In the vast expanse of today’s internet, simple keyword searches can bring a mixed bag of results. This causes confusion and frustration for anyone seeking simple, straightforward answers, particularly during times when the right (or wrong) information is tied to personal or financial inquiries.
This is particularly true with diamonds and diamond jewelry, which are often “blind items” for consumers who don’t feel confident that the information they need to make decisions is readily available – or even trustworthy. Determining whether a diamond is a lab-grown diamond vs. natural diamond and understanding the difference are particularly common searches that unfortunately often yield opaque answers.
So, our diamond experts here at Mondiamo have broken down the basics of natural vs. lab-grown diamonds, and other diamond simulants so that you can be absolutely sure about your options.
Terms Used to Classify Lab vs. Natural Diamonds
First, let’s define some terms you’ve probably seen while searching:
A lab-grown diamond possesses identical optical, chemical, and physical properties to a natural, earth-mined diamond, but does not originate from within the earth. Instead, these diamonds are synthesized in factories and laboratories using advanced technology that is capable of imitating the environment necessary to form a diamond’s molecular structure.
There are two methods used today to produce diamonds in a laboratory setting – High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT), and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). As the name implies, the HPHT method mimics a diamond’s natural growing environment found deep within the earth. A diamond can only be created using HPHT in a very controlled environment – any shift, movement or change in temperature or pressure can cause the diamond to stop growing and result in inclusions that make the diamond undesirable. The other method, CVD, is the most commonly used for gem-quality diamonds today. A seed, or diamond substrate, is needed to start the process. Over many weeks, ultra-pure carbon-rich gasses are used in a controlled chamber to form the rough diamond crystal from the diamond substrate. The final rough diamond will eventually be polished and used in jewelry.
Because they are the same chemical structure, lab-grown diamonds behave in exactly the same way as natural diamonds, with the same outstanding hardness and fiery brilliance. A reputable diamond company will always clearly disclose what its product is in terms of whether it is a natural vs. lab-grown diamond. Caution should be used with unscrupulous companies who wish to confuse consumers because while lab-grown diamonds are identical to natural in their final composition, in the jewelry world they are considered an entirely separate market. In comparing lab-grown diamonds vs natural diamonds price, lab-grown diamonds are less expensive, but they also do not retain as much value in resale. As production increases, it is likely that their value will continue to drop over time.
The terms “lab-created,” “lab-grown,” and “man-made” have come to be functionally synonymous with synthetic, however, the term “synthetic” is most often used today to describe diamond simulants.
A simulant is any substance other than a natural or man-made diamond that is intended to look like a natural diamond. A simulant is never chemically identical to the stone it’s trying to imitate.
Common diamond simulants include cubic zirconium, moissanite, colorless sapphire, glass, crystal, and plastic. There are many more diamond simulants on the market, but none of them possesses the same molecular makeup or structure as diamond. No simulants have the same level of hardness as diamond, and in fact, each possess unique properties that impact their suitability for daily wear.
Natural diamonds were formed billions of years ago by intense heat, pressure, and exactly the right combination of elements to form the pure-carbon structure we identify as diamond. Comparing lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds, natural ones are only found within the earth (often deep underground or underwater), and are mined in their raw form. Naturally mined diamond rough that meets the stringent standards for gem quality makes up about 30% of all mined diamond material, making them the rarest form of diamond. This means that the majority of the naturally mined diamonds are used for industrial purposes such as drill bits, computer parts, and abrasives.
Determining Your Diamond: Natural vs. Lab-Grown
How do you know which type you have: man-made diamonds vs. natural diamonds? This isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.
There are plenty of articles that claim to tell you the difference between lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds, but the truth is the only guaranteed way to know for sure is to utilize the detection equipment, such as a Diamond Sure or SynthDetect machines, that are readily available today. Even graduate gemologists cannot tell the difference between a natural or lab-grown diamond with their naked eye. However, there are some useful items to know about that might help you determine what your stone might be:
Diamond Grading Report
A diamond grading report from a reputable gemological lab such as GIA or AGS will help with identifying your stone as to whether it’s a natural vs. lab-grown diamond or a simulant. In most circumstances, these reports are the most reliable item for consumers to understand what they own. It’s also helpful when you’re looking to sell your diamond in terms of distinguishing lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds price.
Proof of Original Purchase
Any printed receipt of purchase should, by law, state exactly what the piece of jewelry in question contains. Reputable jewelers will include detailed descriptions on sales receipts in an effort to fully disclose what items were purchased and whether they are man-made diamonds vs. natural diamonds.
Diamond Jewelry Appraisal
If you received a formal appraisal for your jewelry, it should include the necessary details to identify your piece as containing lab-grown diamonds vs natural diamonds. Appraisals often include a reference to lab reports, laser inscriptions, and other relevant information, which legally must reflect the exact piece of jewelry they’re intended to appraise. Remember, appraisals are usually used for insurance purposes and therefore do not reflect the resale value of your diamond jewelry. In fact, they often depict a higher value than the retail price you originally paid for the item. As such, only diamond buy-back companies, such as Mondiamo, can estimate the true resale of your diamond jewelry by using the information provided on a grading report and by visually assessing your diamond.
Your jewelry has a personal history but also holds a financial value based on a number of factors. Trusting a gemological professional to identify natural vs. lab-grown diamonds as a first step is the best, most accurate way to determine what you actually own before moving on to what it may be worth.
Mondiamo’s team of diamond experts can help you identify if your diamond is natural or lab-grown to maximize the value of your natural diamond. We have the experience and knowledge needed to understand how to sell natural diamonds in the quickest, easiest way while remaining completely transparent throughout the process.