While they may not be able to be seen with the naked eye, there actually are some major differences between natural and lab grown diamonds. Just as the name applies, lab grown diamonds are man-made in a laboratory, instead of recovered from the earth like natural diamonds. While they technically have been around since the 1980s, lab grown diamonds have only recently been able to be produced inexpensively in gem quality. But before you make a decision to purchase a lab grown diamond, there are a few things you should know. Lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds may have the same chemical properties, but they are certainly not equal. Thanks to some help from our friends at Orr’s Jewelers and the Natural Diamond Council, we’re sharing how they compare and contrast so that you can make the best informed buying decision for YOU.
How They Are Produced
One of the biggest ways lab grown diamonds differ from natural ones is how they are produced. A natural diamond is the result of pure carbon being exposed to a perfect combination of natural heat and pressure deep within the Earth. This happens on average 1-3 billion years ago and 100 miles below the Earth’s surface. These extreme conditions and non-carbon material causes some natural diamonds to form with inclusions. These can include tiny black spots, feathers, or pinpoints and they are factored into a diamond’s clarity grade. Natural diamonds are like time capsules and inclusions are their hitchhikers from billions of years in the past.
Contrarily, lab grown diamonds are made in about 2-3 weeks using two different methods that seek to mimic the conditions that happen naturally in the Earth. These also lead to growth marks and other telltale signs of the industrial production methods. Despite some belief that lab grown diamonds are flawless, most of them still contain blemishes and imperfections. Despite what some are told, lab grown diamonds are not identical to natural diamonds and they can be detected 100% of the time.
Ecological & Societal Impact
The natural diamond industry has worked tirelessly to transform itself over the last 20 years. Although they represented a small percentage of diamonds recovered, it is true that conflict diamonds existed. With efforts like the UN mandated Kimberley Process, the flow of diamonds from conflict areas has been dramatically reduced so that now more than 99.9% of diamonds are certified conflict free. In addition, the leading diamond producers are committed to controlling and reducing the environmental impact of mining. Using recycled water in diamond recovery and using wind energy facilities to power a mine’s needs are just a few of the mitigation efforts in place. Moreover, the natural diamond industry employs nearly 10 million people worldwide and helps local communities with development and long-term sustainability of things like schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure. For instance, Botswana, the largest diamond producing country, now has the highest GDP per capita of any other continental African country thanks to diamonds making up 90% of its exports. Natural diamonds directly and positively impact the people and communities in which they are found.
Lab grown diamonds are marketed as the more eco-conscious choice. However, they are man-made and anything man-made leaves some kind of ecological footprint. In the case of lab grown diamonds, their environmental impact is usually more than what consumers are led to believe. The production of lab grown diamonds requires massive amounts of heat and energy, usually in the form of fossil fuels, as well as significant amounts of water in order to artificially mimic the conditions that happen naturally in the earth that form diamonds. The carbon emissions of lab grown diamonds is estimated to be three times higher than that of natural ones. While consumers will likely find a lot of buzzwords on the websites of lab grown diamond manufacturers, many of the claims pertaining to environmental impact are unsubstantiated.
One of the appealing factors of lab grown diamonds is the cost. Just like any other simulated product, they are far less expensive than their natural counterparts, making them a possible choice for budget conscious couples. Because lab grown diamonds can be mass produced, there is no cap on the supply and they are much more widely available. This in turn drives the market price down. As production methods continue to evolve and lab grown diamonds become easier to make, the cost will continue to decrease even further.
On the other hand, natural diamonds are far more valuable than lab grown ones because they are a finite natural resource. The number of diamonds found yearly is gradually decreasing. In fact, the number of 1-carat diamonds recovered in a year could only fill an exercise ball, and the number of diamonds five carats and larger recovered in a year could fit inside a basketball! While natural diamonds are scarce, the demand for them is high. This makes them much more valuable, which is why decades of price data shows they only increase in value over time, opposite to the gradual decrease in value of lab grown diamonds.
One of the major disadvantages of a lab grown diamond is that they have virtually no resale value. Because lab grown diamonds are a manufactured product, the supply is unlimited and they continue to become cheaper to manufacture. This lack of scarcity depreciates the value, which is why most jewelers prohibit trade-ins and buy-backs of lab grown diamonds. Similar to a flat screen TV purchased 10 years ago that would have no value today.
Natural diamonds are just the opposite, however. Their resale value is quite high and is projected to only increase as natural diamonds continue to grow rarer. While we hope that you love your diamond forever, if you think there is a possibility that you may want to upgrade or sell your diamonds at some point in the future, the resale value of lab grown versus natural diamonds is definitely something that should be considered.
The word diamond comes from the Greek word “adamas”, meaning unbreakable or unalterable, just like love. The Romans even believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped in diamonds.The first record of a diamond being used in an engagement ring dates back to 1447, sparking the tradition among European aristocracy and nobility, a tradition which continues today. Despite their rising popularity, lab grown diamonds still aren’t regarded as highly as their natural counterparts. A large majority of consumers don’t consider them to be “real diamonds” since they are produced in a factory and not formed naturally by the Earth. Even though they have the same chemical makeup, they can still be detected with 100% certainty, causing lab grown diamonds to be perceived as artificial, less romantic, or less special by some.
Lab grown and natural diamonds each have their own unique sets of pros and cons. The key is to determine what factors are most important to you. For some, this may be the cost, in which case a lab grown diamond may be the better choice. On the other hand, natural diamonds would be more suited for those who prefer a one-of-a-kind luxury product with a high market value that contributes to the livelihoods of 10 million people globally.. Either way, educate yourself on the differences between the two to determine the best fit for you.
A HUGE thanks to Orr’s Jewelers and the Natural Diamond Council for teaming up with Burgh Brides to bring you this post. While we were compensated for our work, all writing, thoughts, opinions, recommendations, and love for the brands are our own. You can read our full sponsored content disclosure policy.