As you research diamonds, you may have seen information about lab-grown diamonds versus naturally formed diamonds. Some people may refer to lab-grown diamonds as “fake diamonds”, imitations or simulants, but this is incorrect. Most lab-grown diamonds are chemically and physically the same as a natural diamond produced by the geological processes of Mother Nature. On the other hand, cubic zirconia and moissanite—which look similar to diamonds—have very different chemical and physical properties, and are known as simulant diamonds.
If you’re in the market for a diamond, we want you to be able to make the best decision based on ALL the facts — so we’re going to tell you all about the similarities and differences between nature-formed diamonds (aka “organic” diamonds), diamonds that were grown in a lab setting, as well as diamond simulants like cubic zirconia and moissanite. We hope after you read this, you’ll have the confidence that your happily-ever-after gem will last a lifetime–whether you decide on a Ritani diamond or not.
Let’s Start At The Beginning… How Are Diamonds Made?
The journey a diamond takes from growing within the earth to being bought as jewelry is long and complex. Without getting into all the specific science behind diamonds, the basic premise is that diamonds require very specific conditions to form and grow (kinda like your relationship!).
Diamond is the hardest, most stable form of pure carbon that occurs naturally (except Q-carbon, which scientists say might be found in certain planetary cores). Organic diamond forms when pure carbon undergoes superhigh temperature and pressure over billions of years within Earth’s mantle. It only forms in the “diamond stability zone”, 80 to 120 miles deep and extremely hot (up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit), where the conditions are just right. Then, over eons of violent volcanic eruptions, diamonds get brought to surface embedded in large chunks of rock.
Not all organic diamonds are created equal though. Differences in size, color and clarity are caused by trace minerals and other conditions that influence a diamond as it grows. For example, the vivid yellow hue in fancy yellow diamonds is caused by trace amounts of nitrogen mixed within the carbon structure.
What Is A Lab-Grown Diamond?
Lab-created diamonds are grown in highly-controlled laboratory conditions that reproduce the Earth’s natural growing environment: high pressure and high temperature. These man-made diamonds have essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, optical and physical properties of diamonds found in nature. They aren’t technically “synthetic diamonds” since their chemical composition is that of naturally occurring diamonds; and they usually exhibit the same fire, scintillation and sparkle as organic diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are categorized as either high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD) diamonds, depending on the method of their production.
What’s The Real Difference Between Lab-Grown Diamonds and “Real” Diamonds?
Just like no two couples are alike, no two diamonds are alike. This is true for both lab-grown diamonds and organic diamonds. When considering the differences and similarities between lab-created diamonds and “nature grown diamonds,” you won’t find many that are visible to the unaided eye, unless you’re actually a gemologist.
Do Lab-Grown Diamonds Have Flaws?
Or, the presence and size of inclusions in lab-grown versus organic diamonds.
Nearly all diamonds, organic and lab-created alike, have inclusions that affect their clarity. Every certified diamond gets assigned a clarity grade by the GIA or the AGS. These clarity grades tell us how large and noticeable a diamond’s inclusions are — though the scale used to grade clarity in lab-grown vs organic diamonds is a bit different.
Lab-grown diamonds are grown in a molten metal solution and as a result, they have metallic inclusions which can usually only be identified with 10x magnification (aka not visible to the unaided eye). Metallic inclusions do not occur in diamonds that come from the ground.
Organic diamonds, which are grown in deep inside the earth, have inclusions like feathers, crystals, pinpoints and clouds that are caused by all kinds of elements and violent volcanic eruptions as they rise towards the surface; only the rarest diamonds emerge in perfect condition, with no inclusions.
Colors Of Organic Diamonds Vs Lab-Created Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are grown in white, yellow, blue, pink and green and are typically found with color grades ranging from K to D grades. However, certain types of lab-created diamonds are color-treated. “Many, though not all, CVD-grown diamonds come out a sort of brown color and then are de-colorized through a treatment process to make them colorless or near colorless,” according to Michelle Graff, Editor-in-Chief at National Jeweler.
Organic diamonds occur in every imaginable color with an infinite number of hues, tonality and saturation levels. Color comes from impurities (such as nitrogen molecules) that become trapped inside the diamond lattice as it grows. Different types of trace chemicals in the pure carbon cause different colors and saturation levels; the most common diamonds are the classic “white” category, and rarer types include fancy yellow, pink and vivid blue.
How Long Does It Take To “Grow” A Diamond?
When comparing lab-grown versus nature-grown diamonds, it’s fascinating to consider the differences in time spent “growing” diamonds. Part of what makes diamonds alluring to people is their history.
Lab-grown diamonds take approximately 6 to 10 weeks to develop in a laboratory.
Diamonds close enough to earth’s surface to be mined today were formed in nature between 1 billion to 3.3 billion years ago. This alone is one reason why they’re so valuable — they’re artifacts from before the dawn of the human race. Think about the symbolism behind that and how many years they’ve been around — a pretty intense symbol to grace an engagement ring, a pair of earrings or a necklace.
Another interesting difference is the carat weight ranges of lab-created versus organic diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds top out around 20 carats, while some of the largest pieces of rough organic diamond are upwards of 400 carats. For most consumers, diamonds that big are just a bit outside budget, but it’s still fascinating to see some of the monster diamonds Nature produces.
Are Lab-Created Diamonds Graded The Same As Real Diamonds?
From a consumer perspective, it’s important to know that the grading system used for lab-grown versus organic diamonds is different. The GIA doesn’t grade lab-grown diamonds the same way it grades organic diamonds.
If a diamond is found to be laboratory-grown, GIA issues a Synthetic Diamond Grading Report, which looks distinctly different from the standard grading report. Lab-grown diamonds display visual characteristics such as color zoning, metallic inclusions, weak strain patterns, and colors of ultraviolet fluorescence to differentiate them from organic diamonds. In addition to the same information as the GIA Colored Diamond Grading Report issues for natural diamonds, the Synthetic Diamond Grading Report also offers a more general description of color and clarity. After a lab-grown diamond is graded, the diamond’s girdle is laser-inscribed with its report number and a given statement that the stone is laboratory grown.
Are Lab-Created Diamonds A Better Value?
Many retailers claim that lab diamonds cost about 30% less than natural diamonds of comparable size and quality. However, inventories of lab-created diamonds are often quite limited compared to organic diamond inventories, making your choice of the perfect diamond more limited.
For example, at the moment only 2 IF clarity diamonds are available in the MiaDonna inventory (and these are round, 1.35 ctw), whereas Ritani offers more than 4,000 IF diamonds of various carat weights and shapes.
At this carat weight range (about 1.3), the price tag is a couple grand difference (not as dramatic as many proponents of lab-grown diamonds might imagine). For example, a 1.35 carat MiaDonna lab-created diamond is $18k, while Ritani’s 1.31 carat organic diamond is $21k — about 15% more.
Considering that a lot more work and natural resources go into delivering that organic diamond to your doorstep than the lab-created one, it’s not all that surprising.
One of the most important differentiators between a lab-grown diamond and an organic diamond: lab-grown diamonds have no resale value. Organic diamonds, on the other hand, typically retain value and can be sold years later if you so desire.
What About “Diamond Alternatives” Like Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia?
Natural Moissanite originally comes from space–created by a meteorite that fell to Earth. These crystals are composed of silicon carbide. Natural moissanite is incredibly rare, so moissanite available for purchase today is laboratory-created. Lab-created Moissanite is engineered to look similar to diamonds, but is physically quite different from a true diamond.
Cubic Zirconia (also known as CZ) was first created in 1976 in a lab for its low cost, durability, and sparkle similar to a diamond. Cubic zirconia is a synthesized (man-made) crystalline diamond simulant mineral that is colorless, hard, and flawless.
These diamond simulants are not made of carbon crystals, and don’t have the same brilliance as diamonds. For that reason, simulants sell at much lower prices than diamonds (lab created or organic).
If you’re not sure whether a gem is a real diamond or a fake “diamond simulant”, use one of these 7 tricks for spotting a fake diamond.
Bottom Line: Do What Feels Right For You
Nature-formed, organic diamonds and lab-created diamonds are chemically exactly the same, though their qualities and brilliance is judged somewhat differently by the gem experts. Whatever type of diamond you decide to purchase, we recommend seeing it in person before you buy — and picking the gem that speaks to you personally.
Discover Ritani’s inventory of GIA and AGS certified, ethically sourced and organic diamonds.