When it’s time to buy an engagement ring or another piece of diamond jewelry, you’ll likely encounter lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds. The debate between lab-grown diamonds vs natural diamonds takes many different angles. Before you choose one or the other, make sure you understand what you’re getting.
While both are crystallized carbon, they are not the same. Lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds may appear identical, but they are still not the same. Let’s look at what each is and how they are different.
What is a Lab-Grown Diamond?
According to the GIA website, lab-grown diamonds “are created in a laboratory or factory rather than occurring in nature and mined from the earth.” These diamonds are created from either a high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) process or a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process.
What is a Natural Diamond?
WithClarity.com defines a natural diamond in this way, “a natural diamond is made from carbon and is the hardest natural known substance on earth.” The process to create a natural diamond includes very high pressure and high temperatures at least 85 miles below the earth’s mantle. It’s suggested that natural diamonds have taken billions of years to be formed.
Lab-Grown Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds: The Key Differences
Two diamonds may look the same or similar, yet be very different. This is incredibly true when comparing a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond. They might look similar, but they have many key differences.
Artificial vs. Natural
The main difference between a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond is how they are formed. A lab-grown diamond is artificially created, while a natural diamond is naturally created.
This is the biggest difference and the most noticeable difference. Both can look and feel exactly the same. Both can be cut into the same shapes and sizes, but one is natural and the other is artificial.
Amount of Time to be Created
A natural diamond takes far longer to be created than a lab-grown diamond. Many believe the process takes billions of years in nature to create a natural diamond. However, a lab-grown diamond can be created in just a few months.
Due to the length of time it takes and the fact that natural diamonds have to be mined, they are prized for their rarity. Lab-grown diamonds are not rare. While there is still a process to create them, they can be created at any time.
Another very big difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is the cost. In most cases, you will pay 40% to 60% less for a lab-grown diamond compared to a natural diamond. This is pretty standard across all different grades of diamonds.
The biggest savings will come with the better-grade diamonds, as well. Most lab-grown diamonds are created to have a very high grade and cost about 60% less than a natural diamond of the same grade.
There are some very common myths out there about the resale value of diamonds. While many believe natural diamonds hold their value and may even go up in value, this isn’t exactly true. It’s also common to hear that lab-grown diamonds will lose most, if not all of their value after they have been purchased. Again, this isn’t the truth.
While you really shouldn’t be making plans to resell a diamond if it’s in your engagement ring, it is important to know what the value will be in the future.
All diamonds actually lose value after they have been purchased from a retail location. Often, they will sell for 30% to 70% less than what you paid for them. A used ring just isn’t worth as much.
Diamonds are not seen as an investment, most of the time. There are a few rare diamonds that do appreciate, but these are the exception to the rule.
Another key difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is the environmental impact. Sometimes, lab-grown diamonds are referred to as sustainable diamonds, which sounds great. However, there are many things using the label “sustainable” that really are not that great for the environment.
While lab-grown diamonds don’t require the mining process a natural diamond does require, they are not exactly environmentally friendly. Natural diamond mining does cause plenty of harm and there are some very unethical diamond mining practices used in some parts of the world. Lab-grown diamonds may not be the answer, however.
A lab-grown diamonds can be environmentally-friendly, but they can also come with some concerns. The machines used do require constant energy, which can cause an issue. If the lab creating the diamonds uses sustainable energy, it might not be such an issue.
Enormous microwave-head generators are used in an HPHT system or a CVD system. The process is rather straightforward. If the diamond lab uses renewable energy sources, it’s more sustainable compared to a natural diamond. However, if it doesn’t it may or may not be better for the environment.
The Diamond Producers Association has even put out a report stating that natural diamonds are better for the environment than lab-grown diamonds. They state that the carbon-intensive process to create lab-grown diamonds is harmful. It really comes down to how the diamonds are created vs how they are mined.
Lab-Grown Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds: Which Should You Buy?
If you’re trying to buy an engagement ring, the type of diamond you should buy depends on who you are buying it for. Some buyers may have cost concerns, while others may care more about the environmental impact or the mining practices used. There is no wrong or right answer between the two types of diamonds.
Choosing the right one for your purchase depends on who you are buying it for. Take their thoughts into consideration and buy the type of diamond you know they would prefer. Lab-grown diamonds do allow those on a tighter budget to get a nicer diamond for a fraction of the cost, however.
There are many differences between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds. However, you might not notice the differences just by looking at both.