mined diamonds. They were also considered ‘synthetic’ diamonds, but this term was later considered obsolete by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in 2019. And the reason is simple; they’re virtually no different from traditional diamonds!
Natural diamonds were formed when carbon atoms were exposed to intense temperature and pressure in the earth’s core for billions of years. These stones stayed buried deep in the earth for as far as 100 miles underground and were forced out during volcanic eruptions. Upon their discovery, humans began mining these diamonds by digging through surfaces of such conditions, and it’s how the diamond mining industry was established. And for years, mined diamonds were considered the most valuable mineral gemstones worldwide.
But with the evolution of science and technology, humans discovered they could recreate the same natural processes that create diamonds in an artificial and controlled environment. And because natural diamonds are formed from carbon atoms, such a source material was needed to replicate the process. Lab-created diamonds were grown using a diamond seed- a tiny piece of diamond-coated in pure carbon and sealed in a controlled chamber exposed to similar environmental conditions that produced diamonds from carbon atoms. And the result was an engineered diamond that offers equal physical, chemical, and gemological properties as its mined counterparts.
Lab-create diamonds are produced using two distinct methods: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). And while both processes use different technology, they produce the same result.
The High Pressure-High Temperature procedure (HPHT) involves exposing the diamond seed to extreme heat- around 2700F- and pressure- up to 1.5 million pounds per in2. The combination of these conditions causes the carbon to melt around the diamond seed, after which it’s gradually cooled to produce a pure diamond.
However, the Chemical Vaporization deposition method (CVD) uses a different process and involves the introduction of gases to a diamond seed produced from the HPTP method. The seed is positioned in a sealed chamber and heated before the chamber is filled with gases. The temperature requirements for CVD are usually less than that for HPHT (around 1472F), and the gases used are rich in carbon atoms. And after they’re added, the gases ionize into plasma, causing the carbon bonds to break and allowing them to stick to the diamond seed. A slow crystallization process follows that turns the ingredients into a pure diamond.
Lab-Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds
It’s one thing to know how lab-created diamonds are made, but another to understand precisely how similar they are to natural diamonds. For one, both gemstones contain the same chemical compositions and share similar physical and gemological properties. And while they’re built in a lab, manufactured diamonds are still considered natural diamonds.
Lab-created diamonds are virtually identical to traditional diamonds and can come in the same size, shape, color, and clarity grades. They’re also just as durable as they rate a nine on the Mohs scale and are graded similarly, using the 4C’s- cut, color, clarity, and carat. These factors are made from the same chemical materials and environmental conditions. You’ll also find that engineered diamonds exhibit the same sparkle, scintillation, and fire as traditional diamonds and can also come with a gem certification since they’re graded in the same manner.
But you must also note that because they’re made in a lab, these cultured diamonds may carry trace elements absent in naturally-occurring diamonds. And because they’re also mass-produced, you may barely find unique designs or colors, as expected from natural ones. The inclusions in these manufactured gemstones are sometimes different from those in a mined one. And in some cases, you’ll find some exhibiting a distinct refraction property than natural diamonds.
But besides these factors, lab-created diamonds are, in every sense, natural diamonds. This fact should put your mind at ease since the central dilemma comes from the worry that they won’t possess a similar quality because they’re lab-created. It’s quite the opposite since both stones carry similar carbon atoms transformed by similar environmental factors. Therefore, the main distinction you can assume is that engineered diamonds don’t require extensive mining to acquire, unlike traditional diamonds.
Still, the certification processes require that it’s indicated in the reports that a stone is either natural or lab-made. And it’s only through this process that one can honestly tell if a diamond is manufactured. Gemological institutes use specialized equipment to detect the minute differences between a traditional diamond and an engineered one. And the result is recorded in the grading report and certification, so an interested buyer can be sure about what he’s choosing.
Why Choose a Lab-Grown Diamond?
Once you’re familiar with what a lab-created diamond is, one question remains to be answered. Yes, you’re sold because they’re in all ramifications authentic, but you may still wonder if they’re the best choice. To help, take a look at the numerous perks of owning an engineered diamond.
Ethical Origin One main problem with owning a traditional diamond is that you may be unsure about its origin. While this may not be a problem, many still consider it a big deal, making it a vast tiebreaker when buying a natural diamond. And the reason can be summed in four words; conflict and blood diamonds.
A conflict diamond is a gemstone mined from a region dominated by wars and violent uprising. And in most cases, the diamond industries of these regions are controlled by the dictating forces of such regions. The gems are further used to fund operations and weapons purchases to encourage such clashes.
On the other hand, a blood diamond has a more saddening definition. It’s described as any diamond in which mining, manufacturing, and trade encourage the trampling of persons’ human and civil rights. If its trade and mining are marred by rape, exploitation, murder, genocide, assault, war, abuse, slavery, or child labor, among other things, it’s considered a blood diamond.
These factors have plagued the trade of natural diamonds for decades. Even after the Kimberly Process was established, brows were raised on how efficiently the scheme can trace a stone’s origin, mainly a vintage or heirloom asset. And even when these issues aren’t faced, the mining procedures of diamonds expose workers to hazardous environments- conditions that may not sit well with interested purchasers.
But these issues aren’t faced with engineered diamonds, as you can tell precisely where it’s made and the human conditions surrounding their creation. All lab-created diamonds are conflict-free and never involve any human or civil rights abuse.
1. Pocket-Friendly Price
Diamonds are renowned for their incredibly high price, and stones can range from $10,000 to $3 million, depending on their size and quality. And even the lowest-priced natural diamonds can be quite expensive, as these stones are rare and limited in supply. Such issues aren’t faced with lab-grown diamonds, and most times, they’re offered at prices 20% to 40% less than traditional diamonds due to their short supply chain. And at such price ranges, you’ll get a similar cut, carat, color, and clarity desired from a natural diamond without having to break two thousand piggybanks!
2. Variety of Options
While diamonds come in varying sizes and shapes, only a few hit the top-quality requirements to make them highly sought. For one, coming across completely white and flawless natural diamonds is incredibly slim. And larger gems cost even more, with some never reaching the market but kept in display at museums and exhibitions. Plus, the pricing of these stones is influenced by the color grading and cut, creating a valuation influx the average person can meet. But because lab-grown diamonds are moderately priced, you can browse through these attributes and get your desired gem while spending less of what it’ll require for a traditional diamond. You can also opt for more clarity, higher purity, a better cut, and even select rare colors in natural diamonds at half the price!
3. The Drawbacks of Lab-Grown Diamonds
The numerous advantages of engineered diamonds have garnered much appeal for these lab-grown stones. And today, many have subscribed to the idea of replacing their need for a natural diamond with a cultured one. But not everyone has jumped to this bandwagon due to specific reasons. And some of them may cause you to rethink before selecting a lab-created diamond.
Mined Diamonds vs. Lab-Created Diamonds- Resale Value
Lab-grown diamonds are undoubtedly more affordable than natural ones, but they can still command a decent amount of bucks. And sometimes, you may purchase one for as much as $5,000. But while it does save you extra cost compared to a mined stone, the monetary value won’t improve over time.
A natural diamond is considered a high-value asset, and its industry influences the price to rise and fall over time. But most times, the value spikes, and if you own one, you’ll be making a profit. But there isn’t much future value for lab-create diamonds since they can be mass-produced. The only benefit you’ll get is purchasing it at a much lesser price than a natural stone of similar attributes- most jewelers won’t repurchase it. And even if you manage to sell it, you’ll do so at less cost. This indicates that while a lab-grown diamond is for jewelry, it isn’t a good option if you’re thinking of the investment value.
Mined Diamonds vs. Lab-Created Diamonds- Ecological Debates
Most supporters of the engineered diamond trade cite the toll mining diamonds take on the environment, and somehow, they have a point. The extensive excavation and digging required to extract one pound of natural diamonds are staggering. And most times, entire ecosystems are displaced, tons of mineral wastes are generated, and lots of energy is exhausted to harness these stones. A review revealed that mining one carat of diamond produces 125 pounds of carbon 30 pounds of sulfur oxide and uses up to 538.5 million joules of water and 126 gallons of water. Such enthusiasts frowned upon these extreme requirements, who preach that manufactured diamonds use fewer resources and generate less waste.
But even lab-made diamonds are plagued with various environmental hazards that arise from their production. Pro-natural diamond supporters insist that lab-created diamonds require the establishment of factories that consume tons of power and energy. Plus, these facilities employ extreme heat and gases that many consider harmful to the environment. In one report stated in a 2019 Forbes article, diamond manufacturing labs were linked to methane to extract carbon, and the latter is renowned for being harmful to the atmosphere. And diamond-producing labs are known for expending up to 2000F of heat to create these stones.
While the drawbacks of mined diamonds are renowned, the trade and industry still boom to date. The reason is due to various factors, with one primary option being that it’s been in existence for decades. But it’s easier to discourage prospective buyers from subscribing to lab-made diamonds, as the market is still new and prone to shifting opinions and contradictions.
Should You Choose a Lab-Grown Diamond?
With all this information revealed, the question still lingers regarding whether or not a manufactured diamond is your best choice. But it doesn’t have to be a hard decision, provided you know what to look for. For starters, they make excellent fashion accessories and can match the allure and appeal of natural diamonds. Plus, they’re pocket-friendly, and you can purchase a top-quality stone with the same features as a mined gem at virtually half the price.
But when buying a lab-grown diamond, you should remember that while it seems pricey now, the chances of its value dropping in the future are high. These manufactured gems are mass-produced, so as more options are created for the market, previously manufactured stones become less valuable. As such, only consider them if you don’t plan to dwell on the investment advantages of diamonds.
Diamonds are unique, even when they’re lab-created. And these lab-made stones offer equal quality, durability, and allure as their mined brothers. But it helps to note their various distinctions before deciding whether you should get one. Lab-created diamonds are a fun option, but applying the correct information before choosing one is key to ensuring your purchase satisfies your need.