Everything You Need to Know About Lab Grown Diamonds (LGD)

Lab grown diamonds (also referred to as LGD, synthetic, man-made, or lab created diamonds) were first produced in the 1950’s experimentally, with gem quality man-made diamonds coming on to the commercial market in significant quantities just in the last ten years. The average consumer is likely to find the subject of lab-grown diamonds a complex topic. With conflicting and often misleading marketing campaigns and industry jargon, this 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, and value – the pros and cons. We will also give clarity to ethical conversations arising from the growth of lab grown diamonds, giving buyers a balanced picture on matters of social responsibility in both man-made and natural diamonds.

What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?

As the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are created in laboratories or factories, and a number of processes can be used to grow them – usually in a matter of a few weeks. In each case, conditions that create natural diamonds in the Earth’s core are recreated in controlled conditions in order to create synthetic diamonds. We will take a closer look at the specific methods for creating a lab-grown diamonds shortly.
By contrast, 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 eruptions beneath the crust of the Earth move the diamonds from the mantle to the surface, or close enough to the surface to be mined.
Though they both have the same basic chemical composition, and physical and optical properties, the difference in formation leave telltale signs that enable differentiation by gemological laboratories. It is also possible for an experienced jeweler or gemologist to pick up differences that indicate that a diamond is synthetic, but that must be confirmed with the higher level diagnostic tools of a laboratory.

Is Cubic Zirconia A Lab-Grown Diamond?

The first area of confusion among consumers is regarding other diamond simulants. Through the years, glass, cubic zirconia, white sapphires and moissanites and many other materials have been used as diamond simulants. All of these materials possess very different properties to a natural diamond and could be easily detected by eye or using basic equipment.
  • Moissanite: Moissanite can occur naturally, though its rarity means that almost all moissanites are now created synthetically. These stones are doubly refractive and don’t produce crisp scintillation, but tend to 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 on the Mohs Scale (compared to a diamond at 10) 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 sleepy appearance compared to a diamond.
  • White Topaz: White Topaz is similar to white sapphire though even softer, and thus it will tend to acquire scratches and abrasions from wear.
Lab-grown diamonds are true synthetics, and are not the same as other diamond simulants. While simulants bear a resemblance to a diamond, lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical and physical properties as a natural diamond. This makes them equally beautiful and durable as diamonds, and it makes it very difficult for buyers, and indeed jewelers, to identify lab-grown diamonds.
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 moissanite might cost much more than a cubic zirconia, and a lab-grown diamond more than a moissanite.

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 that can be identified in a lab. It also, of course, results in a much lower price.

Beauty & Identification

Possessing all the optical properties of a natural diamond, a man-made diamond can be very beautiful, providing it is cut well. The physical differences lie beyond what the eye can see, in the growth structure. And this is what enables synthetics to be reliably identified in the lab. In addition to certain growth structures being indicative of synthetic, there are also characteristic inclusions and types of fluorescence.
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). Laboratory certification is the only way to really be certain of the identity and quality of the diamond you are buying.

Ethical Matters

Lab-grown diamonds are often sold as an ethical alternative to natural diamonds. Some past history of the diamond mining industry has understandably left consumers with concerns regarding the sources of their natural diamonds. In particular, the issue of conflict diamonds is a factor in the demand for 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 programs to give back to the communities and neighborhoods near the diamond mines, securing thousands of jobs for local miners, enabling them to provide for their families. Take a look at our social responsibility pledges to find out more.
Lab grown diamonds are also an ethical choice, and need not be based on demonizing the diamond mining industry. Millions of people rely on the diamond trade for their livelihood, access to clean water and sanitation, as well as education and healthcare. The beneficial impacts of the lab-grown diamond industry on a community scale is a tiny fraction of the natural diamond positive impacts worldwide.
Whether or not a lab grown diamond is the right choice for you is a personal decision with many factors. It’s important to address the question with a full understanding of the pros and cons. There are some principled companies selling lab grown diamonds, but there are others who choose to cast natural diamonds in a bad light rather than selling the benefits of their lab grown product. Responsibly produced diamonds are a shared humanitarian goal amongst all respected diamond vendors, regardless of whether the diamonds are mined from the Earth or produced in a factory.

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 seem logically to be 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.
While the “big dig” diamond mines are very large operations that disturb millions of tons of earth, there are very few of them on the planet because of the rare geological events required to bring gem diamonds to the surface. And these operations are very visible and easy to monitor in terms of their environmental impacts.
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 transparency 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.

Other Concerns for Lab Grown Diamonds

The emergence of lab grown diamonds marks an impressive feat of alchemy; however, as with other synthetic gemstones in the past, concerns have been raised about the impact man made diamonds may have on consumers.

Disclosure

The first issue is disclosure. 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 FTC guidelines. While this is a positive step for buyers, these newly actioned rules have only recently been put in place and full compliance is still and issue for the market.

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. This may or may not turn out to be a significant concern. Only time will tell how various types of lab-grown diamonds might age and interact with environmental conditions.

Post Growth Treatment

Many lab grown diamonds are subjected to treatments to improve their appearance after they are grown. Diamonds that have undergone these “post-growth treatments” are less desirable than diamonds that are exactly “as grown”. There may be some concern that such treatments may not be entirely stable, or that some other negative impacts may be introduced by these treatments. Again, while it is unlikely that there is much to worry about in this regard, only time will tell.

Melee & Mounted Goods

Perhaps the biggest concern for consumers (and for the industry) is the presence of large numbers of synthetic melee diamonds melees (small accent stones) entering the market and the risk that they are mixed with natural diamonds. Diamonds this small have not historically been sent to labs for identification. The cost to do so was not justified by the value of a small stone, and there was no need before synthetics entered the market. In response to this problem, the GIA has created an automated system to easily sort lab grown and natural diamonds of melee weight. All of the major labs now have the capability of testing bulk parcels of melee diamonds – even those already mounted in jewelry.
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.

Unregulated Production

The process of creating man made diamonds may sound complicated, but CVD machines are actually available to buy online! This leaves the market vulnerable to rogue traders and illegitimate businesses operating outside of FTC guidelines. This will shorten the timeline to high production and market saturation, with rapidly falling prices possibly threatening a healthy market for man-made diamonds.

Quality Assurance

Referred to as ‘the fifth C’, certification is essential for diamond buyers today. 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 reports 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.
Whether you are in the market for a lab grown diamond or a natural diamond, lab certification is the only way to ensure reliable assessment and confidence in your diamond purchase.

Price Points

The value of a natural diamond is predicated not only on the 4 C’s -Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat – but also on rarity. Because man made products can be manufactured in practically unlimited quantities, lab grown diamonds do not have a rarity factor undergirding the price structure. As a result, lab grown diamonds have little or no residual value. For this reason, you will not see the same level of benefits offered with lab grown diamonds, such as buyback and trade-up benefits.
These points are intertwined with matters of the emotion and symbolic significance for buyers. In a practical sense, natural diamonds and lab grown diamonds are two different products.
Price is hugely important to buyers, but so are intangible factors such as natural formation and rarity. We believe it is crucial to let our customers know exactly where their money is being spent. We specialize in GIA and AGS certified diamonds and offer advanced performance diagnostics on all of our in-house diamonds. We also understand that our customers may have a preference for lab grown diamonds, and we will happily accommodate them. No matter what diamond you purchase from Whiteflash, you will always know exactly what you are buying.

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 in natural diamonds, 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 love all of o diamonds – with cut quality and light performance 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. Lab grown diamonds may appeal for personal or budgetary reasons. We fully understand and respect that choice, and can help you find the right lab grown diamond for your project.
Natural diamonds, because of their rarity and beauty as the “gem of gems”, are intrinsically linked to emotion; as unique as a snowflake, they mark the significant moments in our life. They are treasured for a lifetime and become cherished heirlooms. They are part of the Earth’s rich history and promise to be a constant in our future.

Lab Grown Diamonds – the Whiteflash Way

To support customers looking for lab grown diamonds, Whiteflash is currently stocking a select inventory of the finest lab created diamonds. With our expertise in cut quality, the lab diamonds we stock have proven light performance. They are certified Hearts and Arrows Ideal Cut, and at the top of the scale in terms of color and clarity (DEFG color VVS1 -VS1). You browse our in-stock offerings at our Precision Lab page. 
Each lab grown Diamond we offer comes with a grading report from the International Gemological Laboratories verifying that they are Hearts and Arrows and that they are “As Grown” with no post-growth treatments having been applied. Each diamond is inscribed LG with the report number.  To learn more please visit our natural vs lab grown diamonds page.
*Please Note: Lab Created Diamonds are not eligible for our life time trade-up and one year buy back benefits.

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