• Natural Diamonds vs Lab Grown Diamonds

    Natural Diamonds are formed of carbon atoms over millions and often billions of years within the mantle, beneath the Earth's crust. They are created through the intense heat and high pressure that is naturally created deep below the Earth's surface which then crystalizes the carbon, resulting in a diamond. The diamonds are then bought to the surface through volcanic activity and held within Kimberlite pipes allowing them to be mined.  

    Developments in technology now means that this process can be replicated and the process of Natural Diamond formation can be mimicked within a laboratory environment. The extreme pressure and heat needed for Diamonds to be created can be replicated in these precisely controlled conditions. Lab grown diamonds are created in one of two ways. They both start with a flat slither of another Diamond known as a 'seed' from which the lab created diamond is grown. The original process of creating a lab grown diamond is known as HPHT - High Pressure, High Temperature. This process produced the first ever lab grown diamond in 1954, however although the process was successful these were not of Gem Quality. It was in 1971 that the first Gem Quality lab created diamond  was formed; although these were not of the high quality colourless standard that are grown and seen within commercial quantities of jewellery today. 

    As technology has developed another way in which a Diamond can be grown within laboratory conditions has been discovered; this is called CVD - Chemical Vapor Deposition. For a Diamond to grow in this way a 'seed' is again used and put into a chamber which is filled with carbon-rich gas rather than the 'pure graphite carbon' which is added to the chamber when using the HPHT system. During the CVD process the diamond is exposed to a temperature of 800°C rather than the significantly higher temperature of 1,500°C during the HPHT process. When growing a diamond through Chemical Vapor Deposition and the right combination of gas and heat exposure it results in the gases attaching to the 'seed' and in turn a diamond is grown through the build up of carbon atoms layer by layer. In mid 2021 the IGI certified the largest ever produced lab grown Diamond at 14.60ct - this was grown using the Chemical Vapor Deposition method. 

    As technology develops and advances it results in companies being able to produce higher quality diamonds more rapidly and more cost effectively than those originally created some years ago. This is something to note when thinking about which to purchase - a natural or lab grown diamond. Today, lab grown diamonds are produced on such a scale that they can easily be mass produced. Where as a Natural diamond is completely unique and one of a kind which has been formed over billons of years. 

    Lab-grown diamonds have the exact same physical composition and appearance as Natural diamonds. Due to this identical atomic make-up they exhibit the same optical and chemical properties as that of a Natural Diamond. This in turn means that it is impossible to tell the difference between a Natural Diamond and a Lab Created Diamond to even a trained eye. To help with identification, most Lab Created Diamonds are laser inscribed with the details of their unique certificate along their girdle. 

     If the Diamond is not inscribed specialised equipment is used to test the Diamond and identify how it was formed. All Lab Created Diamonds come certificated and are graded in the same way as Natural Diamonds by identifying their Carat, Colour, Clarity and Cut. Most lab grown diamonds are graded by the IGI (International Gemmological Institute). 

    It is important not to get lab created Diamonds confused with stone 'Simulants' Lab created Diamonds are Diamonds with the exact same atomic make-up as that of a Natural Diamond it has just been created in a laboratory rather than the Earth. Cubic Zirconia's are often described as 'Man-made Diamonds' however Cubic Zirconia's are a stone in their own right and have their own make-up. They are just often used as a 'Diamond Simulant' as are Crystals because of their appearance. 

    At any point when an individual is selling a Lab Created Diamond, whether that is an Engagement Ring being purchased for the first time from a jewellers or a pair of Lab Created Diamond Earrings being sold as Second Hand. The buyer must be made aware that it is a Lab Created Diamond and the certification must be passed on with the item being sold. This is due to lab created diamonds being chemically and optically the same as that of a natural diamond and therefore, traditional diamond detectors are not able to tell them apart. So even the most experienced Gemmologist or Diamond grader would require the assistance of an advanced testing laboratory to identify a Lab Grown Diamond. 

     Some consumers are becoming more drawn towards Lab Created Diamonds because of the ethical and ecological properties surrounding them. However, they should not be judged to be the complete Eco Friendly alternative to Natural Diamonds. This is due to the large quantities of energy that is needed to produce the lab created Diamonds and the carbon footprint that is created. This is leading some manufacturers to explore ways to create carbon neutral processes. 

    It is well known that some Natural Diamonds have an unethical history, examples of this being conflict Diamonds, extremely poor mining conditions and wages. Thankfully the Diamond Industry is now continually moving forward in a way that all of these areas can be improved. This can be seen through the introduction of the Kimberley Process ensuring that all rough diamonds are conflict free. There are also now the opportunities to purchase Fairtrade and Fair-mined where you can be assured that the piece of jewellery that you are purchasing and the Diamond within it have been ethically sourced. Resulting in the miners working in safer conditions with a fair wage for themselves and their communities. 

    There are many points to consider when you are trying to decide whether to purchase a natural diamond or a lab grown diamond.

    Currently, there is a very significant price difference between lab created diamonds and natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are considerably more affordable and are currently 50-60% cheaper in price than natural diamonds of comparable size and quality. It is important to take into consideration the re-sale price of lab created diamonds and how purchasing a natural diamond can be seen as more of an investment due to their fixed or increased re-sale value. 

     If you are purely thinking about the appearance of the stone then perhaps a lab grown diamond would be best as to the untrained eye you would not be able to tell the difference. If you were looking for a piece of jewellery with a completely unique diamond in it than a natural diamond would be preferable. There are of course many other aspects to consider than just purely visual.  A largely positive aspect of choosing a lab grown diamond is the fact that it does not require mining and therefore the harm that is caused to the environment through this process. However, this does not make them 100% eco friendly, as they still take a large amount of energy to produce.

    Another factor to consider is that many of the countries where natural diamonds are mined have set up huge infrastructures that employ local people who rely on sourcing diamonds for their income. If the industry was to completely switch over to Lab Grown Diamonds this would have devastating affects on these communities.

     If you were looking to source a stone which truly takes into consideration it's environmental and ethical impacts you could look at carbon neutral laboratory grown diamonds or natural diamonds from Fairtrade mines. 

    Another idea, which we find to be an intriguing option for our customers, is recycling of natural diamonds. Due to the hardness of diamonds, more often than not, the jewellery the diamonds are set in to wears out and yet the diamond will still be perfect!

    It is becoming an ever increasingly popular choice to upcycle diamonds, removing diamonds from old, broken or worn out jewellery and setting in to mounts to create a brand new piece of jewellery, whilst also retaining the sentiment and provenance attached to the diamond. Often, this is also a much more cost effective than buying a brand new piece of jewellery with diamonds already set in to them, regardless of whether that is natural or lab-grown diamonds.

    It is safe to say there is a wide range of options when it comes to diamond buying. We would always encourage our customers to discuss with us their preferences and priorities so we can assist with finding the perfect piece of jewellery and today, these conversations have probably never been as important as with diamonds.

  • Comments on this post (0 comments)

  • Leave a comment