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Diamonds used to take millions of years to form. Now, thanks to technology, these precious gems are developed in mere weeks. But don't look down on lab-grown diamond engagement rings—they're every bit as bright, sparkling, and eye-catching as those who feature naturally found diamonds.
What Is a Lab-Grown Diamond?
A lab-grown diamond is a diamond grown in a controlled laboratory setting through processes that mimic the natural high heat and high-pressure conditions of Earth. Lab-grown diamonds are very similar to natural diamonds and can be fully formed in a few weeks rather than millions of years.
“Lab-grown diamonds are identical to natural diamonds in nearly every way," says gemologist Anubh Shah. "They have the same chemical, physical and optical qualities as Earth-mined diamonds."
Meet the Expert
Anubh Shah is a trained gemologist and third-generation diamond cutter who is passionate about making diamonds accessible to the modern consumer. He owns engagement ring company With Clarity, which offers natural and lab-created diamonds.
But, there are a few ways lab-grown diamonds differ from natural ones. Ahead, everything you need to know about lab-grown diamonds—from the cost to the reasons behind their growing popularity—before you go engagement ring shopping.
Lab-Grown vs. Natural Diamonds
Natural diamonds are formed in the Earth’s crust, while lab-grown diamonds are man-made. They've been around for over 20 years, however, it wasn't until the last five to seven years that lab diamonds have become jewelry grade. Shah reports that they are now on par with natural diamonds. In addition to white diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are now available in a variety of colors like yellow and pink, which are very rare in their natural states.
Lab diamonds of the highest quality are grown from a seed under conditions in which the purest form of carbon, Type IIA, is used. Lab-grown diamonds are graded on the same parameters of cut, color, and clarity as natural diamonds. Also, they have the same certification processes that natural diamonds do.
Rise in Popularity
“Since January , we’ve seen a shift from 100% natural to about 50% of customers ordering lab diamond. A Bain report from 2019 pegs the lab diamond market growth to be between 15-20% last year alone. We think it’ll be higher this year,” shares Shah.
He adds, “Over the last five years, it has been perfected to the point where lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds can’t be told apart. As with any technology-focused industry there definitely will be more efficiencies and controlled processes in the future that could speed up the rate at which diamonds are grown and also provide more control on the quality of the diamonds. However, only time will tell how fast these advancements can be achieved.”
Average Cost of Lab-Grown Diamonds
The supply chain for a natural diamond can be complex, and the logistical costs can add up, making natural diamonds more expensive than lab-grown diamonds. Shah reports that the most amazing aspect of lab-grown diamonds is that they can cost 30 percent less than a natural diamond. For more specifics on the cost difference between lab-grown diamonds and "real" diamonds, Shah shares these examples of some common diamond size, qualities, and price differences:
- Round 1.00 H VS2: $5,150 natural vs. $1,300 lab
- Round 1.50 H VS2: $9,900 natural vs. $2,400 lab
- Round 2.00 H VS2: $19,500 natural vs. $4,000 lab
- Oval 1.00 H VS2: $16,000 natural vs. $5,000 lab
- Oval 1.50 H VS2: $10,000 natural vs. $2,800 lab
- Oval 2.00 H VS2: $4,100 natural vs. $1,200 lab
Always determine your engagement ring budget before you go ring shopping. Plus, finalizing your budget will help you decide what type of diamonds to consider.
Pros and Cons of Lab-Grown Diamonds
Because of how they are made, lab diamonds are conflict-free and ethically sound. With growing awareness of the violence and human rights abuses that are a problem with some diamond mines, many conscientious couples are looking for alternatives to traditional diamonds, and that’s how they discover lab-grown diamonds. Also, lab-grown diamonds are typically eco-friendly, and certain cutters ensure that they are carbon-neutral when producing diamonds.
People choose lab-grown diamond engagement rings for a lot of other reasons, too. “Oftentimes, they are excited to be able to get a diamond that is larger in size or higher in quality than they might have been able to with a natural diamond. This enables people to size up to a larger carat for their desired shape. At the same time, people who are purchasing lab diamonds tend to have more contemporary tastes when it comes to the ring setting itself. This can include styles like the hidden halo, contemporary twist designs, and those where the metal of the ring is sleek,” explains Shah.
“Many couples also like the technological advancement of producing a lab-grown diamond and the uniqueness of it compared to the traditional natural diamond. The excitement around being part of something new and revolutionary is something a couple can enjoy together.”
There’s no doubting the appeal of lab-grown diamonds, but there are still reasons people choose to go with traditional, naturally-found diamonds. Shah points to the fact that lab-grown diamonds lack the “emotional” component of Earth-created ones; natural diamonds taking millions of years to produce is quite a different story than one created in under 10 weeks. Also, the long-term resale value is unknown since lab-grown diamonds are a fairly new market. These man-made diamonds can also be seen as non-traditional, which could be a big problem for brides who favor tradition.
Myths and Misconceptions About Lab-Grown Diamonds
Some common myths and misconceptions about lab-grown diamonds have persisted since the news of their existence. Some people assume they will look different, but they don’t. Shah says people mistakenly think they are “fake,” but they are not. He explains, “They are the same exact composite as a naturally-unearthed diamond. Some also mistakenly think they are not worth anything. However, they are diamonds and possess value, even though they are manufactured.”
Tips for Buying Lab-Grown Diamonds
“Lab-grown diamonds are identical to natural diamonds in every way, the only real difference is in their formation. Upon looking at a natural diamond and lab-grown diamond side by side, there would be no way to tell which was which. This is why it is important to purchase a certified diamond to ensure that it is vetted for quality,” cautions Shah.
Always work with a trusted and vetted jeweler who has certified diamonds that you can choose from. Make sure the jeweler has a wider selection of lab-grown diamonds too, so you can compare and browse for attributes like color, clarity, cut, polish, symmetry, and more.
Also, look for jewelers who have gemologists on their teams who will be able to give you the most accurate breakdown of what’s worth purchasing (and what’s not) based on your budget. “As always, when it comes to budget, start with a number that makes sense to you and work from there to see what you can get within it. If size is the most important factor, optimize for that. If you’re concerned more about sparkle, be sure to get an excellent or ideal cut.” One mistake that couples make when looking for a lab-grown diamond engagement ring is sacrificing quality for size. The quality is every bit as important!
Lab diamond rings are not carried by every jeweler. If your heart is set on a lab-grown diamond, you may want to ensure a store sells them before going to try on rings. These diamond rings are different from a generations-old tradition of getting married with an Earth-mined diamond. Since lab-grown diamonds are sold by newer retailers, oftentimes the ring designs are more modern, contemporary, and fresh compared to the traditional retailers that only sell natural diamonds. It’s no wonder they’re growing in popularity among young couples who want to get married.