Welcome to the ultimate information guide on lab created diamonds.
In this guide we’ll go over everything you need to know – from definitions and industry information to how they’re made, how much they cost and whether or not you should even buy lab made diamonds.
These relatively new sparkling gems (colloquially known as man made, manufactured or synthetic diamonds) are becoming more and more popular.
And so people often wonder what to know about lab grown diamonds before potentially making a purchase.
Should people consider buying engagement rings with lab made stones?
Here are our thoughts on (and the truth about) lab diamonds.
What Are They Exactly?
There are many misconceptions about lab created diamonds. Some people mistake them because the definition is a bit blurry.
And with all the different names bouncing around the industry, it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re looking at.
- Laboratory grown diamonds
- Lab diamonds
- Synthetic diamonds
- Man made diamonds
- Cultured diamonds
- Cultivated diamonds
- Manufactured diamonds
- Imitation diamonds
Let’s clear up exactly what we’re talking about.
Are They Real or Synthetic?
The first thing most people ask about man made stones when they learn about them is “are lab created diamonds real diamonds?”
And the answer is yes.
But not all “synthetic” diamonds out there are authentic lab made diamonds. So what does this mean, in reality?
Here’s a Definition
The main definition of a “synthetic” diamond on Wikipedia – it is “a diamond produced by a controlled process, as contrasted with…geological processes or an imitation diamond made of non-diamond material…”
So is a lab created diamond fake? Not at all.
But some of the synthetic diamonds out there like cubic zirconia’s are not real diamonds.
Authentic lab created diamonds are REAL diamonds, which only differ from “natural” diamonds by how they’re formed. And, yes they absolutely look real as well.
Natural ones are formed under the earths crust with massive pressure on carbon, while lab-grown ones are simply formed in a laboratory, under similar conditions using the same raw materials.
To complicate things a little bit more, there are different types of man made diamonds that you need to at least be aware of.
These are chemically and physically different from natural earth-mined diamonds. They are not made from scratch and include various materials like glass. They first appeared in the 1970s.
Diamond Nexus Simulants
These diamonds are similar to regular simulant diamonds, but have carbon mixed in the additional ingredients, making them a bit stronger of a material.
These are the cheapest available “diamond-like” stones available. They are made from a material called zirconium dioxide, making them the least durable jewelry stone.
These are usually what people mean when they say “fake diamonds.”
These are popular “fake diamonds” that are made from silicon carbide. Because of this gemstone’s strength, it’s a pretty pricey option. But it’s usually not purchased if you’re seeking an authentic diamond look. Moissanite has a unique look to it.
Here’s an article that goes deeper into the differences between diamond and moissanite.
Now, lets talk about types of lab grown diamonds that are more “real” when compared to natural earth-mined diamonds.
Cultured stones are made from scratch under similar conditions that carbon faces in the earth’s crust. They have a very similar physical and chemical makeup to natural stones.
There are a few types, including High-Pressure, High-Temperature (HPHT) Diamonds which are created using a press and CVD diamonds which are created using a method called chemical vapor deposition. The material used for CVD stones is a hydrocarbon gas mixture.
Man Made Diamond Facts
- Not all lab created diamonds are equal – simulants like cubic zirconia and moissanite are not real diamonds.
- REAL lab grown diamonds are made from a “diamond seed”
- Diamond seeds are placed under intense pressure and heat, simulating the earth’s crust
- Authentic lab created diamonds are chemically and physically similar to natural earth-mined diamonds
- Authentic man made diamonds are certified to be real.
- Lab diamonds are always of the highest purity (IIa)
- Natural diamonds and lab created stones are both measured in Carats
History of Synthetic Diamonds
Synthetic diamonds have been around since the middle of the 20th century. In the 1940s, lab grown diamonds were already on the minds of industry titans, engineers and inventors. Diamonds were sought after for industrial applications (not consumer ones) because of their thermal conductivity and other desirable properties.
But when were these lab creations invented and created for the first time?
Well, in the mid 1950’s General Electric made a significant breakthrough in technology available at the time and announced their first man made diamond in 1955.
However, it is said that a Swedish company had been manufacturing diamonds for 2 years already when GE made their announcement.
They decided to wait to make it public for a variety of unknown reasons.
Again, these were for industrial purposes.
When it comes to consumer lab diamonds, cubic zirconia were popularized in the 70s and modern man-made stones showed up on the market in the 1980s. But the quality of the stones just weren’t up to par when comparing to the options available to buyers today.
Incredible strides have been made in the last 40 years when it comes to high quality manufactured diamonds.
Today, you can easily buy lab grown diamonds that are EXACTLY like the natural ones mined from earth. And in some ways, they’re even better. (We’ll get to that later.)
How Do Labs Grow or Create Precious Gem Stones
So how are lab created diamonds made, exactly?
As we mentioned earlier, “diamond seeds” are placed in a press and then the same conditions that happen in the earth’s crust are recreated in the lab.
The conditions natural, earth-mined diamonds are put under are prolonged over billions of years. Many geologists believe 1-3 billion years ago carbon dioxide trapped 100 miles underneath the earth’s crust was exposed to temperatures of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add to that pressure equal to 727,000 pounds per square inch, followed by violent volcanic explosions, and voila – you’ve got diamonds.
So, the lab grown diamond process recreates these conditions in a few different ways.
The machines used are either an HPHT press, a cubic press or a split-sphere (BARS) press. A small diamond seed – made from a lattice of pure carbon atoms – is placed in the press and exposed to temperatures of 1500 degrees Celsius and pressure of 1.5 million pounds per square inch.
In case you’re wondering – yes, that’s more pressure and heat than the natural diamond process!
During this lab diamond creation process the pure carbon atoms melt and form into a diamonds around the starter seed. This is then cooled off very carefully.
That is the HPHT process. The cubic press process is similar but uses a carbon-rich gas to form the diamond.
How long does it take to make a lab created diamond? It’s not as fast as you’d hope, but it’s better than waiting a few billion years.
In general, it can take anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks to form a man made diamond using the processes described above.
Are Lab Diamonds Ethical?
As many diamond lovers know, the potential for horror exists when purchasing natural, earth-mined diamonds.
Not for the buyer, but for those involved in the mining process. Conflict diamonds absolutely have blood on them. And so conflict-free certification is extremely important.
But even with conflict-free diamonds, about 1 in 1000 workers are seriously injured every year. That’s not the case with lab-grown stones.
With lab made products, that very serious problem doesn’t exist. There are no wars being fought over laboratories. Child labor is not being used to operate the presses.
So yes, they are an ethical way for people to enjoy the sparkle of diamond jewelry.
Further, lab created diamonds are so much better for the environment. In the natural diamond mining process, 100 square feet of land is ruined and 6000 pounds of mineral waste is created for every single CARAT of diamond that is mined.
That’s insanity in the age of perfect lab made stones.
So if you care about the world, buying your jewelry with lab diamonds is one of the best things you can do.
Here’s an article on conflict diamonds for more information.
Full Review of Lab Made Diamond Qualities
In this section we’ll review lab created diamonds on the basis of quality, color, and other important factors many buyers may be curious about.
Our overall opinion on these stones is that they’re likely a better buy now and in the future than natural diamonds.
Because of the confusion surrounding these stones (mixing them up with simulant/synthetic stones) people often wonder are these manufactured stones good quality?
The answer is a simple YES. They are extremely high quality because they are basically perfectly formed, pure carbon diamonds.
Because of the advances in technology, the clarity and brilliance of lab diamonds are unmatched. In the beginning, there were a lot of blemishes and inclusions on lab grown diamonds, but that’s not the case anymore.
Lab created diamonds (not fake diamonds, of course) are now all perfect gem-quality stones with sizes as big as the heart could want.
If you’re worried about lab diamond durability, you don’t need to be.
These man made stones are just as durable and strong as the earth mined variety. Because they’re chemically and physically the same as their earth formed counterparts, there’s no need to worry about things breaking down or cracking.
Furthermore, they do not get scratched.
How long do lab created diamonds last? A lifetime.
They’re real diamonds, and have all the qualities of what you’ve always known “real” diamonds to have.
In terms of hardness, it varies based on the lab grown diamond manufacturer. A pure lab made diamond has a hardness rating of 10 (10 also being the hardness of a natural diamond) on the MOHS scale. For comparison glass is rated at 5.5 and a cubic zirconia is around 8.5.
Since a CZ is able to cut glass at 8.5, pure carbon lab diamonds can also cut glass.
Both natural diamonds and lab created ones are graded on the same clarity scale. The grading is meant to let people know the level of inclusions and blemishes found on the stone.
Anything below a grade of SI2 will have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. Depending on the retailer you deal with, you may come across diamonds that are not “eye perfect.”
So yes, some lab diamonds will have inclusions in them.
But if you go with a retailer like James Allen, you can bet most of their inventory of lab created diamonds will be at least SI1 clarity, which means they’re totally clean to the naked eye.
The clarity level is determined by the size and number of inclusions/blemishes. Where they occur and the type of imperfection also has an impact on the clarity grade.
In terms of lab diamond fluorescence, there usually isn’t a lot to worry about. Since the conditions under which the diamonds are formed are controlled, there are ways to make sure the diamonds look their absolute best once they’re formed fully.
That also means that your lab diamonds fogging up or becoming faded will not be a concern. The sparkle will be great!
The color scale for diamonds goes from D to Z, with D being a colorless diamond. From there the level of color within the diamond rises to grade Z which is a yellow stone.
The problem with colored diamonds is that sometimes the yellow will minimize the refraction of the light, resulting in less sparkle.
And who doesn’t love that bright sparkle diamonds are known for?
Again, the color grade on lab created diamonds varies between retailers, based on how the stone was formed.
Most lab created diamonds, however, are on the higher end of the scale (closer to D, than Z). James Allen has lab made diamonds ranging from D to H.
So you likely won’t find yellow man made diamonds.
Cut and Carat Weight
Because lab grown diamonds are man made, the cut and carat weight is often made in ways that most consumers would want.
Ideal cuts and large carat weights are usually what you’ll find from most reputable lab diamond retailers.
At the time of this writing James Allen has man made stones ranging from 0.4 carat to 5 carats in weight. Of course, the heavier the diamond, the more it will cost you.
But since the diamonds are made in a press, you will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for each time.
With earth-mined diamonds, it’s up to luck the sizes and cuts available.
Pros and Cons
If you’re in the market for diamonds jewelry, then choosing a lab grown diamond might be a better choice for you.
There are a lot of pros to choosing these man made stones, over their earth-mined counterparts, and not a ton of cons to it.
Here’s our take:
- They’re less expensive – you can buy the same stone for 20-30% less than earth-formed ones.
- Ethical and conflict free – you don’t have to worry about war, child labor
- Environmentally friendly – because they’re formed in a lab and not mined from the ground, it’s so much better for the earth and combating climate change.
- Formed to be beautiful – manufacturers want to form the most beautiful, sparkling stones in the lab. In the earth, it’s the luck of the draw.
- Less rare – because they are formed in a lab, they are not as rare (or limited in supply) as earth mined diamonds.
- Not exactly the same – although they are chemically and physically the same, lab created diamonds are – obviously – not formed by mother nature’s awesomeness.
How Grading Works
Lab grown stones are certified and graded the same way earth-formed ones are. They are graded using the 4 C’s described earlier in this article.
One of the most popular grading organizations is the Gemological Institute of America. There are also others, but the GIA is one of the main ones out there.
Several different gemologists will look at stones carefully to figure out a suitable grading for each one. Each of these individual ratings are then compiled into a final grade which is given to retailers and customers.
The important thing to remember, though is that grading is quite subjective.
Each lab will have a different grade for the same diamond. Oftentimes, when a graded diamond is sent back to the same lab it will come back with a different grading.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t trust the grade. Keep in mind every lab employs highly qualified gemologists who know what they’re doing.
Lab Grown Diamond Prices
When it comes to pricing, it’s no wonder why these lab gems are becoming more and more sought after. The price difference between natural and lab diamonds is significant.
Lab made options are less expensive than natural ones. Sometimes you’ll find that the same stone that’s been naturally mined from the earth is 20-30% more than the one created in a laboratory.
The reason for the price differences between the two lies in their respective supply chains. It takes a lot of steps (and therefore middlemen) to get a natural diamond from the ground to the jewelry shop. And everyone takes a cut.
Lab grown diamonds have a much shorter supply chain and therefore are priced accordingly.
As an example, when De Beers first got into man-made diamonds a $6000 mined diamond would have a lab grown equivalent for $4200.
But soon after that, the company started selling lab diamonds for $800 per carat.
That’s still pretty pricey. But why? After all, they’re grown in perfect conditions.
The answer is because they’re still REAL diamonds. CZs are very cheap, because they’re not real. Lab made stones, however, are still the hardest gems out there. They’re still pure carbon under intense heat and pressure.
And they’re all near perfect when it comes to quality.
Looking at Overall Value
Many people looking to buy often wonder do these man made stones hold their value? And unfortunately the reality is that resale value of lab made stones do drop.
Back in 2017, the prices of lab-made diamonds were higher than naturally mined ones. But if you look at prices today, you can see that they’re much less.
What’s more is that the same lab grown gemstone that cost $4000 in 2017 would cost a little less than $4000 today.
The value of natural diamonds vs lab created ones is different because of the rarity of the naturally occurring gems.
There are a finite amount of earth diamonds available and that number won’t likely change much. Lab created bling, however, is not as rare. And the supply isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon.
So no, lab created diamonds don’t hold their value. If you try to sell your lab-made jewels on eBay, you’ll get a fraction of what you paid for. And you probably shouldn’t even bother trying to sell it back to a jeweler.
But that’s not a problem for most people looking for diamond jewelry. When you buy a gift, especially something like a diamond engagement ring, you’re not expecting to sell it down the line because it holds sentimental value.
So if you’re not buying because you’re trying to make money, or store value, you’re likely better off buying a lab diamonds because of the many benefits we listed above.
Compared to Other Gem Stones
Are lab created diamonds real diamonds? Of course, they are.
There are many differences between these stones and other types of simulant diamonds. We’ve gone over many of the differences between lab created diamonds vs “real” or natural earth mined diamonds.
In this section we’ll go over the differences between synthetic diamonds that are man-made and diamond simulants than are not real diamonds.
Lab Grown Diamonds vs Moissanite
At a basic level, moissanite vs lab diamonds is clear – moissanite is not a diamond.
Diamonds, even lab grown ones, are made of pure carbon. Moissanite is made from silicone carbide,
But that doesn’t mean moissanite is not valuable. In fact, moissanite is an extremely rare natural earth mineral. It’s not manufactured at all.
On the flip side, moissanite is not as hard as lab or earth diamonds. Moissanite is rated on the MOHS hardness scale at 9.25 whereas diamonds are a round 10.
On the refractive index, diamonds rate 2.42 whereas moissanite is around 2.65.
Lab Diamonds vs. Cubic Zirconia
It’s important to remember that lab created diamonds are not the same thing as cubic zirconia’s.
Cubic zirconia is made with a mineral called zirconium dioxide and the final stone has a hardness level of 8.25 (compared to a diamond’s 10).
When people often speak of “fake diamonds” they’re usually talking about CZs, which were popularized in the consumer market by the Swarovski company.
In terms of the refractive index, CZs rate at 2.2, whereas diamonds rate 2.42.
Cubic zirconia’s have a completely different chemical composition and physical properties to natural and lab grown diamonds.
When placed side by side, diamonds refract light in a clean way whereas CZs will have a “rainbow effect.”
How to Know if a Diamond is Lab Grown
They look like diamonds, they shine like diamonds but they are not diamonds – at least not in the true sense of the word.
We are talking about lab-grown diamonds. And it’s becoming a contender in the diamond buying world.
Diamond growing began in the 1950’s. It was, and still is, mainly rooted in industrial production.
Companies that manufacture everything from drill bits to semiconductors use lab-grown diamonds. To them, they are perfect because they embody all the necessary diamond traits without being as expensive as their natural counterparts.
Recent technological advancements have made the production process of lab-grown diamonds easier. And this has pushed some producers into the gem trade.
Lab-growing of type IIa/b HPHT (high-pressure, high-temperature) diamonds only hit the market as recently as 2014, according to GIA.
But gemologists are not worried. They say they can totally tell the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural ones.
Major gem-testing labs around the world use similar procedures to test diamonds to ascertain whether or not they are natural or lab-grown, simulants or treated.
Each lab might use different methods and machines but here’s what they all agree on:
All colorless diamonds first undergo screening and are currently tested to see if they are type Ia — which comprises about 98 percent of all natural white diamonds. Any stone that is determined to be type II will require more testing. Different methods of screening include infrared (IR) spectroscopy, ultraviolet (UV) absorption, UV transparency and photoluminescence (PL) imaging. These machines can identify natural diamonds with about 97 percent accuracy and about 3 percent of natural diamonds will be flagged for further testing. Type Ib diamonds — deep yellow and brown visually — tend to go straight to finalizing processes.
Diamonds flagged for further testing will undergo a finalizing process, where the stones are examined by a person under machines that examine element composition, crystal structures, electromagnetic absorption, phosphorescence and fluorescence, to name a few.
IR spectroscopy measures how different elements in a diamond absorb electromagnetic radiation at different wavelengths. Each type absorbs infrared light at specific wavelengths.
The ultraviolet absorption method, similar to infrared spectroscopy, measures whether the diamonds absorb UV rays at the specific wavelength that type I diamonds do.
The UV transparency method measures whether specific bands of light can pass through a diamond. Natural type Ia diamonds are opaque to this light, while type IIa — which appears colorless — are transparent.
PL imaging comprises testing for fluorescence — how a diamond glows in the presence of UV light — and the strength and duration of phosphorescence — a diamond’s ability to continue glowing after the UV source has been shut off. Natural type Ia diamonds tend to fluoresce blue and do not phosphoresce, and any diamond that glows in other colors or continues glowing are referred for further testing.
Major gem-testing labs around the world adopt similar procedures to test diamonds to ascertain whether or not they are natural or lab-grown, simulants or treated, although each lab might use different methods and machines to achieve the goal. All colorless diamonds first undergo screening and are currently tested to see if they are type Ia — which comprises about 98 percent of all natural white diamonds. Any stone that is determined to be type II will require more testing. Different methods of screening include infrared (IR) spectroscopy, ultraviolet (UV) absorption, UV transparency and photoluminescence (PL) imaging. These machines can identify natural diamonds with about 97 percent accuracy and about 3 percent of natural diamonds will be flagged for further testing. Type Ib diamonds — deep yellow and brown visually — tend to go straight to finalizing processes. Diamonds flagged for further testing will undergo a finalizing process, where the stones are examined by a person under machines that examine element composition, crystal structures, electromagnetic absorption, phosphorescence and fluorescence, to name a few. IR spectroscopy measures how different elements in a diamond absorb electromagnetic radiation at different wavelengths. Each type absorbs infrared light at specific wavelengths. The ultraviolet absorption method, similar to infrared spectroscopy, measures whether the diamonds absorb UV rays at the specific wavelength that type I diamonds do. The UV transparency method measures whether specific bands of light can pass through a diamond. Natural type Ia diamonds are opaque to this light, while type IIa — which appears colorless — are transparent. PL imaging comprises testing for fluorescence — how a diamond glows in the presence of UV light — and the strength and duration of phosphorescence — a diamond’s ability to continue glowing after the UV source has been shut off. Natural type Ia diamonds tend to fluoresce blue and do not phosphoresce, and any diamond that glows in other colors or continues glowing are referred for further testing. Read more from Rapaport Magazine…
Screening machines test for type Ia because current methods of production cannot re-create type Ia diamonds- yet.
Natural diamonds are found in all types — Ia and Ib, IIa and IIb.
HPHT diamonds can only be Ib, IIa and IIb and CVD diamonds are only IIa and IIb. Type I diamonds have detectable nitrogen impurities and type II diamonds do not.
Many of the machines that screen for types might not be as accurate in the near future since producers will gain greater control over the growth process affecting diamond types, says Branko Deljanin, president and head gemologist at the CGL-GRS Swiss Canadian Gemlab.
For now, we can only sit and hope that the day producers will be able to re-create Ia diamonds doesn’t come too soon.
How Lab Grown Diamond Testing Works
Now, you may be thinking if these stones are chemically and physically similar to natural ones, do lab created diamonds test as real using a diamond detector or tester?
The answer is, no they don’t.
Devices exist that are specifically designed to test whether a stone is a lab grown one or a natural one. And they’re about 99% accurate.
A test was done by the Diamond Producers Association using some of the commonly available lab created diamond detection units on the market.
They had a sample of 1400 diamonds – 1200 were natural, earth mined diamonds and 200 were lab created ones.
Unfortunately every device used in the test registered at least some false positives. They misidentified natural stones as synthetics. And a couple of them even registered lab grown stones as naturals.
But because the accuracy is about 99% correct, these devices are likely not going to hamper anyone using it in their day to day dealings with diamonds.
The units used in the test were:
- Sherlock Homes Detector
There you have it – the ultimate guide on lab created diamonds. On this page we covered everything you need to know about lab diamonds if you’re just getting started in the industry.
There is much more depth and detail that could be gone into, but for our purposes we’ve already covered quite a bit of information.
If you’re interested in buying high quality lab created diamonds that are near perfect, we highly recommend visiting James Allen – they are the best supplier online for both natural, earth-mined diamonds and high quality pure-carbon lab grown diamonds.