Shoppers are becoming more and more curious about lab-grown diamonds, and it’s not hard to see why. Aesthetically, they appear identical to mined diamonds, and they’re just as ideal for everyday wear. The best part, however, is that they come in at a lower price point and are a more sustainable option for those with eco-conscious sensibilities. So, it’s easy to understand why lab-grown diamonds are shaking up the industry and becoming a popular choice; but with that said, many people still don’t understand what they are and whether or not they’re worth the spend.
Simply put, lab-grown diamonds are, as the name suggests, created and grown in a lab, unlike their mined counterparts, which are found hundreds of miles underneath the Earth’s surface. And while their presence has been surging in popularity in recent years (sales for lab-grown diamonds increased over 60 percent in March 2022, compared to the previous year, and are only expected to rise), these stones have actually been around since the nineties (interesting, right?).
If you’re on the hunt for diamond jewelry, especially an engagement ring, we’re here to share that lab-grown diamonds are certainly worth considering. That’s why we spoke with three experts to help explain what lab-grown diamonds are and why you should pay attention to their role in the wedding jewelry industry. Read on for everything you need to know.
Meet the Expert
- Priyanka Mehta is the designer and founder of Nue, an ethical jewelry brand that uses 18k recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds.
- Ornello Siso is the co-founder of Idyl, a jewelry line that creates sustainable pieces with lab-grown diamonds.
- Anna Bario is a designer and co-founder of Bario Neal, a jewelry brand that works with US-based lab-grown diamonds.
What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
As mentioned above, lab-grown diamonds are stones that are grown in a lab, rather than inside the Earth. According to Priyanka Mehta, designer and founder of Nue, these diamonds are formed in a location that mimics the high temperature and pressure found in the Earth’s surface, and are “a series of carbon atoms bonded together in a crystalline structure. They are chemically, physically, and optically identical to earth-mined diamonds.”
What’s more, if you look at a lab-grown diamond and mined diamond side by side, you likely won’t notice any differences—and that’s exactly the point. “It is an incredibly innovative process, making it possible to offer an identical alternative to natural diamonds,” says Ornello Siso, co-founder of Idyl. “What takes the earth millions of years to grow, can now be achieved in a matter of weeks.”
The Differences Between Lab-Grown and Natural Diamonds
To start, the main difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds is their origin. Lab-grown stones are made in a controlled environment, while natural diamonds are mined from below the earth’s surface. “A natural diamond is formed over billions of years under the surface of the earth and a lab-grown diamond is grown over three to six weeks in a lab,” Mehta adds.
Another notable difference is that lab-grown diamonds are widely considered to be a sustainable and ethical choice. Given that the practice of mining diamonds has been under scrutiny for many years—especially as it relates to the notion of “blood diamonds” and their negative environmental impact—lab-grown stones are an ethical alternative that helps minimize unfavorable consequences to the environment and society. Siso also notes that they’re fully traceable, while mined diamonds are oftentimes difficult to trace.
Lastly, lab-grown diamonds are a more cost-friendly and accessible choice since they’re able to be made quickly. “For instance, for a two-carat halo ring of cultivated diamonds, you might pay $6,000. Whereas, a natural diamond version of that same ring could be closer to $23,000,” says Anna Bario, designer and co-founder of Bario Neal.
How to Find a Lab-Grown Diamond
Though lab-grown diamonds may have been difficult to find at one point, there is now a growing list of brands and retailers that sell these sustainable stones. And if searching for lab-grown wedding jewelry, it’s important to keep two things in mind before making a final purchase.
Make sure that any lab-created diamond over half a carat is certified, most commonly by the International Gemological Institution. “The grading system for earth-mined and lab-grown diamonds is the same, and the only difference listed on the certificate is the origin,” explains Mehta.
If being more eco-friendly is a major reason you’re purchasing a lab-grown diamond ring, do some research before you purchase one. “It is important to consider that lab-grown diamonds are often mass-produced in India and China, and not all labs are using renewable energy to grow their diamonds,” Mehta warns.
Bario also stresses the importance of questioning the origin of any brand’s lab-grown diamonds. “Are they produced in the USA? Are there any carbon offsets made during the manufacturing? Where are the diamonds faceted and polished?” Bario recommends asking and considering these questions, in addition to checking for the below:
- A sustainability certification to prove that the diamonds were created in a way that offsets their carbon footprint.
- Confirmation that they can be easily traced throughout the supply chain.
- Proof that they meet the most stringent social and environmental requirements to provide maximum protection for workers and the community.
- Proof that they have a “net zero impact” on the environment during the process of growth.
Pros and Cons of Lab-Grown Diamonds
One of the most obvious pros of lab-grown diamonds is the price. “You can get an upgrade in color grade, higher clarity, better cut, and bigger size at a more interesting price point,” Siso says. “The difference in price for the diamond itself can go up to 90 percent.” In general, the price for a large, flawless lab-grown diamond can be significantly cheaper than its natural diamond counterpart, which makes it an attractive option for many.
Additionally, lab-grown diamonds can be the more sustainable choice, and the fact that they’re so traceable is also an advantage. “In most cases, they only pass through two to three hands before they reach the consumer,” Mehta says. “It is possible to clearly track the energy consumption used to grow a lab-grown diamond and to continually improve the process. There is no fear of mining, smuggling, or civil war when it comes to lab-grown diamonds.”
As far as cons go, it’s hard to find too many negative attributes associated with lab-grown diamonds: they’re nearly identical to natural stones and come in at a less expensive price point. However, for some consumers, the reason they’ll never be as “special” is based on their origin. “They don’t have the same romantic story of being created over three billion years,” Mehta says. It’s also worth noting that lab-grown diamonds don’t hold their value the same way natural diamonds do.
Lastly, many people immediately assume all lab-grown diamonds are sustainable and ethical, and that’s just not the case. “The marketing of lab-grown as a more sustainable and ethical, not to mention more affordable, option for diamonds and engagement rings really took off in recent years,” Bario says. “It’s important to note that with increased visibility, we also need education around the true impacts of lab-grown diamonds. They may be more affordable, but they are not always more sustainable. It depends on how they were created. Just as with natural diamonds, no jewelry designer can honestly claim 100 percent sustainability, so consumers still need to do their research if that’s their priority.”
Despite the fact that they were created in a controlled environment, lab-grown diamonds are definitely considered real. “In 2018, the FTC ruled lab-grown diamonds as real diamonds and removed ‘natural’ from the definition of a diamond, since there was no difference between them except their origin,” Siso points out. “Lab-grown diamonds are visually, physically, and chemically identical to natural diamonds.”
Lab-grown diamonds do not hold their value the same way natural diamonds do, but this is not because one stone is better than the other. Since natural diamonds are formed over several years and come from the earth, they’re origin gives them an advantage when it comes to valuation. “Natural diamonds have a price history of thousands of years, whereas lab-grown diamonds are new and their prices have come down significantly since they entered the market, so it can be difficult to say or predict their value over time,” Bario says.
To the naked eye, it’s impossible to tell the difference between a lab-grown and a natural diamond. However, jewelers using a magnifying glass will be able to tell the difference. “Lab-grown diamonds may have metallic inclusions while natural diamonds may show feathering, pinpoint inclusions, or clouds,” Bario explains.