With lab created diamonds becoming more popular, there’s an increased number of people that want to know how they compare to natural diamonds that are mined.
In this comparison guide, we outline some of the key differences and similarities between the two types of diamonds.
Summary – How Lab Created & Real/Mined Diamonds Compare
They are both made of exactly the same material (crystalized carbon), and they both look exactly the same. You cannot tell the difference between the two just by looking at them with the human eye.
The main differences are in how they are made, and how much they cost (plus re-sell for).
Lab created diamonds are cheaper, can be made much quicker, are made in a lab under lab conditions, and tend not to hold their purchase price very well at the moment i.e. they aren’t a good investment if you plan to re-sell.
Mined diamonds are more expensive, take much much longer to form and find gem quality diamonds, form geologically underground, are considered far more finite and rare/unique, and tend to be a better investment if you plan to re-sell because they hold more over their overall purchase price in the long term. There is also a spill over effect of mining – mining can provide jobs, and some mining operations invest earnings back into local communities.
Lab Created Diamonds vs Real (Mined/Natural) Diamonds: Differences
The main difference between mined diamonds and lab created diamonds is:
Mined diamonds are geologically formed over the course of millions and billions of years underground, under high pressures and temperature, with the right chemical reactions, and eventually are pushed close to Earth’s surface via volcanic eruptions. For these reasons (because of time, and the amount of factors that have to line up to get a gem quality diamond), they are unique, rare and a finite resource
On the other hand, lab created diamonds are formed in a lab. They are still formed under pressure at high temperatures, and with chemical reactions, but they can be expanded from a seed diamond to a fully formed diamond in a matter of months. Every lab forms their diamonds in a slightly different way. Because lab diamonds can be formed in this way, it is expected they will be able to be produced at scale in the future commercially, and therefore they aren’t seen as unique, rare or as much of a finite resource.
Lab created diamonds are anywhere from 20 to 40% cheaper than mined diamonds, and their re-sale price and long term value is lower than mined diamonds.
The only way you can tell the difference between the two types of diamonds is either via a third party inspection certificate (it will tell you the type and where it came from), or when a diamond retailer/seller inspects it with a testing device/instrument – lab diamonds can only be distinguished from natural diamonds using specialized equipment that can detect the minor differences in trace elements and crystal growth, OR lab-grown diamonds may show a strong phosphorescent glow that is not common to natural diamonds (deleuse.com, and brilliantearth.com). Some companies are also beginning to laser inscribe the side of the diamond so you know it’s man made (harpersbazaar.com.au)
Some sources say that rough mined/organic diamonds can grow to upwards of 400 carats, whereas lab grown diamonds are limited at around 20 carats (ritani.com)
The same sources say that mined diamonds can have different trace chemicals in the diamonds to impact how their colors develop compared to lab grown diamonds (ritani.com)
They also say the GIA doesn’t grade lab-grown diamonds the same way it grades organic diamonds (ritani.com)
It can be easy to generalise what all lab created diamonds are, but the reality is that there are different labs that create different lab grown diamond products. Each one will vary in how they form and finish their diamonds – so each one needs to be individually assessed if you intend to buy.
Lab Created Diamonds vs Real (Mined/Natural) Diamonds: Similarities
Lab created and natural mined diamonds are both fully crystalized carbon i.e. they have exactly the same carbon structure. Lab created diamonds are not fake or simulant type diamonds like Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite – they are 100% real
They are both physically, chemically and optically the same diamonds i.e. they are the same in every single way except for the way they are formed – geological vs lab created
You cannot tell the difference between the two with the naked eye (but some of the appearance can come down to the quality of the cut)
Both go through the exact same post formation process – cut, color, clarity, carat
Both have inclusions that affect their clarity