It’s hard to get an unbiased take on lab grown diamonds. They’ve been popping up recently as a new option all over
When you ask someone who sells lab-grown diamonds… it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Ask a jeweler who doesn’t sell it, and you’ll probably hear all about how it’s an absolute waste of money.
What is a Lab Grown Diamond?
A lab grown diamonds has the exact same chemical, physical and optical features as a natural stone, just grown in a machine rather than the earth. Both are made of carbon and will test as a diamond...because they both are!
Lab Grown Diamond Grading
Lab grown diamonds are graded on the same scale as a natural diamond taking into consideration the 4C's - Carat weight, Color, Clarity and Cut. While the GIA does grade man made diamonds, you will see more grading reports from the IGI because they cornered the market long ago. Both grading labs, in addition to GCAL, are very reputable.
Average Cost of Lab Grown Diamonds
While it does cost money to grow a lab diamond, it is significantly less than what it takes to mine a natural stone. As such, those savings are passed along to you, the consumer. Typically, a lab grown diamond with the same specs (4C's) as a natural will cost about 1/3 to 1/4 of the price. Not bad, my friends, not bad at all! The only downside you have to consider is there really isn't a resale value for a lab grown on the secondary market. Since they can grow in a matter of a few weeks, they aren't considered rare. Check out the handy chart below to see just how much you can save when buying a lab versus a natural. One thing to note, all of the diamonds compared here have the Rare Carat Ideal cut grade and no fluorescence.
*Diamond prices fluctuate daily, this chart is for comparison purposes only. Prices may have changed since this chart was created (3/23/22)
Pros & Cons of Lab Created Diamonds
- You’ll get a bigger diamond for the same budget. They are less expensive than natural diamonds for the same quality.
- They will look the same - and they are chemically the same. Just made in a different way.
- They are ethical and have trackable origin sources (though ‘blood diamonds’ are uncommon these days).
- They are viewed as more sustainable and eco-friendly (though it still takes a lot of energy to make).
- The resale value is more uncertain - so if that matters, you may want to go with natural. Natural diamonds have been around for decades and have largely held value. You should expect your natural diamond to sell for less than retail value, but that value at wholesale has largely held steady. In the last few years that lab-grown has come into existence, supply and production have increased, causing prices to fall. We expect this trend to continue.
- Perception matters. If this is a surprise proposal you may want to consider whether your soon-to-be-fiancee would be ok with a lab-grown diamond…or would she think it’s ‘not the real deal’.
- Not the norm. At least today, the large majority of people still buy natural diamonds for their engagement ring (though the gap is starting to close).
Lab Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds
While lab created diamonds and natural diamonds look exactly the same to the naked eye, there are certainly differences at the microscopic and molecular levels. These differences are hard to catch and usually require expensive equipment even for the most experienced gemologist.
Since they are grown differently, the types of inclusions they have are going to be different. HPHT diamonds mainly contain metal inclusions found in the growth solution. Fun Fact: lower clarity (SI2-I3) stones can be magnetic! CVD diamonds usually contain non-diamond carbon inclusions. Typically, it's hard for a trained gemologist to discern the different inclusion types though with just a microscope or loupe, especially in a higher clarity stone (VS2+).
Sometimes, when a diamond is exposed to UV light, after the source is taken away, it will glow a different color (usually blue or orange). This is called phosphorescence and it's actually really cool! Almost all HPHT grown diamonds will have some degree of phosphorescence and it is often used as a distinguishing feature between natural and lab stones. Some CVD stones will have it as well, especially if it was treated with HPHT for color, but it's less common. Currently, phosphorescence is not listed on the grading reports from GIA, IGI or GCAL.
Blue Tint (Nuance)
Sometimes a lab grown diamond will have a blue tint to it. This is the result of trace amounts of the mineral boron (also what makes a blue diamond, blue) which is sometimes used in the growing chamber to remove excess nitrogen (what gives a diamond its yellow tint). It's very expensive and time-consuming to remove boron, so the growers will just leave it. The IGI will list 'faint blue' or 'blue nuance' (older reports) under the additional comments if there is a tint present in G or lower color graded diamonds. The GIA is currently not listing it on their reports.
If you are sensitive to color, you may be able to pick up on this slight blue tint. It's harder to see face up than from the side or bottom - which luckily is how the diamond is set in the ring. As you can see in the images, there is a slight difference when looking at the stones from the sides, but not as much from the top. Keep in mind, the blue tint is much less recognizable in person than it is in images because of the different backgrounds, lighting and cameras used.
Post Growth Treatment
Post growth treatment may sound scary and like something to avoid, but it's actually just another step in the growing process for a CVD diamond. 70% of all CVD diamonds come out of the growing chamber with a noticeable brown or yellow tint so growers will use HPHT to remove some of the (or all if they are lucky) color. This treatment is stable and will not change the diamond over time. It can be exposed to heat from a jeweler's torch or a steam cleaner and it will not change back to its original color. Post Growth treatment is listed on the grading reports for both IGI and GIA under the additional comments section. This is not done to scare you or to sway you away from considering a stone with PGT, but merely to provide as much detailed information about the diamond as possible.
We've made it easy to search for lab grown diamond engagement rings on our site! When you're on the search page, just be sure to have the 'Lab' button clicked. There you will be able to see all the lab created diamonds available within your specs and budget.
Once you pick out your setting, click the 'complete ring with setting' button to be taken to the checkout page. If you don't find a setting you absolutely love, all of our retailers offer custom design as well. Just chat with a gemologist to get started on your design.
There you can choose how you'll pay for the ring (we accept PayPal, credit/debit and offer a few different financing methods). Keep in mind, ship and production times take approximately 2-3 weeks - you will get an email the night before the package ships out so you can plan for an adult to be home to sign for It.
Can you tell the difference between lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds?
Nope…unless you have expensive and high tech lab equipment. They will look exactly the same to anyone looking at them. Physically, they are the same. Side by side, you are not going to see any difference with the naked eye - nor will her judgey friend or your soon-to-be mother in law. However, if you ever take it to a jeweler or send it in to get certified, equipment will be able to tell the difference.
Are lab grown diamonds real diamonds?
Yes. A lab grown diamond is a real diamond that has the same chemical, physical and optical features as a natural just grown in a machine rather than the earth. It will test as diamond on a handheld diamond tester and by a gemologist because it is!
Can a jeweler tell if a diamond is lab grown?
It depends. Usually yes, if they know how to check the girdle for a laser inscription. Most lab grown diamonds will have a clear inscription that states it's lab grown along with the grading report number. Without looking at the inscription, it's very hard to tell the difference with regular testing equipment not found in a lab like GIA or IGI. Testing devices are becoming more popular for the industry, but they are still quite costly and don't always work 100%. It also depends on how much training the person has. If you take the stone to a Graduate Gemologist it may be easier for them to tell the difference versus a jewelry store salesperson or even bench jeweler.
Are lab grown diamonds eco-friendly? Are they ethical?
Yes, they are ethical. Lab diamonds are also a responsible, eco-friendly choice since no mining is required. While it does take a lot of energy to make them, lab diamonds are perceived as the more sustainable option because of the environmental implications of mining diamonds (like anything you mine from the Earth).
Natural diamonds have a pretty unfortunate history where blood diamonds were present. Since then, there has been an international effort to get these out of the supply chain (called the Kimberley Process) - some activists argue the process is not effective enough, and on the other end, some argue that mining provides livelihoods and export income for these countries… Regardless, all sellers listed on Rare Carat must have conflict-free policies, and we’re working with companies like Everledger so you can see the origin of your natural diamond.
Where should I buy lab grown diamonds?
You can search across lab grown diamonds on Rare Carat. But regardless of where you buy, GIA gemologists are available to help you.
Are lab grown diamonds worth buying?
Absolutely! Just because they don't hold much, if any, value on the secondary market doesn't mean they aren't a great option. The old adage, spend 3 months worth of your salary on a diamond has gone out the window. With a lab grown diamond you can get a larger, higher quality stone for less. The best part about it...nobody will ever be able to tell the difference!
Do the 4 C’s apply to lab grown diamonds? How do I value lab grown diamonds?
Lab created diamonds are grown in a lab, not by nature - but it’s still the same chemical structure. Lab grown diamonds can have inclusions just like natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds can be flawless, but like natural diamonds, most are not. So you can go ahead and look for the same things (carat, cut, color, clarity).
It is harder for the lab grown process to make bigger and higher quality diamonds - so like natural, these are rarer.
In terms of the 4 Cs,
The larger the carat size,
The higher the color,
The higher the clarity,
And the higher the cut,
… the rarer and more expensive.
Do lab grown diamonds have resale value? Are lab grown diamonds a good investment?
Great question. It’s hard to see into the future, but in general, our honest opinion is not as much as natural diamonds.
When you go to sell a natural diamond, you are probably going to see a haircut on the retail value you spent. This is because the diamond wholesaler then has to go back and find a retailer to buy it, the retailer has to stock it and add a margin for their services. Depending on how much you shopped around & whether you ended up buying at a branded jeweler, we’d expect you get something in the range of 40-75% of what you bought it for. (Branded jewelers will charge a higher margin so you’ll get less back). However, that underlying wholesale value has largely held steady over the years, and that is what is considered when buying a diamond back from a consumer.
On the other hand, valuing lab grown diamonds is tough, because wholesale prices have been falling in the last few years as more supply has come into the diamond industry. Our general opinion is that we expect them to fall more over the next few years as more supply becomes available, before diamond prices settle down.
Lab created diamonds should definitely be less expensive than a natural diamond of the same quality.
Do lab grown diamonds hold their value?
Not as well as a natural diamond, no. Diamonds in general are not the best financial investment, natural or lab, but a lab will lose more monetary value faster than a natural stone because they aren't considered rare.
How are lab created diamonds made exactly?
There are two ways you can create a diamond in a lab: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD diamonds) and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT). Typically the method of creation doesn't matter...at the end of the process you still get a beautiful diamond!
The HPHT method is the closest to the natural process - it crystallizes carbon through (wait for it) high pressure and high temperatures. This is similar to the heat and pressure deep within the Earth. Fun fact: General Electric was the first to successfully grow diamonds in 1954 using this method (besides Mother Nature who precedes them by just a couple of millennia). Since this is the more expensive process, it's usually reserved to create lab grown melee.
Created back in the 1970s, the CVD method is quickly becoming the preferred way to create diamonds since the machines are much smaller, use less energy and cut down on growing time. The process starts with an HPHT grown seed crystal that is inserted into a CVD reactor chamber. A concoction of gases, primarily hydrogen (95%-99%) and methane gas (1%-5%), is injected into the chamber and heated by a microwave beam. The gas molecules split and are attracted to the cooler part of the chamber where the seed is carefully temperature controlled. The molecules literally rain down onto the seed, growing diamond in layers. When the final product comes out, it doesn't look much like typical diamond rough - it's in a cube shape and has black carbon surrounding it. Using a laser, the growers will cut off this excess carbon and usually treat the rough using the HPHT process to remove the brownish tint (this is a stable process known as post-growth treatment and will be listed on the grading report).
Get the full story about how these two processes work HERE.
How is this different from diamond simulants and synthetics?
‘Synthetic diamond’ usually refers to a lab grown diamond. And yes lab grown diamonds are ‘real diamonds’. They are chemically the same. Synthetic doesn’t sound as nice so not used as much. A ‘simulant’ usually refers to something like a moissanite or cubic zirconia. These are not chemically diamonds, but kinda look like a real diamond.
Does GIA certify lab grown diamonds?
They sure do! The reports look different than the natural ones (aren't they so pretty?), but that's so people don't get them mixed up. The grading process is exactly the same and the report still contains all of the same information that you see on a natural diamond report. Lab grown diamond reports are only available electronically though (way to go GIA for being more eco-friendly), which means you will not get a physical copy of the report when you order a lab grown diamond that has been graded by GIA. You can access the report via their report check function online.
You will still see more IGI reports for lab grown diamonds though. Why? GIA just revamped their LDG grading reports back in October 2020 so there aren't as many GIA graded stones on the market yet. Also, IGI took over the lab grown diamond market and became the leader in grading them. I'm sure GIA will catch up to them, but it's going to take a little bit. Nothing to worry about though, all of our Graduate Gemologists are experienced working with reports from both labs.
Why are lab grown diamonds worthless?
They aren't! While a lab grown diamond may not have a ton of monetary value on the secondary market after the initial purchase, they are still full of sentimental value. Isn't that the most important part of an engagement ring or diamond gift anyway?
In our opinion, three things matter when deciding between a natural, mined diamond and lab created diamond:
- Your budget
- Her preferences
- Whether you care about resale value
A natural diamond is a safe choice that the majority of people choose, and women are less likely to object to. While you will never resell it for more than you paid, you’ll roughly see prices in line for the same diamond next year, and the diamond should store the majority of its value into the future.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a more sustainable (and obviously conflict-free) option or prefer having a bigger diamond for your budget - go lab-grown, provided you’re confident she’ll be okay with it. For some people, it can feel like it’s not the ‘real deal’. Perception matters.
There is no one-size fits all answer here. If you want to talk it out, our gemologists have one rule: tell you what they would tell their best friend, so just chat us now.