What are laboratory-grown diamonds?
Laboratory-grown or synthetic diamonds are created much in the same way as natural diamonds, only the process is sped up and happens in a laboratory instead of in the natural world. Lab-growns have the same chemical properties as naturally-grown diamonds and, unlike simulant Cubic Zirconia stones, they’re still regarded as genuine. However, as they are now becoming increasingly mass-produced, they do not hold the same emotional or commercial value.
How are they made?
There are different ways to create a laboratory diamond, but two main processes stand out:
Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) consists in placing a high-quality diamond (or any other heat-resistant material) in a vacuum chamber containing various gases or carbon material. This material is then heated to extreme temperatures (around 700° to 900°), allowing crystals to form on the initial “seed” diamond. Think of it as a fine composition of carbon materials raining down to create diamond crystals.
High-Pressure, High-Temperature (HPHT), a similar process during which great pressure and heat is applied to a diamond “seed” to allow crystals to grow.
Completed rough stones are then taken to be cut and polished. In theory, there is no limit to how big a laboratory diamond can grow or how many can be created.
How different are they to natural diamonds?
Because they are becoming increasingly mass-produced, laboratory diamonds are not as rare as the natural kind. But if you are looking to create fun, decorative pieces of jewellery, or to get the look of larger diamonds for a more accessible price, they can be a great option.
However, they aren’t as romantic as natural diamonds, which were formed around 3.3 billion years ago deep in the earth, and are in limited supply. Each natural stone is rare and holds its own characteristics and identity. They’re the most favoured option for jewellery that will be handed down from generation to generation as a store of value and wealth.
Are they more sustainable?
There is much debate around whether laboratory-grown diamonds are a more sustainable alternative to natural diamonds.
Although a great many people think laboratory-grown diamonds are environmentally friendly, the reality is they require significant energy to produce. Although it can be difficult to measure the carbon footprint of a single diamond carat, whether natural or lab-grown, experts have found that the laboratory diamonds often use a significant amount of non-renewable energy.
When measuring the carbon footprint of diamonds, a wide range of factors come into play, such as the type of machine used, energy sources, or mining techniques. On average, laboratory-grown diamonds use less energy than mined diamonds, but this does not mean they are a sustainable option.
A report commissioned by ABN Amro in 2011 found that growing a one-carat diamond in a lab requires around 26 kWh of energy, whereas a mined one-carat rough diamond will require 57 kWh.
At 77 Diamonds, we have provided you with a selection of laboratory diamonds that have been created through 100% renewable energy. For more transparency, this will be noted on the diamond’s certificate and on our website.
How can you identify a lab-grown diamond?
It can be difficult to differentiate a laboratory diamond from a natural one, as they are virtually identical. Only an expert with specialised equipment would be able to observe the nature of inclusions found only in lab-grown diamonds.
To know whether a diamond is lab-grown or natural, it is always best to ask your jeweller for a grading report. The Gemological Institute of America supplies each laboratory-grown diamond with official certification so as to be completely transparent on the nature of the stone.
How does this affect the overall price?
Laboratory diamonds are very cost-effective. Depending on size, colour and clarity, the lab-growns we sell on our website can be around 30% to 70% less expensive than natural diamonds.
If you are looking to invest in diamonds, however, we would suggest opting for the natural kind as their scarcity is likely to make them more valuable in the future.
||1 ct, G colour, excellent cut, VS2, Round Natural diamonds
||1 ct, G colour, excellent cut, VS2, Round Laboratory-grown diamonds
||Around 57 kWh
||Around 26 kWh
||Very scarce, especially as this is a high-quality diamond
||No real scarcity
||Stable long-term value
||Decreasing long-term value
Do I still have to look out for the 7Cs with laboratory-grown diamonds?
Just because a laboratory-grown diamond is man-made, this does not mean it is flawless. Just like natural diamonds, lab diamonds are grown and cut with imperfections inside. When purchasing diamonds, we would advise you to always study colour, clarity, cut and carat weight, regardless of the stone’s provenance.
Keep in mind: a lab-grown diamond can still be poorly cut, hold inclusions and be discoloured. These aspects greatly affect the final price and the overall investment you plan to make.
Short reminder of the 7Cs of 77 Diamonds:
Carat is the term used to determine the weight of a diamond. Sometimes used as a point-based system, where 100 is equal to one carat, which is equal to 0.2 grams. A high carat weight will make a diamond more costly, especially if it is of natural origin.
The Gemological Institute of America grades the colour of a diamond from the letters D to Z. When a diamond is graded D, it means the stone is completely colourless – this makes it very valuable. If a diamond has a discernible colour, it will receive a lower grading. A lab-grown diamond will also be colour-graded once it is created, just in the same way as natural diamonds. Some laboratories are now experimenting in creating ‘fancy’ coloured diamonds in blue, yellow or pink.
Lab-grown diamonds can also carry inclusions. Inclusions are small imperfections within the stone that appear during its creation. Often, inclusions are invisible to the naked eye. Visible inclusions, however, will significantly lower the value of your diamond.
The way your diamond has been cut is fundamental to its value and quality. An excellent diamond cutter will know how to reveal all the fire and control the mesmerising light refractions contained in a stone. A poor cut, however, will dull the natural radiance of a diamond. At 77 Diamonds, we do not sell any diamonds that are lower than a “fair” cut.
Laboratories will often mark each of their diamonds with a microscopic symbol so experts can differentiate between what is natural and what is lab-grown. However, this is not always the case. Even with lab-grown diamonds, it is important to ask for certification upon purchase.
We sell lab-grown diamonds certified by different organisations. These include the IGI, GCAL and the GIA (through our supplier Diamond Foundry).
Contour or shape can also determine the value of a diamond, and this is the case for both the natural and laboratory-grown kind. Shape is also a matter of preference, as this is what will form the final look of a jewellery piece. Choose a diamond that suits your taste but also complements the jewellery design you are planning to create.
A laboratory-grown diamond will always cost less than a natural stone, as rarity significantly increases the value of a stone. However, the final price of such a diamond also depends on the quality of cut, colour and clarity.