Everything You Need to Know About Lab Grown Diamonds

Lab grown diamonds (also referred to as synthetic, made-made, engineered or cultured diamonds) were first created in the 1950’s, with gem quality man-made diamonds on the commercial market in the last ten years. The average consumer is likely to find the subject of lab-grown diamonds a complex topic; fraught with misleading marketing campaigns and industry jargon, this broad area of the diamond industry can be tough to navigate.
We believe in a full diamond education for every consumer. This complete guide will explore all aspects of lab grown diamonds, from their creation, beauty, quality, pros, cons, concerns and price points. We will also give clarity to ethical conversations arising from the growth of lab grown diamonds, giving buyers the full facts on matters of social responsibility in man-made and natural diamonds.

What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?

A natural diamond is formed deep beneath the earth’s surface over billions of years. A combination of incredible heat (over 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit) and immense pressure (727,000 pounds per square inch) come together to turn carbon dioxide into diamonds. Volcanic explosions beneath the earth move the diamonds from the core to the surface, though they must still be mined from up to 620 meters beneath the earth’s surface.
As the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are created in laboratories and a number of processes can be used to form them. In each case, the temperatures and pressures that create natural diamonds in the earth’s core are recreated in controlled conditions in order to create man-made diamonds. We will take a closer look at the specific methods for creating a lab-grown diamonds shortly.

Is Cubic Zirconia a Lab-Grown Diamond?

The first area of confusion among buyers is regarding other diamond simulants. In the past, glass, cubic zirconia, white sapphires and moissanites have been sold as diamond simulants. All of these materials possess very different properties to a natural diamond and could be easily detected by eye or using specialist equipment.
  • Moissanite: Moissanite can occur naturally, though its rarity means that almost all moissanites are now created synthetically. These stones are doubly refractive and generally give off more colored light (fire) than a diamond.
  • Cubic Zirconia: Cubic zirconia develops a milky, murky appearance after it has been worn for a while. It scores an 8.5 (VS a diamond score of 10) on the Mohs Scale and has a lower refractive index than a diamond.
  • White Sapphire: Sapphires are best appreciated when they are full of color. A low refractive index gives a white sapphire a blurry appearance and they lack the black/white balance for sparkling scintillation.
  • White Topaz: White Topaz is much softer than a diamond and thus you will notice than many have surface scratches.
Lab-grown diamonds are not the same as other diamond simulants. While the stones above have unique properties that happen to bear resemblance to a diamond, lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical structure and properties as a natural diamond. This makes it very difficult for buyers, and indeed experts, to identify lab-grown diamonds.
These simulants are not in the same class as man-made and natural diamonds – they are easy to spot and therefore it is unlikely that an informed buyer would be sold a simulant in place of a natural diamond. If you are shopping for non-natural diamonds, pay close attention to the wording used by sellers. Each of these simulants and man-made diamonds have different properties from one another, therefore carry different values. For example, a 1.00ct lab grown diamond may be worth around $1,400 while a 1.00ct cubic zirconia is worth around $20.

How are Lab Grown Diamonds Made?

The two primary methods for creating synthetic diamonds are High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD).
HPHT has been used to grow diamonds since the 1950’s – the pressure and temperatures of the earth are mimicked in a lab to crystalize carbon and create a synthetic diamond.
CVD begins with a diamond seed crystal (usually a HPHT crystal). Gas is introduced into a vacuum chamber and this is broken down using microwaves – carbon atoms will then accumulate onto the diamond seed and a synthetic diamond is created.
Lab diamonds take anywhere from two weeks to two months to produce. This significant difference in timeline (vs a natural diamond) leads to different crystal structures and strain patterns as well as a much lower price.

Ethical Matters

Lab-grown diamonds are often sold as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds. The past of the diamond mining industry has understandably left consumers with concerns regarding the sources of their natural diamonds.
Unfortunately, the implication made by some companies selling lab grown diamonds is that the past of diamond mining represents the present; this is simply not true. It is estimated that around 99.9% of natural diamonds on the market are conflict free. It is the duty of natural and lab grown diamond vendors to give buyers complete clarity on these important facts.
The Kimberly Process was introduced in 2003. All Whiteflash diamonds are from legal, legitimate and ethical sources from suppliers who adhere to the Kimberly Process. Furthermore, respectable businesses now operate social responsibility schemes to give back to the communities and neighborhoods near the diamond mines, securing thousands of jobs for locals. Take a look at our social responsibility pledges to find out more.
Lab grown diamonds are also an ethical choice, however the demonizing of the diamond mining industry is harmful to the millions of people who rely on the diamond trade for their livelihood, education and healthcare. Locals making money from legitimate trade rely on the mining industry and benefit from the social initiative schemes in place.
You may ultimately find that a lab grown diamond is the right choice for you, but do so with the understanding that there is a degree of ethical balance between natural and lab-grown diamonds. There are some principled companies selling lab grown diamonds, but there are others using the ethical issues as market leverage and advertising to cast natural diamonds in a bad light. Conflict free diamonds are a shared humanitarian goal amongst all respected diamond vendors, regardless of the source and creation of the diamonds.

Eco Matters

The process of diamond mining, cutting and distributing is lengthy and costly. Due to the intense process, mining machinery and global distribution of natural diamonds, lab grown diamonds can be fairly called a greener choice.
However, the Diamond Producers Association have pushed back on this once undisputed claim. Trucost estimates that the average polished mined diamond carat emitted 160 kg of CO2, significantly below its estimate of 511 kg for each polished carat grown in a lab.
The Federal Trade Commission have begun cracking down on companies using ‘eco-friendly’, ‘eco-conscious’ and ‘sustainable’ terminologies in their ad campaigns as these claims are unsubstantiated and imply direct environmental benefits. The FTC deems such claims to be deceptive, and companies using misleading advertising will receive penalties.
Discussions surrounding ecological matters within the diamond industry are lively on both sides of the argument, but this debate encourages a focus on greener diamonds and advocates clarity to consumers. Whiteflash will be at the forefront on ecological discussions within the diamond industry and endeavor to give our customers the most accurate information as and when it emerges.

Beauty & Identification

Possessing all the properties of a natural diamond, a man-made diamond can be very beautiful. The differences lie beyond what the eye can see, in the growth structure.
Diamond Growth Morphology
The approaches to identifying HPHT and CVD are distinct and changes in lab grown diamonds over the past decade mean gem labs must be dedicated to developing new technologies to identify them. The GIA stated the following:
‘Because laboratory-grown diamonds are essentially chemically and optically the same as their natural counterparts, traditional gemological observations and old-style “diamond detectors” are not able to tell them apart. Identification at a professional gemological laboratory or using sophisticated devices developed by GIA and other organizations are the only reliable methods to separate them from natural diamonds.’
There is currently no way for buyers to easily identify a lab grown diamond from a natural diamond. Buying AGS or GIA certified diamonds from a trusted vendor eliminates the risk of unknowingly buying man made diamonds (or vice versa).

Concerns

The emergence of lab grown diamonds marks an incredible, alchemic feat for mankind; however, as with any new product, concerns have been raised about the impact man made diamonds may have on consumers.

Deception

The first issue is transparency. Alongside the misleading ‘eco’ claims, the FTC investigations found a number of companies selling lab grown diamonds that were lacking clear definition, leading buyers to believe they were natural diamonds. If a diamond is grown in a lab it must be clearly and conspicuously stated to be in accordance with the new guidelines. While this is a positive step for buyers, these newly actioned rules have been in place less than year and not all companies have caught up.

Social Media

There are also concerns for the policing of ad campaigns via social media. Notoriously difficult to regulate, a focus will be placed on ambiguous hashtags and captioning on social media and the role they play in misleading buyers.

Color Instability

Gemological Science International recently discovered that synthetic diamonds created using the CVD method present color instability. When exposed to UV light, a 2.00ct CVD diamond changed from near colorless to blue. Gemologist have previously observed a change in color in CVD diamonds, but they usually return to normal after half an hour. In this case, the diamond remained blue for two and a half hours. This is cause for concern as it means CVD diamonds could change color through casual use (on a sunny beach, beneath a UV light in a nightclub or nail salon). Experts have called for all CVD diamonds to spend at least 30 minutes in a full spectrum light box before color grading, though it is difficult to say if this is been practiced at present.

Unregulated Production

The process of creating man made diamonds may sound complicated, but CVD machines are available to buy online. This leaves the market vulnerable to rogue traders and illegitimate businesses operating outside of FTC guidelines. Lowest costs will lead to considerable loss of value – a threat to the synthetic market, though not the natural market.

Quality

Referred to as ‘the fifth C’, certification is essential for diamond buyers. Issued by unbiased gem labs (AGS and GIA) certification has been a failsafe for consumers; illuminating the specific qualities and thus the value of a natural diamond, certification offers protection and assurance.
In 2019, the GIA updated their lab grown certificates to minimize confusion. As well as differing in appearance, the category terms are broader (the D-Z color scale used for natural diamonds was replaced with Colorless, Near-Colorless, Faint, Very Light, Light) and clarity grades are not abbreviated. This is good news for buyers.
Unfortunately, as lab grown diamonds are fairly new (compared with natural diamonds) sellers have directed attention away from the importance of certification, instead focusing on unsubstantiated claims of eco friendly diamonds. Even the biggest sellers of lab grown diamonds carry stones with sub-par certificates from less established gem labs. This leaves buyers in the dark on quality and value factors.
Whether you are in the market for a lab grown diamond or a natural diamond, GIA or AGS certification is the only way to ensure reliable grades. Do not be misled or settle for less.

Melee & Pave

There has been a growing concern of pave and diamond melees containing man made diamonds being sold as natural diamonds. In response to this, the GIA has created an automated system to easily sort lab grown and natural diamonds of melee weight.
All of our diamond melee and pave settings are created with high quality, natural diamonds. These twinkling additions add interest and our portfolio of exceptional designer settings show them off in all their glory.

Price Points

The value of a natural diamond is dictated by four key factors; quality, carat weight, rarity and process. These points are intertwined with matters of emotion and investment.
Price is hugely important to buyers, and we believe it is crucial to let our customers know exactly where their money is being spent. We carry only GIA and AGS certified diamonds and offer advanced performance reports as standard on all of our diamonds.
For a 1.00ct H-VS2 lab grown diamond with an IGI certificate (a commonly used certification body for synthetic diamonds) you can expect to pay upwards of $2,350.
A GIA certified diamond with the same specs would be around $5,200.
There are some mitigating factors here; IGI typically carry over inflated grades and for this reason we advise against purchasing diamonds with this certification. We cannot say definitively that the lab grown diamond would truly inhibit the qualities on the certificate.
Lab grown diamonds are cheaper than natural diamonds. The price of a natural diamond reflects its scarcity and the huge operations involved in their recovery. Furthermore, although we encourage our customers to be driven by desire, for those looking for investment, lab grown diamonds have little to no resale value. Unlike a high-quality natural diamond, which is extremely rare, man made diamonds are readily available – there is no need to buy on the second hand market.

Should I Buy a Lab Grown Diamond?

At Whiteflash, our aim is to empower buyers with facts and education so that they can make the best choice for themselves. The first question to ask is what is motivating this decision.
For those looking to make the best of a modest budget, our experts can advise on finding the perfect balance between cost and beauty. We are proud to offer the pinnacle of diamonds (A CUT ABOVE® Collection Series) but we covet our all of our diamonds – with diamond quality at the core of our ethos, we do not settle for anything less, and neither will our customers.
A CUT ABOVE Collection Series Diamonds
If the decision is motivated by ethical and eco concerns, we offer for transparency and peace of mind. With false claims of sustainability plaguing the synthetic diamond market, Whiteflash will continue to be a clear voice of rationale and honesty.
Natural diamonds are intrinsically linked to emotion; as unique as a snowflake, they mark the significant moments in our life and are cherished for a lifetime before becoming heirlooms. They are part of the earth’s rich history and promise to be a constant in our future.

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