It’s safe to say that we all love diamonds. And though engagement ring styles have changed over the years, the diamond always seems to withstand the test of time.
But have you ever really stopped to think about what exactly diamonds are and where they come from?
To summarise: Diamonds are naturally-occurring gemstones that are made of carbon and take between one and three billion years to be created. Pretty cool right? Well, not so much.
While the fact that diamonds take a long time to make may seem quite special, the mining process is often anything but. Not only is it very difficult to find transparency about where naturally-mined diamonds come from, but the process of obtaining them is oftentimes unethical and environmentally damaging.
Thanks to modern technology, however, we can have our diamonds and wear them too.
With a little help from science, there’s now a way to create 100% diamond gemstones in less time, without the environmental and human costs. While we’re all for the idea, we do understand that it may sound strange at first to the uninitiated.
To help you understand everything you need to know about lab grown diamonds, we’ve compiled some answers to the most common questions people have when it comes to these man-made gems.
Keep reading to get some answers to the most common questions regarding lab grown diamonds, including:
- What does “lab grown diamond” mean?
- How are lab grown diamonds made?
- Are lab grown diamonds cheaper?
- Will lab grown diamonds hold their value?
- Can you tell when a diamond is lab grown?
All About Lab Grown Diamonds
What Does “Lab Grown Diamond” Mean?
The name “lab grown diamond” refers to a diamond that is chemically identical to naturally occurring diamonds but is grown in a lab rather than nature.
Since the make-up of lab grown diamonds is the same as natural ones, they’re 100% authentic and are indistinguishable from natural diamonds. If anything, lab grown diamonds offer more clarity, as they’re created in a controlled environment, free of dirt and other particles that sometimes appear in natural stones.
How Are Lab Grown Diamonds Made?
Lab grown diamonds are made — well— in a lab. By replicating the natural processes that lead to the creation of a diamond, we’re now able to achieve the same result without relying on billions of years or harsh mining practices.
As you might expect, the process is quite complicated.
First, a specialised carbon plate “seed” is placed inside a low-pressure microwave chamber. Gasses including hydrogen and methane are then introduced, as a generator pumps energy in to ignite a glowing plasma ball. This means high pressure and high temperatures, similar to what occurs in the Earth’s mantle.
Within the chamber, more carbon molecules then begin to accumulate atop the seed, replicating in high speed the way a diamond would grow in nature. The difference here is that the pressure and heat come from the special chamber, rather than the Earth. As opposed to taking billions of years, lab grown diamonds can be created in six to ten weeks with this method.
Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds don’t come out looking the way we’re used to seeing them. After being formed, they’re then polished, cut and shaped by master gem cutters to achieve the distinct sheen and dimension these stones are so well-known for.
Are Lab Grown Diamonds Cheaper?
Despite the intense laboratory process required of lab grown diamonds, they’re still often cheaper than naturally grown and alternatives. When you stop to think about it, the process required to obtain naturally-grown diamonds is quite laborious and long-winded in comparison to what occurs in the lab.
Because lab grown diamonds require less labour, mining, and shipping processes, the cost is usually lower despite the higher quality. A mining operation might employ hundreds of people, whereas a lab may have a fraction of that on its staff. This all factors into the price tag you see on your diamond jewellery.
It’s not uncommon to find lab grown diamonds costing up to 50% less than their mined counterparts of the same size.
Will Lab Grown Diamonds Hold Their Value?
One common argument against lab grown diamonds is that they have no resale value.
Needless to say, when you’re shopping for jewellery—especially engagement jewellery—considering resale value is probably not the best way to make your decision.
However, because it’s a fairly common concern, it’s important to break down why lab grown diamonds have lower resale value and whether it matters.
Many jewellers, especially those who use naturally-mined diamonds, are quick to point out that no jeweller would buy back a lab-grown diamond. Considering the relative newness of lab grown diamonds and the market for them, however, it’s impossible to say whether this will stand true over the coming years.
Additionally, when considering long term value, it’s important to note that “regular” diamonds are very rarely able to be resold for more than they were purchased for anyway.
Unless a diamond is truly exceptional (like something bought at an auction or from a private gemologist), then the odds of reselling it for more than you purchased are very slim. Not to mention, any diamond valuable enough to compound worth likely wouldn't be the kind you’d put in jewellery.
You should also consider that lab grown diamonds also cost less. So the few thousand you save up-front on a lab grown diamond may equal or greater to what you could make re-selling a mined diamond.
Can You Tell When a Diamond is Lab Grown?
Short answer: No — you can not tell when a diamond is lab-grown.
Though the process of creating lab grown diamonds is different from the natural process, the result is chemically identical. This means that on both a chemical and visible level, lab grown diamonds are indistinguishable from naturally occurring ones.
The same cutting and polishing that refine naturally occurring diamonds also go into lab grown ones. Despite how they’re made, the look and feel is exactly the same.
If anything, a lab grown diamond may look better, as the controlled laboratory environment lends itself to fewer impurities within the stone itself.