‘But they’re not real, are they?’ is always, almost inevitably, the first thing that most people say when discussing lab grown diamonds. Which is interesting, because they absolutely are real. Given this common misconception, we thought it would be useful to put together a short guide. So, when you come to making the important decision about which stones to use in your custom engagement ring, you’ll know exactly what your options are.
Everything You Need to Know About Lab Grown Diamonds
What is a lab grown diamond?
Also known as ‘man-made’ or ‘lab-created’ diamonds, lab grown diamonds are formed using cutting edge technology that replicates the natural process of diamond creation – in a lab. The resultant gems are identical in form, chemical make-up and optical brilliance to mined diamonds. The only area of difference is the way in which they are created. But, just as babies conceived via IVF are as perfectly human as their peers conceived via more traditional means, the lab grown diamond is as real as its mined counterpart.
How are lab grown diamonds made?
There are two different techniques used to form diamonds:
No one knows exactly how mined diamonds were formed. It happened around 3 billion years ago. And it’s believed that the process involved carbon dioxide being trapped deep within the Earth and exposed to extreme heat, probably through volcanic activity. These twin factors of “high pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) are employed in the creation of lab grown diamonds today. A small capsule replicates the conditions believed to have created the first diamonds. A carbon source (usually a small slice of diamond) is heated and pressurised until it begins to crystallise. It takes several weeks for the diamond to form.
The second technique is chemical vapor deposition. According to the Gemmological Institute of America, ‘CVD diamond growth takes place inside a vacuum chamber filled with a carbon-containing gas, such as methane. A source of energy—like a microwave beam—breaks down the gas molecules, and the carbon atoms are attracted downward to flat diamond seed plates. Crystallization occurs over a period of several weeks to create a number of crystals at the same time…’
How are lab grown diamonds graded and certified?
The short answer here is that lab-grown diamonds are certified and graded in exactly the same way as mined diamonds. So, if you’re comparing ‘natural’ diamonds with ‘man-made’, there is nothing to complicate the evaluation.
Are there any benefits specific to lab grown diamonds?
In terms of quality, no. A diamond is a diamond. It is what it is. However, there are other considerations to be made:
Many people like the romance of mined diamonds; the idea that this stone they are wearing was created by the Earth. However, there is a reason why the phrase ‘blood diamonds’ has slipped into common parlance. With gem mining funding a huge percentage of modern conflict, there is very little romance to speak of. Although work has been undertaken to reduce this practice, it does still happen. So, if you want to be certain that your gems are conflict-free, then lab grown gemstones are the best option.
You will never find a ‘cheap’ diamond. If you think you have, then the likelihood is that you’ve got your hands on cubic zirconia. However, because mined diamonds remain more popular than lab grown, which means that the market makes them more expensive. In fact, lab grown diamonds can be as much as 30% cheaper than comparable mined stones.
3. Environmental considerations.
No matter how you spin it, mining of any kind is intrinsically bad for the environment. These days, most diamond minding companies take steps to try to protect the ecosystem of the places in which they work. But lab grown diamonds maintain significantly better green credentials. Not just because everything that goes into making them happens in a contained environment, but because their creation requires far less energy than it takes to mine diamonds.
Are there any reasons why I shouldn’t buy lab grown diamonds?
This one is really just down to personal choice. If it’s going to bother you or your intended that your gemstone is man-made, then don’t get one. If you feel that a lab grown diamond will compromise your dream bespoke engagement ring, don’t get one. But if you’re worried that a lab grown diamond is somehow less ‘real’ than mined diamonds, or otherwise lacking in authenticity, then it might be worth thinking again.
Beautiful, ever-lasting and enduringly romantic, a diamond is a diamond, no matter its origin. And what really matters is not what it costs, or where it came from, but what it means to you. So, if your perfect stone happens to come from a lab, then it’s perfect. And no one can argue with that.