Lab grown diamonds, often referred to as cultivated diamonds, man made diamonds, or even synthetic diamonds are created in a laboratory setting that emulates the natural process of a diamond’s growth - only, taking a lot less time (say, 3 billion years less, give or take).
Optically, chemically and physically identical to natural, mined diamonds, the demand for lab grown diamonds has soared in recent years, as engineering methods and technologies have been perfected to produce diamonds that are, by all accounts, beautiful, economical, real diamonds.
Lab grown diamonds are a great way to ensure you buy a bigger diamond at a lower price point. Want to compare natural vs lab grown diamonds in store? Book an appointment with our expert gemmologists to view a selection of diamonds sourced for your specific budget in mind.
The first thing most people want to know is ‘are lab grown diamonds real diamonds’? Rest assured, lab grown diamonds are 100% real diamonds. Visually, chemically, physically, a man made diamond bears no difference to a natural diamond.
For this reason, lab grown diamonds will register as real diamonds when they’re tested. Specialist laboratory equipment will note whether a diamond has been created in a laboratory, but even the most advanced gemmologists are unable to make the call - by eye or under extreme magnification.
How are lab grown diamonds created?
We all know natural diamonds are a wonder of nature, but how are diamonds formed? Understanding the natural process of diamond creation is fundamental for learning about the creation of synthetic diamonds. So let’s start with how natural diamonds are formed: around 90 to 150 miles deep in the Earth’s mantle, pure carbon particles are exposed to intense heat and pressure, encouraging crystallisation that builds over time. Diamonds are transported to the Earth’s surface through volcanic explosions.
So how about lab grown diamonds? Essentially, the conditions of the Earth’s mantle are emulated in a laboratory. There are two techniques: HPHT (high pressure, high temperature) and CVD (chemical vapour deposition).During HPHT, graphite (pure carbon) is exposed to intense heat and pressure, via extreme electric pulses and pressed between pieces of metal, until the carbon melts and a diamond is born - this usually takes a number of days. In CVD, a minuscule piece of existing diamond (usually created via HPHT) is treated with a heated, carbon-rich gas, which reaches intense temperatures. The carbon gases ionise and, eventually, particles stick to the original diamond and cause crystallisation. Typically, CVD produces the best quality created diamonds, as the metal involved in HPHT can enter the diamond and create visible inclusions.
Undoubtedly, lab grown diamonds are an assured way of making sure your diamond has been ethically produced and sourced - so in short, lab grown diamonds are more ethical than mined diamonds. Ethical diamonds are in greater demand than ever, as consumers, NGOs and bodies such as the UN call for an end to the trade of conflict diamonds.
Global efforts, including the UN’s Kimberley Process, continue to work towards eradicating mined blood diamonds from the global market, and have prevented 99.8% of the worldwide trade of blood diamonds. So whilst a mined diamond in the UK market is almost certainly conflict free, choosing a lab grown diamond ensures 100% transparency of its ethical origins.
Compared to the land used for mining efforts, lab grown diamonds are a less disruptive, more sustainable option than mined diamonds. Having said this, lab created diamonds take a great amount of energy to enable their growth - typically between 250 kWh and 750 kWh. This is a figure likely to fall with improved technologies, and already some producers claim their lab diamonds take as little as 20 kWh to grow.
During your search for ethical diamonds, whether lab created or mined, it is important to know you’re buying from a trusted jewellers. Queensmith takes pride in ensuring we only work with the most renowned, trusted and transparent diamond suppliers, sourcing only GIA and IGI certified diamonds for our mined and lab grown diamond rings.
Why are man made diamonds called ‘synthetic diamonds’?
Whilst the terminology can seem a little confusing, man made, ‘synthetic diamonds’ are real diamonds. The term ‘synthetic diamond’ refers to the artificially created 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.