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Natural versus Lab Grown Diamonds

Author: Leo Muller
What is the difference between natural and synthetic or lab grown diamonds?

choosing between diamond mine and diamond machine

What is a natural diamond?

A natural diamond was formed over a long period in the core of earth through a natural process. There the high pressure and temperature shaped the carbon over more than a billion years into a diamond.

What is a Lab Grown diamond?

A lab grown diamond was created in a lab in a manner of weeks. In a pressure chamber and under high temperatures the same as in earth’s core was mimicked. There a grain of diamond was grown into a larger crystal.

What is the difference between synthetic and lab grown diamonds?

Lab grown diamonds and synthetic diamonds are the same, just two terms to describe the same. The people that make Lab Grown diamonds don’t like the term ‘synthetic’, because it implies that these are not real diamonds, but they are.

How is a diamond grown in a lab?

A grain of diamond is put under high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) by a very hot press with added high purity carbon, and is pressed into a larger crystal. The high temperature will melt the carbon. Another technique is called Chemical Vapour Deposition (VCD), in which a grain of diamond is grown in a chamber by being in a ionized gas mixture of which part is carbon based. The chamber is heated and the diamond grain will turn into a plasma state. The gasses in the chamber will mix into the plasma and grow the grain of diamond.

Can you tell the difference?

So here is the thing, at this time you can’t tell the difference between them. Your jeweler and not even a gemologist won’t be able to tell them apart. Very advanced labs that have advanced and expensive equipment can distinguish by looking at the crystal formation. Both diamonds are made from carbon and have the same physical properties and chemical composition. They have the same hardness, density, refractive index and crystalline structure. Telling the difference may not me easy, but it is possible. The key is to make sure your diamond comes with a grading report from an advanced gemological lab.

Does it matter?

If you can’t see the difference, what does it matter? Well, the value of a diamond comes partly from the fact that it is rare. Lab grown diamonds can theoretically be made in any quantity and the carbon needed exists in abundance, and can therefore bring the price down of diamonds of all kinds altogether.

Why are lab grown diamonds better?

Why are natural diamonds better?

Can colored diamonds be lab grown?

Most lab grown diamonds are transparent, and so are most gem grade diamonds to begin with. But there seems to be a notion that there colored diamonds are immune to be being replicated in a lab. However, also colored diamonds can be grown in a lab, just pick blue, yellow, green brown or orange.

What is more valuable, a lab grown or natural diamond?

A natural diamond is rare and created by nature and will always be more expensive than a lab grown diamond.

What is a fake diamond?

A fake diamond is something that is sold as a diamond but is not. There are many diamond substitutes for many reasons. Sometimes just as a place holder, so you can buy the diamond of your choice separately and have it put in afterwards. A jeweler may have 200 different rings in store, but not 200 diamonds, that would be too expensive to keep in stock. Low quality fakes can be plastic or glass. High quality fakes can be Moissanite (SiC, a rare mineral, but created synthetically), Cubic zirconia (CZ, zirconium dioxide, ZrO2) or other look alike gemstones.
A jeweler will never sell a fake diamond as being a real diamond. A jeweler will take the time to explain what it is that you are buying. But if you buy on eBay or Amazon, you should be careful, because you the information there can be misleading.

Tools to tell them apart

There are tools available to tell apart natural diamonds from lab grown diamonds. But most of these tools are biased, because they use the logic that if the diamond is too perfect it must be lab grown. Unfortunately there are two flaws with this: First there are really those perfect natural diamonds in existence. Secondly, the diamond producer can add artificial impurities to mimic real diamonds. Tools available are “Diamond Spotter”, “Diamond Sure”, spectrometers and many more. Should you rely on these tools? As a consumer absolutely not! You should only buy diamond that were grade by an objective gemological laboratory.

Is it safe to buy a diamond?

Absolutely, it is safe and you can make sure you get your money’s worth. If the jewelry you buy has larger gemstones in it (over 0.30 carat each), they should come with a kind of certificate or grading report from a gemological laboratory. The most trusted labs are GIA, AGS, HRD and IGI, but there are many more. In the grading report it will say clearly if this is a diamond or not, whether it is natural or synthetic, and whether it was treated or not. This will also tell you all the other properties and grades of the diamond.
But don’t stop there. After you purchased your jewelry, have it appraised and insured. Your appraiser will also make sure that the diamond is real and matches the certificate that you got with your jewelry from your jeweler.