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Lab Grown vs Natural Diamonds

Lab grown, or lab created, diamonds feature many characteristics that are identical to that of natural diamond making them virtually impossible for someone to distinguish between the two

The Similarities:

CHEMICAL PROPERTIES

Lab-grown diamonds have the exact same chemical make-up and appearance as a natural, mined diamond. What’s the difference? One was made in a lab and one was made in the Earth’s crust. Previously referred to as “synthetic diamonds,” lab-grown diamonds are in fact 100% real diamonds. In a Federal Trade Commission ruling, the FTC stated “a diamond is a diamond, whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of the ground.”

HARDNESS

Since the only difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is where and how long it took for them to form, lab-grown and natural diamonds both measure at a 10 on the Mohs Scale of hardness.

BRILLIANCE

Lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds are indistinguishable from each other to the naked eye; only a trained gemologist or diamond expert can tell the difference between the two stones and can only do so using high-tech lab equipment. Therefore, both lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds produce the same brilliance, or sparkle.

GRADING

Since lab-grown diamonds have all the same properties as natural diamonds, they are both graded using the 4 C’s : Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat.

COLOR

Naturally-colored diamonds got their unique color hues from traces of other elements interacting with carbon during the diamond formation process. The presence of chemical elements such as nitrogen, sulfur, and boron can color diamonds in shades of yellow, green and blue. When diamonds are being grown in a lab, these same elements can be introduced into the formation process to give these lab-grown diamonds the same color hues as natural diamonds.

The Differences:

COST

Due to the formation process being faster than that of a natural diamond, lab-grown diamonds are less costly to produce at scale. What used to be a 30% price difference several years ago has now ballooned to about 50-70% . Additionally, since natural diamonds are a finite resource, they are far more rare than the infinite number of lab-grown diamonds that can be produced. Over time, we will see the price gap between natural and lab-grown diamonds steepen.

FORMATION

Natural diamonds were formed billions of years ago in carbon atoms found hundreds of miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Exposed to extreme heat and pressure, these tiny carbon atoms began to crystalize and eventually formed rough diamonds. They eventually make their way closer to Earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions where they can be mined and fashioned into polished diamonds.

Contrary to popular belief that lab-grown diamonds are synthetic, these stones are 100% real. Carrying the same chemical properties as a natural diamond, lab-grown diamonds are formed using similar conditions found in nature, just recreated in a lab. These man-made diamonds are formed using two methods : HPHT, which stands for High Pressure, High Temperature, and CVD which stands for Chemical Vapor Deposition.

INCLUSIONS

Flawless diamonds, natural and lab-grown, are extraordinarily rare. Most diamonds have some degree of inclusions—some more visible than others. These inclusions are graded on a scale that factor in the size and type of blemish on or inside the stone.

Since natural diamonds were formed underground over a span of billions of years, many things could have obstructed the growth process causing inclusions. Inclusions occurring in natural diamonds range from crystals, pinpoints, clouds, needles, etc.

In lab-grown diamonds, these inclusions are actually growth remnants. These growth remnants resemble crystals in natural diamonds. In CVD laboratory-grown diamonds, these are often high relief with a dark, graphitized appearance. In HPHT diamonds, these can appear as metallic spheres or rods.

FLUORESCENCE

Diamond fluorescence is caused by trace amounts of aluminum, nitrogen, and/or boron being trapped inside a diamond’s crystal structure. If any amount of these elements is present and absorbed over the billions of years it takes to form a natural diamond in the earth, then that diamond will fluoresce as these elements react to UV light. What most people misunderstand about fluorescence is that it is not a bad trait to have and can work in your favor. In fact, natural diamonds with fluorescence are generally less expensive than their nonfluorescent counterparts.

On the other hand, lab-grown diamonds do not carry any fluorescence as no elements that react to UV light are introduced during the formation process. Some theorize that as time goes on, this differentiation between lab-grown and natural diamonds will cause natural diamonds with fluorescence to rise in popularity.

So, Which is Better for Me?

If you are looking for a lab-grown diamond, you may be wondering if it is the right choice for you. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference. If you want a diamond that was formed in nature over billions of years, then a natural diamond is the way to go. However, if you are looking to get more for your money, a lab-grown diamond may be the better choice.

No matter which type of diamond you choose, both center stone options are beautiful and special in their own ways. Ultimately, it really comes down to what is most important to you when designing your ring.

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