Diamonds are beloved for being exceptional and rare — status symbols in the form of rings, necklaces, earrings, and beyond. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, still stir up debate. Some fine jewelry owners think a human-made diamond doesn't hold the same caché, while others are all about them for the ethical and sustainable aspects. Price is another factor, too. Laboratory-made diamonds — also referred to as cultivated diamonds — tend to cost less than their natural counterparts, but does that affect their value? The quick answer: no. But more on that ahead.
With a fair amount of uncertainty shrouding lab-grown diamonds, it can be tricky to understand whether or not you should buy one. That’s where the experts come in. Anubh Shah, a cofounder of the startup jewelry brand With Clarity, and Brittany Bozmoski, the CMO of Forever Companies, which owns 12FIFTEEN, answer all the burning questions to quell concerns, confusions, or general wonderings. By debunking myths and detailing the essential lab-grown diamond facts, their expertly-guided breakdown will give you the confidence to shop lab-grown diamond jewelry, be it a tennis bracelet, necklace, wedding band, or engagement ring.
Keep scrolling to learn the ins and outs of lab-grown diamonds — once you’ve read through, you’ll feel like an expert yourself. Then, if you’re feeling spendy, shop the edit or get inspired to drop a hint about a gift.
The Difference Between Natural & Lab-Grown Diamonds
First things first: lab-grown and natural diamonds have identical physical, chemical, and optical properties. "Lab diamonds are real diamonds, made of carbon and graded by the same 4C standards as mined diamonds," Bozmoski explains. The only difference? "One is grown in a lab, and the other grows naturally in the Earth," Shah explains.
"Lab diamonds are grown fairly quickly from a single carbon seed where earth-mined take millions of years under intense pressure and heat," Bozmoski continues. "When thinking lab versus mined, think roses grown in a greenhouse or roses in the wild."
There Are Different Types Of Lab-Grown Diamonds
Like natural diamonds, there are different types of lab-grown diamonds. They're rated as Type Ia, Type Ib, Type IIa, and Type IIb and exhibit color and clarity variations, just as mined diamonds. "Compared to natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds may exhibit minor variations in their crystalline structure. However, these variations are generally found only with sophisticated machinery," Bozmoski explains. "No two lab diamonds are the same, as no two mined diamonds are the same."
Common Lab-Grown Diamond Misconceptions, Debunked
Shah says the most common lab-grown diamond misconceptions are: they're fake, they have less sparkle, and they're worthless.
Bozmoski adds that there are two categories within the human-made or lab-created space: diamonds and alternatives. The common misconception is that anything from the lab is not real and is considered an alternative choice to a diamond. "Lab diamonds are real diamonds, not diamond alternatives," Bozmoski clarifies. "From their appearance to their chemical makeup, lab and mined diamonds are exactly the same."
If you're wondering about diamond alternatives like moissanite, they're optically designed to look like diamonds but not made of pure carbon. "Think burger and a veggie burger or noodles and zucchini noodles," Bozmoski continues. "They're chemically distinct from diamonds and come in a myriad of qualities sold from many different retailers."
As for those sparkle rumors, Shah says the shine is identical. "The visual aesthetics are the same; in fact, the growth process for lab diamonds is well controlled, which enables the cutting process to ensure the best cutting of the diamonds, which is really where the sparkle comes from."
The Sustainable & Ethical Benefits Of Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab diamonds avoid the perils of mining, including environmental impact and extraneous carbon emissions, Shah explains. "While both natural and lab diamonds are part of a tightly controlled conflict-free supply chain process, lab diamonds leave a much smaller environmental footprint."
Bozmoski further explains. "The natural resources consumed to create lab diamonds are quite minimal, and in fact, some growers have already moved toward carbon-neutral certifications for their lab-grown diamond manufacturing process," she says. Simply put: the creation of lab-grown diamonds doesn't require touching or disrupting the earth, so it's a more responsible way to interact with the planet and help preserve it for future generations.
Lab-grown diamonds also avert specific labor conflicts found within the mined diamond industry, according to Bozmoski. This includes unfair labor practices at the mining level, biased laws affecting source countries' revenue share, and price-fixing between the mined diamond conglomerates.
The Price Of Lab-Grown Diamonds
There are price differences between lab-grown and natural-diamonds, but Bozmoski says it has nothing to do with a value or quality difference between the stones. "Lab diamond growers determine pricing based on the cost of creation and value of stone quality, essentially individually setting the price as they see fit." To compare, Bozmoski says the market prices and profit margins for mined diamonds are often set exponentially higher than the diamond's "out of ground" cost. "Lab diamond growers set the value and market price on an individualistic level," she explains.
According to Shah, lab-grown diamonds currently cost about 40 percent of their natural counterparts. "The cost varies based on shape and carat more than any other factor," he says. The With Clarity co-founder explains how diamond-cutting waste affects the price, too. Per the expert: non-round shapes (aka fancy cuts) yield a bigger carat size in the natural rough (or pre-cut formation) but create more waste in a lab when shaped. This can command a premium in comparison to natural diamond iterations, which are often discounted. So, if you want a fancy-cut diamond, lab-grown is not always the cheapest route.
The manufacturing process is another price factor. Shah says 100 tons of ore is typically mined to produce one carat of diamonds. When the mining process is eliminated, the product cost becomes significantly reduced. "Natural diamonds are also mined, processed, transported, and cut in different locations, adding the logistical costs every step of the way," Shah adds. "Lab diamonds are often produced and cut by the same diamond grower. Therefore, the cost of production is substantially less."
It also takes a lot less time to grow a lab-grown diamond. On average, a rough grows in eight weeks, whereas a natural diamond takes one billion years to form.
The Value Of Lab-Grown Diamonds
With the lab diamond industry still growing, Shah says it's impossible to predict what will happen to pricing over time. "While we have seen improvements in the growing and cutting process, we don't anticipate substantial price movements up or down in the near future for lab diamonds," the With Clarity co-founder explains.
Bozmoski says it's wise to buy diamonds — lab-grown or mined — for personal reasons, but not as an investment. "Diamonds don't hold value unless you're buying a museum quality piece or The Heart of The Ocean," she explains. "Very few diamonds are actually considered investment grade and hold their purchase value. All diamonds — lab and mined — lose over half their value the minute they leave the showroom."
Lab-Grown Diamond Shopping Tips
Shah says the process of shopping for a lab-grown diamond should be no different than shopping for a natural one, suggesting, "Start with a budget, then move to the shape, then the most visual factors: cut, color, then clarity." Bozmoski notes how lab-grown diamonds are not engineered to be unanimously perfect: "Quality varies, the price is not fixed, and each center stone should come with a certification, just like mined diamonds."
Two growing processes are worth noting, too: Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT). According to Shah, CVD stones are untreated, whereas HPHT stones are enhanced to improve discoloration and make them higher quality. It comes down to personal preference when shopping.
Another key distinction to keep in mind: the difference between round-cut and fancy-cut diamonds. "Round diamonds often carry larger discounts versus fancy shapes," Shah explains. "This is due to the efficiency in the production process. With natural diamonds, rounds tend to be more expensive than some fancy shapes."
The biggest pre-buying takeaway? "A lab diamond of the exact same cut, color, clarity, and carat as a mined diamond will retail for a fraction of the cost," Bozmoski says. So, if you're looking to frost yourself with a lower price tag, lab-diamonds it is!
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