Lab Grown Diamonds

Lab Diamonds vs Real Diamonds

In the debate of lab diamonds vs real diamonds, it is important to establish some truths. Firstly lab diamonds are real diamonds - the only difference is they’ve been created in human-made conditions, rather than under the Earth’s mantle over billions of years. So, how do lab diamonds differ from natural diamonds? Our experts have the low down.

Are lab created diamonds real diamonds?

Yes, lab grown diamonds are 100% real diamonds, with the same properties that natural diamonds have. Lab diamonds have no physical differences from natural diamonds, and it is impossible to tell them apart without specialist laboratory equipment. There are only two differences between lab diamonds and natural diamonds: price, and ethicality.

Lab diamonds have soared in popularity. First developed some 70 years ago, it wasn’t until recent leaps forward in the efficiency of their production that ensured top quality diamonds, that lab diamonds entered the jewellery market.

For most people, the choice of a lab diamond is obvious: they’re cheaper, guaranteed to be ethical, with more sustainable origins. Yet others remain sceptical as little is known about their future value, and whether something made in a lab is as romantic as nature’s produce.

So, the debate is less about lab diamonds vs real diamonds - because both mined and human made diamonds are authentic diamonds. Price and ethicality vs romance - which has your vote?

What’s the difference between a lab grown diamond vs natural diamonds?

There are no physical differences when we compare Earth created diamonds vs lab diamonds once they're cut - but there are differences in their price and origins. Natural diamonds take billions of years to form within the Earth’s mantle - intense heat and pressure cause carbon to crystallise into a lustrous gem. This process is mimicked in a laboratory to create lab diamonds, through CVD and HPHT - processes that harness intense pressure, heat and carbon-rich gas to create diamonds in just weeks.

Do lab grown diamonds test as real diamonds?

Yes, lab diamonds test as real diamonds, because they are authentic and identical to those found in nature, with the exact same chemical makeup. However, specialist laboratory equipment can tell lab diamonds from natural diamonds.

CVD diamonds, HPHT diamonds and natural diamonds look different in their rough state (see the below image, CVD left, HPHT centre, natural right). Once cut, only specialist equipment can be used to tell lab vs natural diamonds apart - which looks for nitrogen within the stone. Lab diamonds contain no nitrogen, whereas natural diamonds pick up tiny amounts of trace elements as they form.

The efficiency of lab diamond production means they can cost between 60% to 85% less than natural diamonds, which have taken billions of years to form, and costly endeavours to mine. Far less land is used in lab diamond creation than in mining, and choosing a lab diamond diminishes the possibility of choosing a blood diamond - incredibly unlikely, but possible.

Will I find certified lab created diamonds?

Absolutely - in fact, our gemmologists strongly recommend you only look at lab diamonds certified by the IGI or GIA. At Queensmith, we only source IGI and GIA certified lab diamonds for our clients, due to their global reputation as the best, most thorough and accurate graders.

GIA lab diamonds undergo a rigorous process to be graded, similar to that of natural GIA diamonds. Since 2007, GIA has graded lab diamonds with reference to GIA colour, clarity and cut grade standards - with additional information as to whether the diamond is made via CVD or HPHT. However, instead of using terms like ‘VS2’ to accurately grade clarity, or ‘D’ to define colour, GIA choose to identify colour and clarity with descriptive terms. Because of this, some people prefer to look at IGI certified lab diamonds, which use the global standard grading terms for colour and clarity.

Both GIA and IGI laser inscribe a unique number on the girdle of the diamond (viewable under 50x magnification), which corroborates the unique number of its certification, where you’ll find the stone’s grading details. IGI add the words ‘lab grown’ alongside this laser inscription.

To browse IGI and GIA certified lab diamonds, first select your preferred design from our engagement rings collection to find your diamond. Alternatively, book an appointment to discuss a bespoke design and have our specialists source a selection of lab diamonds, just for you.

Lab diamonds vs real diamonds cost

Lab diamonds cost a lot less than natural diamonds - typically a lab diamond will cost between 60% and 85% less than a natural diamond with identical carat weight and grades. Take a look at the typical cost of a lab diamond vs natural diamond below.

Diamond Cut Colour Clarity Price
1ct Natural Excellent D VS2 £8,000 to £9,000
1ct Lab Excellent D VS2 £1,800 to £2,500

To see the price difference yourself, select a ring from our collection of engagement rings and compare diamonds with our live diamond feed. You’ll be able to differentiate between ‘natural’ and ‘lab grown’.

So if lab diamonds are real diamonds, why do they cost less?

The answer lies in the efficiency of their production. Effectively, the time and cost of producing a lab diamond are a lot less than that of finding and mining a natural diamond. Natural diamonds take billions of years to form, and require extensive land mass to mine, as well as all the required infrastructure and workforce. In contrast, it takes one laboratory with a small (but highly expert) workforce just a couple of weeks to create a lab diamond. After an initial, hefty investment in all the technology needed, this laboratory can go on producing lab diamonds - whereas the natural diamond mine will eventually run out of diamonds, and the miner will need to acquire more land to explore.

Essentially, diamond mining is nowhere near as cost efficient as lab diamond creation. That said, it is important to remember just how many livelihoods ethically-established diamond mines can support in mining-dependent communities. The cost of a natural diamond is absolutely worth it when you consider it to be a rarity of nature that has taken a great deal of investment, time and effort to find. Therefore, lab diamonds do not devalue natural diamonds, which are effectively priced as an entirely different entity.

So if lab diamonds are cheaper, what’s their future value?

The future value of lab diamonds is not known. As a disruptive gem to the jewellery industry and with no real precedence to make market predictions, no one knows whether lab diamonds will retain their value, increase in value, or decrease in value. The reality is, the resale value of a diamond (lab or natural) will never be as much as you paid in the first place. Some predict the value of lab diamonds could increase to catch up with natural diamonds in the coming years.

Lab diamonds vs diamond simulants

Lab diamonds are not diamond simulant. Diamond simulants are essentially gems engineered to mimic diamonds, without actually being diamonds - whereas a lab diamond is an authentic diamond. Diamond simulants include stones like moissanites and cubic zirconia.

Diamond simulants have entirely different chemical makeup to diamonds - whereas lab diamonds and natural diamonds share the exact same chemical makeup, because they are both authentically diamonds. Diamond simulants can actually look very different to diamonds - the biggest telltale sign will be the stone’s sparkle, which won’t be as bright, crisp, colourless and lustrous as a diamond.

Lab grown diamonds vs cubic zirconia

Cubic zirconia, or ‘CZ’, is created in a lab - but it is not the same as a lab diamond. CZ is a gem in its own right, and contains many different properties to diamonds. CZ is a very inexpensive stone, often colourless and flawless - but it scratches much more easily and produces a somewhat lacklustre sparkle. The sparkle of a CZ vs lab diamond is far less intense, and emits flashes of rainbow-like colour that look particularly artificial. Even if colourless when created, a CZ can yellow over time.

Lab grown diamonds vs moissanite

Moissanite is a gem that was once found in nature, but has since been artificially produced. Although grown in a lab, moissanite is distinctly different from a lab grown diamond. Moissanite is a particularly hard gemstone and can be created with high clarity, however, the colour tends to look grey, brown, yellow or green-ish. The sparkle of a moissanite is very different to a lab diamond - it is a fiery sparkle that emits lots of rainbow-like colours which can be a giveaway that the stone is artificial. The biggest negative of a moissanite is its tendency to look fuzzy or hazy - this is because it is doubly refractive. The bigger the moissanite, the bigger the impact of this.

Learn more with our Moissanite vs Diamond Buying Guide.

Are lab created diamonds sustainable?

Lab diamond creation requires a lot of energy - but this is something lab diamond creators are constantly working on, shortening the length of time and amount of resources needed to create each diamond. It had been suggested a lab diamond requires 250 kWh to be produced - but already some producers are claiming to use as little as 20 kWh to create a diamond.

In terms of land use, a lab diamond is far more sustainable than a mined diamond. Diamond mining requires vast expanses of land to be explored, whereas a diamond laboratory can be relatively compact, and does not require any form of excavation or mining.

More and more lab diamonds on the market are being produced with renewable energy. Lab diamond producers are increasingly creating lab diamonds with solar power, or investing in ways to offset their carbon emissions. It is predicted that the demand for carbon neutral diamonds will drive many diamond laboratories to reassess the ways they create their diamonds and strive for more eco-friendly production.

Overall, lab diamonds are regarded as far more sustainable than mined diamonds. The extent of their sustainability is predicted to increase as technologies are perfected, to become more efficient and less consumptive.

Should I choose a lab grown or natural diamond ring?

Whether you opt for a lab or natural diamond is a deeply personal choice - and we’re not here to sway you either way. So, here are facts, to help you make a decision - and if that's not enough, why not meet with one of our experts to view natural vs lab diamonds in person?

  • Lab diamond and natural diamonds can be found with the exact same, top quality cut, colour and clarity grades

  • Lab diamonds are 100% authentic diamond - identical to those found in nature

  • Lab diamonds retail between 60% and 85% less than natural diamonds

  • You’ll achieve a considerably higher carat weight with a lab diamond vs natural diamond, for the same budget

  • The future value of lab diamonds is uncertain, whereas natural diamonds more or less retain value over time

  • Lab diamonds require far less land use than natural diamonds

  • It takes a lot of energy to create a lab diamond, but technology is developing to reduce this, and many lab diamonds are created sustainably with solar power

  • Lab diamonds are created in a matter of weeks vs the billions of years natural diamonds take to form

  • It’s impossible to tell and lab and mined diamond apart, without specialist equipment

  • A lab diamond is not a fake diamond, or a diamond simulant - it is an authentic diamond

  • Natural diamonds are not unethical unless you buy a blood diamond - which thanks to the UN’s Kimberley Process is near impossible

  • Most natural diamond mines are ethically-run and can be a vital source of income for developing, mining-dependent communities. Meanwhile, most diamond labs are based in already-developed countries

We’re here to help

We get it, you’ve never done this before.

That’s why we have diamond and design experts on hand, who are here to guide you through every step - from understanding what carat, color, cut and clarity mean, to designing the perfect ring.

Related Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

About Lab Diamonds

Natural Vs Lab Diamonds

What is a natural diamond?

Natural diamonds are formed over billions of years within the Earth’s mantle from high pressure carbon, creating a beautiful, sparkly gemstone.

Are lab grown diamonds real?

Yes, lab grown diamonds are 100% authentic diamonds, they are just grown in a lab setting with conditions made to replicate what happens in nature.

Will lab created diamonds test as real diamonds?

Yes, a lab diamond will test as a real diamond - because it is chemically, physically and optically identical to a natural diamond, and is therefore a genuine diamond. Specialist equipment can be used to tell a lab diamond from a natural diamond - and the origin of a diamond is included on its certificate.

Do lab grown diamonds last as long as natural diamonds?

Yes, a lab diamond will last just as long as a natural diamond. The makeup of a lab diamond is exactly the same as a natural diamond - both measure 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making them the hardest natural substance on Earth. This makes them resistant to scratches, abrasion or breaking.

Why are lab grown diamonds cheaper than natural diamonds?

Lab diamonds take only a matter of weeks to form in a relatively small laboratory with a small but highly skilled workforce - whereas natural diamonds require large expanses of land, excavation, infrastructure and workforce - as well as time to find the diamonds. The reason lab diamonds are significantly cheaper than natural diamonds is that their production is far more efficient and cost-effective!

Making Lab Diamonds

How long does it take to make a lab grown diamond?

Lab diamonds typically form between 2 and 4 weeks. The process can be quicker if other elements are introduced, like nitrogen, but this can make the diamond yellow-tinted.

Do lab diamonds test as real diamonds?

Yes, lab diamonds test as real diamonds, because they are authentic and identical to those found in nature, with the exact same chemical makeup. However, specialist laboratory equipment can tell lab diamonds from natural diamonds.

Is it possible to make a lab grown diamond at home?

No - you’d need a great deal of specialist equipment to create a lab diamond, and it could be an incredibly dangerous process in the wrong hands. It takes a wealth of knowledge for trained scientists and engineering specialists to create a lab diamond - and it’s a very exact science in which the creator must work out the precise, perfect conditions for diamond growth. The intense heat and intense pressure that takes place during lab diamond creation isn’t something you can replicate at home.

Do lab grown diamonds come in different colours?

Yes, lab diamonds can be created in a number of fancy colours, including yellow, blue, pink, orange, green, red and black. In nature, trace elements enter the otherwise pure carbon diamond to cause colouration - like boron in blue diamonds, and nitrogen in yellow diamonds. The same idea can be applied to lab diamonds, where the scientist will work out the perfect amount of trace elements to add during the diamond creation.

Buying A Lab Diamond

Where can I buy lab grown diamonds in the UK?

Queensmith is one of the first jewellers to offer lab diamond rings in the UK.

The world of lab created diamonds is still relatively untouched by the UK engagement ring market, meaning there are few retailers where you can buy lab grown diamond engagement rings and jewellery. Queensmith is at the forefront of understanding and retailing lab grown diamonds alongside our bespoke engagement ring and jewellery services.

After learning your rough budget and an idea of what you’re after, our gemmologists will work on putting together a select range of the finest lab grown diamonds for your unique budget, before meeting with you to discuss your engagement ring or jewellery design.

Book an appointment online or in-store to meet with our diamond & design experts.

What’s the sentimental value of a man made diamond?

This one is up to you. Some adore the romantic history behind naturally grown diamonds, formed over billions of years, rare, precious and perhaps nature’s most beautiful and enchanting creation. Others prioritise the ethical value of lab grown diamonds, and praise the wonder of science in creating something it took the earth billions of years to do so. It’s the power of nature versus the wonder of science - which camp are you in?

Book to discuss with an expert.

How to choose the best lab created diamond for your ring

Choosing the best lab grown diamonds for your engagement ring is no different to choosing a natural diamond. If you’ve decided a lab grown diamond engagement ring is right for you, follow these steps:

  1. define your rough budget
  2. choose the ring style you like, and minus the cost of this to see how much you can dedicate to the diamond
  3. choose the shape of lab diamond you’re after
  4. consider diamonds graded Excellent cut (for round diamonds, or Excellent polish & symmetry for other shapes), D to F colour, VS2 to SI1 clarity

You can read more about choosing the best diamond for your engagement ring here, but the characteristics to prioritise are an excellent cut, followed by a high colour grade. This will ensure that a diamond appears bright, white and extremely sparkly. When narrowing down the options for your lab grown diamond engagement ring, it’s important to seek advice from qualified gemmological experts, to help you understand the intricacies and characteristics of each diamond, point out any flaws, and help you find the best value diamonds for your unique budget. For more advice or to receive a tailored quote, get in touch with our experts.

Can I insure my lab grown diamond engagement ring?

Absolutely. Just like any high value purchase you make, it is important to insure your lab grown diamond ring. The cost of insuring your lab grown diamond is likely to be less than that of a mined diamond, and your insurer of choice will most likely need to see a copy of your order invoice to verify the value of your insurance.

More About Lab Diamonds

Why are human-made diamonds called ‘synthetic diamonds’?

Whilst the terminology can seem a little confusing, man made, ‘synthetic diamonds’ are real diamonds - created in a lab. The term ‘synthetic diamond’ refers to the synthetic (i.e. human-made) environment in which a lab grown diamond is created.

Synthetic diamonds are not to be confused with diamond simulants. Diamond simulants are not diamonds, but are stones that are somewhat similar in appearance and are generally used for cheaper, high street jewellery, such as cubic zirconia and moissanites. Our gemmological advice is to steer clear of diamond simulants: they do not retain value, and more importantly are less striking in appearance, particularly their sparkle, lustre and crisp structure.

What else are lab grown diamonds known as?

Lab grown diamonds are referred to as synthetic diamonds, artificial diamonds, as well as man made, manufactured, lab created, engineered, cultivated and cultured diamonds. These terms all mean the same thing, but 'lab grown' is the term that is most commonly used by jewellers and jewellery buyers.

How long does it take to create a lab grown diamond?

Typically, lab grown diamonds take between one and two weeks to form. Compared to the natural process, which takes billions of years for diamonds to form and enter the Earth’s surface, it is an incredibly quick process!

CVD & HPHT Diamonds

Are CVD diamonds treated?

Most CVD diamonds are treated after creation to enhance their clarity and colour grades. In comparison, fewer lab diamonds created by HPHT need such post-growth treatment to enhance their beauty. Having said this, some CVD diamonds are perfectly gem-quality when created, meaning they don’t need to be treated. This is the same with natural diamonds. You’ll see whether a diamond has been treated on its certificate.

Are CVD diamonds real?

Yes, CVD produces authentic diamonds. A CVD diamond is not artificial - it is 100% genuine diamond, identical in every way to the diamonds found in nature. You might hear some people call CVD diamonds ‘artificial diamonds’, but this refers to the artificial environment in which they are created, rather than the diamonds themselves being fake. It is a confusing term, which is why the industry is starting to abandon the phrase.

Which is better, CVD or HPHT diamonds?

Most experts agree that HPHT diamonds are better quality than CVD diamonds. CVD diamonds are fast growing, which can cause spotty internal marks and graining. CVD diamonds are also known to have brown-ish undertones when produced, meaning they must undergo post-growth treatment to enhance their beauty. HPHT diamonds are typically produced at a higher standard, without the requirement for post-growth treatment.

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