Lab Created Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds (Comparison Guide)

As you begin researching and shopping for an engagement ring, you’ll run across a most astonishing creation: lab-created diamonds.

They’re available, for instance, clearly labeled, certified, and graded, right alongside natural diamonds at a jeweler with a good reputation, such as James Allen.

What Is a Lab Created Diamond?

  • A lab-created diamond is not a cubic zirconia (which is also created in a lab).
  • It’s not moissonite (which is usually also created in a lab).
  • It’s not glass.
  • A lab-grown diamond is not a “diamond stimulant” of any kind.
  • It’s a diamond. The real deal. It’s chemically and structurally identical to the naturally occurring diamonds created 100 miles deep in the earth’s crust from 1 Billion to 3.5 Billion years ago.

The difference between an natural diamond and a lab-created diamond is this. The lab-created diamond was created in a lab, probably in China, earlier this year, or maybe last, over the course of a few weeks. The natural diamond was created and raised to the earth’s crust over the course of 1 Billion to 3.5 Billion years, from 100 miles down.

Which Is More Impressive — Lab Created Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds

Withhold judgment, for now, as to which you or your beloved may prefer.

For one thing, subjectively it’s difficult to say which is more impressive and desirable:

  • a natural diamond which predates you by at least 1 Billion-with-a-B years (when only multi-cellular organisms squirmed on this burgeoning earth)
  • or a diamond created by highly intelligent fellow human beings, using virtually miraculous technology, to minutely imitate the processes of those 1 Billion years within the time span of a few weeks

The price of a lab-created diamond is certainly more impressive — at least, if you’re paying it, not boasting about it:

  • This lab-created 1.02-Carat diamond, of Ideal Cut, color H, and clarity S1 is currently $1,930 at James Allen.
  • This natural 1-Carat diamond of Very Good Cut (which is inferior to the Ideal Cut of the lab-created diamond above), color H, and clarity S1 is $3,600 at the same merchant.

Are Lab Created Diamonds All Alike?

Just as no natural diamonds are identical, neither are any two lab-created diamonds identical. Each has its own personality.

Just like natural diamonds, lab-created diamonds have unpredictable inclusions that affect their clarity. They have their own colors, although the colors of lab-created diamonds tend to vary less than the colors of natural diamonds.

Just like every natural diamond from a reputable merchant, every lab-created diamond you’ll find from a reputable merchant is certified by a professional gemologist. They’re all graded on clarity and color, and their cut is accurately described, and the weight declared to the hundredth of a carat.

Lab-Created Diamonds Aren’t Stamped out in Identical Fashion

To understand why, let’s look at the two ways in which lab-created diamonds are brought into existence.

Two Ways to Create a Diamond in a Laboratory

The first way, which created gem-quality diamonds beginning in the 1950s, is the “high pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method of diamond creation.

Recipe for HPHT Diamond Creation

  1. Take a tiny fragment of a diamond called a diamond seed, and put it in some straight carbon.
  2. Cook it for a few weeks at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit at about 1.5 Million PSI of pressure.

What happens is: the carbon liquifies around the diamond seed. Then it’s cooled. And voila, there’s your diamond. It looks like a stone, like any natural diamond. It’s then cut and processed as any natural diamond, into a beautiful gem that symbolizes your undying love for your beloved.

There’s another, newer way to create diamonds in a lab. It imitates the way diamonds are formed in outer space.

It bears the unfortunate but strictly accurate name of Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD method).

Recipe for CVD Diamond Creation

  1. Place a diamond seed (tiny fragment of a diamond) in a vacuum chamber.
  2. Pump some carbon-rich gases into the chamber.
  3. Heat the carbon-rich gases to about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. This high temp turns the gas to plasma.
  5. The plasma precipitates carbon pieces onto the diamond seed in layer after layer, forming the diamond.

Can You Tell the Difference Between a Lab Created and an Earth Created Diamond?

Professional gemologists can tell the difference between a lab created diamond and a naturally occurring diamond.

But to the layperson’s eye, and even to many jewelers, they look (and are) identical.

This leads, quietly, to considerations of less than full disclosure — to friends and family, and even to one’s beloved.

Should you buy a lab-created diamond and pass it off as a real diamond?

No way. That damages your integrity, to the person who matters most — yourself. Even if no one else ever discovered it.

And yet they would discover it.

A gemologist can always tell the difference. When it’s inspected for any reason — remounting, shipping for remounting, insurance, last will and testament, estate sale — the truth will come out.

In the minds of most people, there is a difference between lab-created and natural diamonds.

Origins count, in people’s minds.

That doesn’t mean that everyone considers earth created diamonds to be superior.

And it doesn’t also mean that you can’t easily justify your choice of a lab-created diamond. They’re amazing — just as amazing as an earth created diamond.

It just means that it would be a foolish gambit, and dishonest, to pass off a lab-created diamond as a natural diamond.

Are Lab Created Diamonds Valuable?

Not in terms of resale value. They have virtually no resale value.

The reason for this is that they have a virtually unlimited supply, as more and more competitors jump into the industry.

Gemologists and jewelers can easily tell the difference, by certain telltale signs. (Most lab-created diamonds have a more perfect color, for example, than most natural diamonds.)

Why then do lab-created diamonds cost so much new (even if they cost significantly less than earth created diamonds)?

It’s because the companies making them need to recoup their costs and turn a profit.

But if you were try to resell your lab-created diamond, you’d get literally pennies on the dollar.

For this to make even more sense, consider the Renoir analogy.

The Renoir Analogy

A real Renoir will cost millions of dollars.

A painting imitating Renoir’s style, commissioned from a local artist with skill enough to do it, will cost you possibly $500 to $1,000.

The artist can’t do it for less. They have studio space to rent. Food to buy. But if you tried to resell the imitation on eBay, you’d be lucky to get $20.

What if you really loved your Renoir imitation?

So what if it was produced by a local artist?

It looks good on your wall. It gives you a good feeling to look at it. It communicates an emotion that you like.

You didn’t buy it in order resell it. Or in order to impress art snobs. You just like it.

You enjoy it more than the art collector enjoys the real Renoir, if he bought it mainly for the investment, or to impress his friends at Davos.

That analogy illustrates some of the interesting realities of having the choice between buying natural diamond engagement ring and a lab-created diamond engagement ring. 

It’s Down to You and Your Beloved

Are you really going to resell a diamond from an engagement ring?

On the other hand, even if you never plan to sell it, you may need to one day.

Or your descendants may want to. 

And there’s something good knowing that the stone carries a real dollar value.

On the other hand, a lab-created diamond is as much a diamond as any earth-created diamond.

Economic value is a human convention. But that gemstone is objective. And as a diamond, it is still forever.

So it’s down to you and your beloved. You have choices, and that’s always a good thing.