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What Is a Lab Grown Diamond?

Lab grown diamond (also called lab created, laboratory grown, laboratory created, man made, artisan created, or cultured diamond) is a diamond that is produced in a controlled technological process (in contrast to naturally formed diamond, which is created through geological processes and obtained by mining). Unlike diamond simulants (imitations of diamonds made of superficially-similar non-diamond materials), lab grown diamonds are composed of the same material as naturally formed diamonds – pure carbon crystalized in an isotropic 3D form – and share identical chemical and physical properties.

Are Lab created Diamonds Real?

Lab created diamonds are diamonds. Not fake, synthetic, simulated, bogus, counterfeit or phony. The only difference is that the one is mined and the other one created in a laboratory. I like compare it to a baby formed in the womb and a baby formed in test tube in a laboratory. Both are genuine babies – the test-tube baby is not a fake baby! The same with a lab-created diamond – it is not a fake diamond! On the other hand: Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia is referred to as a diamond simulants and is engineered in a laboratory to give the illusion of similarity to diamonds, but is compositionally and visually quite different from a real diamond.

How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?

Interestingly, the process by which lab diamonds are created is actually no different to that of mined diamonds The only difference is one happens naturally in the Earth over billions of years, and the other takes just several weeks in a lab. But scientifically, it’s all the same. Forming a diamond requires carbon dioxide, extreme heat, and extreme pressure. The effect of this heat and pressure on carbon dioxide kicks off the process that produces beautiful gemstones we know as diamonds. There are two specific methods used to create lab-grown diamonds. The High Pressure-High Temperature method (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).
More on how Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?

Lab created diamonds are made by replicating the processes that result in the creation of mined diamonds.Mined diamonds grow through intense heat and pressure which, over millions of years, transforms carbon atoms into beautiful and captivating gemstones we know as diamonds.

Lab created diamonds grow the same way, only through a man-made process that takes several weeks, not millions of years.

Man-made diamonds begin with a tiny piece of diamond, known as a diamond seed. This seed is placed sealed inside a special chamber designed to mimic conditions within the Earth’s crust.

The seed, coated in pure carbon, will eventually transform into a synthetic diamond, chemically identical to a natural diamond

There are two different methods used for lab created diamonds; High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).

HPHT places intense heat (around 1,500 degrees Celsius, or 2,700 Fahrenheit) and pressure (1.5 million pounds per square inch) on the diamond seed and the carbon atoms coating it. On the other hand, CVD uses less heat and pressure, instead introducing a mixture of chemical gases that break down and harden into crystallized carbon atoms.

The CVD method, short for Chemical Vapor Deposition, uses less heat and much less pressure than HPHT. Instead, carbon-based gases are used to form and grow what we know as a diamond.

The process begins again with a diamond seed. The diamond seed for the CVD process is usually a narrow diamond slice, quite often one that was first created using the HPHT method.

Similar to HPHT, this diamond seed is placed in a sealed chamber. Gases are then introduced to the chamber, typically methane and hydrogen. The environment is then heated to several hundred degrees Celsius. Under this heat, the gases break down, and the carbon atoms from these gases begin to build around the diamond seed.

The CVD method is newer, and less costly than HPHT, since the machinery is smaller and requires less power. However, CVD diamonds often come out in a black or brown colour, which then requires HPHT treatment to get the final, colourless diamond.

This being said, the CVD method has improved drastically in the last decade, meaning it’s more common for scientists to produce colourless diamonds using only Chemical Vapor Deposition.

Lab Created Diamonds vs Mined diamonds

Lab-created diamonds and mined diamonds differ primarily in how they are made but also other qualities like price, resale value, rarity and desirability. Here, we give a breakdown of lab-grown diamonds vs mined diamonds:

Lab grown Diamonds
– Lab-grown in a matter of weeks – Constructed of carbon atoms structures – Mass-produced – Lower price with lower resale value – Available in a range of shapes and carat weight – Somewhat desirable for engagement rings
Mined Diamonds
– Formed under the earth’s crust over billions of years – Constructed of carbon atoms structures – One-of-a-kind – Higher price with higher resale value – Available in a range of shapes and carat weight – Very desirable for engagement rings

Lab How to Tell the Difference Between Lab created Diamonds and Mined diamonds

You can’t tell the difference between lab-created diamonds and mined diamonds without very specialised and expensive equipment, even if you’re a professional gemologist. The best way to tell the difference between lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds is to look at the grading report. If a professional gemologist is determining if a diamond is mined or lab-grown, they use magnification to look at the nature of the inclusions. The inclusions in a natural diamond appear slightly different than in a lab-created diamond. There are sometimes also differences in how the diamond reflects light compared with a synthetic diamond. In general, though, when looking at a lab-created diamond next to a natural diamond, you can’t distinguish the two.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds a Good Investment?

As Lab Grown Diamonds have grown in popularity, one of the main questions we receive is whether or not they can be resold at a later date. Many traditional jewellers tell customers that Lab Created Diamonds have absolutely no value, but this could not be further from the truth. Most Mined Diamonds have resale value, and most Lab Created Diamonds will have a similar resale value, as well. The most important element of this question is related to the lack of understanding with regards to the resale value of Mined Diamonds. Unless the diamond in question is extremely rare, it’s virtually impossible to sell an Mined Diamond purchased in the last decade for more money than what you paid for it. There’s simply no reason why a jeweller would be compelled to buy your diamond at the market price when they could buy an identical diamond at a lower price from any one of hundreds of wholesalers who might offer better payment terms.

Misconception of Value: Perpetuated by Many Jewellers

Unfortunately, this misunderstanding has been used as one of the biggest selling points for Mined Diamonds by jewellers over the last 50 years. Customers are told their diamonds are not just a personal treasure, but also a valuable treasure, planting the idea that their purchase can be resold for an amount equal to or greater than what was originally paid. What these jewellers don’t tell customers is that the second a person walks out of the store, the diamond’s resale value drops to 30% of the purchase price, a 70% loss from the original cost. The same as when you buy a brand new car.

Ultimately, you are buying an heirloom that you can pass on for generations. As young people become even more aware and interested in products that match their values, you can feel confident they will appreciate that the Lab Grown Diamond you are sharing with them had a positive impact on the world and they can feel proud wearing it.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds Valuable?

Lab Grown Diamonds are most definitely valuable. The scientists, laboratories, engineers, equipment, time, effort and expertise are all factors that go into producing some of the world’s highest quality diamonds. The reason Lab Grown Diamonds are up to 45% less than mined diamonds is not because they are lower quality (in fact they are higher quality than 97% of mined diamonds) it’s because the supply chain is so much shorter. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Regardless of origin, either man-made or mined, all diamonds are priced using an internationally accepted pricing system. This system is known as the Rapaport Pricing Method and it determines wholesale and retail pricing. Prices are generated first based on the “Four C’s” of diamonds: carat, cut, clarity, and colour. Then, whether they are Lab Grown or mined is taken into consideration.

We’re seeing a very similar system for the resale of Lab Grown Diamonds emerging today, particularly within the online market. We encourage consumers to keep in mind that just because your local jeweller is not currently buying Lab Grown Diamonds does not mean that there is no resale value for them. Rather, these Lab Grown alternatives are a relatively new product on the market and we need more time to see how this develops, just as we once did with Mined Diamonds.

Factors That Go Into A Diamond’s Final Price

Two of the big things to keep in mind with diamond resale values is the quality of the diamond and all the hands that touch it before it is purchased by a consumer. 97% of mined diamonds are ordinary Type I diamonds. At FRANCOIS JEWELLERS we only sell Type IIa Lab Grown Diamonds which are a superior quality that are brighter and harder than ordinary Type I diamonds.

Mined Diamonds can trade hands 20 times and travel across 5 continents before reaching the consumer. In addition to all of the humanitarian and environmental issues that come with the purchase of Mined Diamonds, consumers are also forced to pay for each incremental markup in the long chain of exchanges. Lab Grown Diamonds have a much shorter trip between origin and retail purchase, resulting in significantly lower pricing.

Why Some Traditional Jewellers Don’t Sell Lab-Grown Diamonds

Most Mined Diamond retailers are firmly entrenched in the old ways of marketing diamonds and don’t want to upset the apple cart by offering clearly beneficial pricing associated with Lab Grown Diamonds. Offering Lab Grown Diamonds alongside Mined Diamonds would likely sway consumers to purchase the former, forcing retailers to lose out on sales of the over-priced diamonds in their inventory. Once all consumers are educated on the many benefits of Lab Grown Diamonds and the ethical issues that Mined Diamonds carry with them, the choice will become so much clearer for both purchasing and reselling diamonds.

Punchline: Price Comparison between Mined diamonds, Lab Grown Diamonds and Moissanite

This is just to give you an idea of approximate price differences between stones of the same ct., shape, cut and clarity:

Mined diamond R20,000

Lab Grown Diamond R11,000

Moissanite R2,000

Mined diamond R50,000

Lab Grown Diamond R28,000

Moissanite R5,000

Mined diamond R100,000

Lab Grown Diamond R55,000

Moissanite R10,000

Very Important: Caution!

Whether you plan to buy a Mined Diamond, a Lab Grown Diamond or a Moissanite ALWAYS buy it from a reputable jeweller with a proven track record. One you can TRUST.