Understanding the Difference between Natural and Lab Grown Diamond


If you are in the market looking for a diamond, one of the earliest decisions for you is to choose between the natural and lab-grown variants of diamonds. Before discussing the differences between them, please remember that both are crystal clear diamonds capable of exhibiting a kaleidoscope of spectral colors when they are placed indirect light.

Natural diamonds are created by the forces of nature within the earth over a period of billions of years or even more. Lab-grown diamonds have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties compared to natural diamonds. However, they are grown in a laboratory within a very short period of time.

What is a Diamond?

As a material, diamond is essentially crystallized pure carbon. However, natural diamonds also contain trace amounts of nitrogen or boron, imparting the yellow or blue color. Tiny bits of foreign materials as well as inclusions often get trapped within the diamond during its stage of formation.

Also referred to as synthetic or man-made diamonds, lab-grown diamonds have recently entered the gem and jewelry market for commercial purposes. Though they appear similar to natural diamonds, there are very subtle differences that trained gemologists can detect easily. Also, some highly sophisticated equipment is available for this purpose.

Formation of Diamonds:

Experts suggest that natural diamonds were created three billion years ago, deep inside the earth under high temperatures and extreme pressure. Later on, they were brought to the earth’s surface by volcanic activities and were found within volcanic rock formations referred to as kimberlite pipes, from where they are mined. However, the sufficient amounts of diamonds for an economically viable mine is found only in about five percent of all kimberlite pipes.

Man-made diamonds were produced for industrial applications for the first time in the 1950s. Though the first-ever gem-quality diamond was created in 1971, colorless laboratory-grown diamonds were made commercially available in the gem and jewelry market the mid-2010s.

Well-known online jewelry store Adina’s Jewels informs that laboratory-grown diamonds are produced nowadays in two methods. HPHT or high pressure, high-temperature diamonds are manufactured in a laboratory by creating high pressure and high-temperature conditions under which natural diamonds are formed. Distinctly shaped diamond crystals can be produced in this method. On the other hand, in the CVD or chemical vapor deposition method, the molecules of carbon-rich gases such as methane are broken down into carbon and hydrogen atoms. Tabular diamond crystals with squarish shape are produced by the deposition of the carbon and hydrogen atoms on diamond seeds. After the growth process, additional treatments like heating or irradiation is required by CVD-grown diamonds for color change or enhancement. Regardless of size, producing diamonds by either method requires no more than a month.

How to Distinguish Between Natural and Lab Grown Diamond:

In general, there is a significant difference in price between natural and lab-grown diamonds.  This is why it is important for all buyers to be able to distinguish between the two.  Also, it is the right of every consumer to know what he or she is buying.

Unfortunately, old style techniques and traditional gemological observations are not able to distinguish between the two variants because they are chemically and optically similar. The only reliable method is to rely on a professional gemological laboratory equipped with sophisticated devices

Which One Offers Better Value?                                        

Compared to natural diamonds of similar size and quality, lab diamonds have approximately 30% lower price. However, choosing the perfect lab-grown diamond may be difficult because a relatively limited inventory. Also, please remember that there is no resale value for lab-created diamonds. On the other hand, natural diamonds retail their value even after years.