Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?

A synthetic diamond is known in the trade as a lab-grown diamond. Synthetic diamonds and natural diamonds have the same optical and physical properties. They both share the same chemical composition of one single element, carbon. The only difference is that one was grown in a laboratory while the other was grown in nature. 

There are two known processes that are currently used to produce high-quality synthetic diamonds:

• High-Pressure, High-Temperature (HPHT)- The synthetic diamonds crystals are formed under a controlled high-pressure and high-temperature condition. In the lab, the carbon atoms crystallize around a natural or synthetic seed crystal. Powdered carbon then causes a reaction for the synthetic stone to start growing. 
• Chemical Vapor Disposition (CVD) - chamber is filled with hot plasma and electrically charged gas that contains methane. Methane has four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom. A microwave beam is used to heat up the plasma and release the carbon atoms attracting them to crystallize as ‘’diamond’’.
 
Left: HPHT Black Crystal - Center: CVD Flat Crystal - Right: Octahedron, Natural Diamond
 

At BRIAN & NICK, we have had a few clients who question the difference between the two. Our most common question is, “Can you tell the difference between natural versus a synthetic diamond? Side by side, natural and synthetic diamonds appear identical. They both have the same optical, physical, and chemical components that make up a diamond. However, there are ways to tell the difference internally. Gemologist have found that the Clarity characteristics of the crystals tend to form irregular in shape compared to how they do in natureThe best way to distinguish a synthetic from a natural diamond is by sending it to the Gemological Institute of America

Are synthetic diamonds as valuable as natural diamonds? Currently, lab-grown diamonds are priced at about 30% less than natural diamonds. They are not as valuable as a natural diamond due many factors. The biggest is rarity, as it typically takes only a few weeks to grow a synthetic diamond. A natural diamond however is in the Earth’s mantle for 1-3 billion years until volcanic activity forces the diamond closer to the surface within reach to then mine.

Recently, DeBeers launched their Light Box Campaign where they are selling round brilliant cut diamonds starting at $800 per carat. For comparison, a round brilliant cut GIA certified diamond starts at $4,500 per carat. DeBeers strategic goal is to saturate the lab-grown market, making them less expensive and therefore, less desirable, so that natural diamonds continue to hold their value. What is predicted in the trade is that lab-grown diamonds will lose virtually all their value. 

If you are in the market to get engaged I recommend choosing a natural diamond. Since lab-grown diamonds are new to the industry we don’t exactly know where their value will end up. However, if you are shopping and long-term value is not a priority but rather price and style, lab-grown diamonds may be aoption. Always be sure to educate yourself, be aware of which stone you are purchasing, and why there is a difference between the two.


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