As lab-grown diamonds become more prevalent in mainstream jewelry, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the gems. The phrase “lab-grown,” "synthetic," or "lab-created" brings to mind scientists stirring a vat of mysterious liquid that somehow results in something similar to a diamond being created, but that’s not quite the process. Let’s review a few of the burning questions that may be on your mind when it comes to lab-grown diamonds.

lab grown diamondPhoto courtesy of Lightbox

Are they real?
In short, yes, lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds. They have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties that natural diamonds do; the only difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is the location in which the gems are formed. 

But because lab-grown diamonds are created through a process instead of by nature’s hand, a lab-grown diamond is neither as valuable or precious as a natural diamond. Lab-grown diamonds are as sparkly and beautiful as natural diamonds, just not with the history of a natural diamond. 

How exactly are they created?
Imitating Mother Nature is a bit of a complicated procedure. Lab-grown diamonds are made one of two ways: either through HPHT- High Pressure High Temperature, or CVD- Chemical Vapor Deposition. 

The HPHT method does just what it sounds like- it uses high temperatures and high pressure on a “diamond seed” in order to mimic the conditions within the Earth’s crust that form natural diamonds. HPHT was the first successful method used to create lab-grown diamonds, and is still used today, although more modern strides have been made in recent years.

CVD focuses on a chemical combination of hydrocarbon gas to grow that little diamond seed. Carbon-rich gases are introduced to the seed in a sealed environment, and these gases are ionized, allowing carbon molecules to adhere to the diamond seed and begin to grow, layer by layer. CVD allows for a finer control over the environment in which the diamond is growing, and the temperatures needed for CVD aren’t as high as those required for HPHT.

lab grown diamondPhoto courtesy of Lightbox

What do lab-grown diamonds look like?

Exactly the same as cut natural diamonds! Polishing and cutting diamonds takes a particular skill, and the mark of a good gemcutter is no mark at all- nothing but the beauty of the stone itself. 

Are the 4Cs still used when grading lab-grown diamonds?

Yes, they are. Many companies that are creating lab-grown diamonds assign natural diamond grading standards to their lab-grown diamonds. The truth of the matter is with CVD lab-grown diamonds, the cost to grow a diamond with VVS clarity versus SI clarity is nominal at best. Therefore, with lab-grown diamonds versus natural diamonds, the quality of the diamond no longer plays a part in the rarity or value of a lab-grown diamond.

De Beers, who has entered the lab-grown diamond arena with their Lightbox brand, does not provide grading reports on their diamonds, because Lightbox supports the notion that lab-grown diamonds have no rarity factor. 

Are lab-grown diamonds worth buying?

It depends on your personal preference. If you’re looking for a diamond at a lower price, synthetic diamonds may fit the bill. Lab-grown diamonds possess all the characteristics of natural diamonds, so they’re just as sparkly, just as beautiful, but just not as costly. Since lab-grown diamonds are dependent on technology for their existence, there is strong supporting evidence that as the cost of the technology used to grow these diamonds begins to drop, so will the value of lab-grown diamonds.

However, if you value tradition and the beauty of nature, a natural diamond may be more your style. Natural diamonds come at a higher price, but they are also rare by nature and have better resale value than lab-grown diamonds.

Are lab-grown diamonds for eco-friendly than mined diamonds?

In short, no. It's estimated that lab-grown diamonds produce three times the amount of carbon emissions that natural diamond mining does. Growing diamonds in a laboratory requires a huge amount of energy, with no opportunity for repair to the environment and no financial contribution to the area surrounded a diamond mine. De Beers is the premier diamond company in the world, but the company ensures that after a mine's lifespan is depleted, the mine itself and the area surrounding it are restored to an even better environmental condition than before it was acquired. Lab-grown diamonds have no chance to reverse the significant impact the creation process takes on the environment. 

The financial contributions that diamond mines bring to the community surrounding them are significant; these financial contributions help to eliminate poverty, bring educational opportunities, and offer improvements in healthcare, such as the work done to drastically reduce HIV in many African communities. Lab-grown diamonds aren't being dug up from the ground, and thus aren't presented with the opportunity to positively impact their surrounding community.

Does the GIA certify lab-grown diamonds?

Yes! It is possible to get a report similar to a diamond certificate for the purposes of certifying lab-grown diamonds.
GIA lab grown diamond certification

However, grading reports for synthetic diamonds are nearly pointless. Because natural diamonds vary in color, cut, and imperfections, a grading report records those attributes so that consumers have something that clearly defines a diamond's quality and how rare a particular diamond is. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, are mass-produced to order under strict conditions, and don't have any of the natural variances that natural diamonds do. Getting a grading report can outline the characteristics of a lab-grown diamond, but these diamonds are made to order, so exact specifications can be met without digging into Mother Earth. 

Lightbox is one of the most well-known companies carrying lab-grown diamonds. Launched by the premier diamond company De Beers, Lightbox is the only jewelry company that sources their rough lab-grown diamonds from Element Six, a UK-based laboratory that's also part of the De Beers group. Element Six is a world leader in the technology of lab-grown diamonds, and its association with De Beers means that Lightbox customers can be confident of the quality of these lab-grown diamonds.

The fascination with lab-grown diamonds will only continue to grow over time as techniques are developed and refined. I'm excited to see where these unique gemstones go in the future!

Until next time,


Amelia

Copywriter & E-Commerce Assistant