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When most people think of diamonds, they think of natural diamonds. 

However, there is another option— lab-grown diamonds. 

Lab-grown diamonds are created in a laboratory and have many of the same qualities as natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular as an affordable and ethical alternative to natural diamonds. 

So what's the difference between these two types of diamonds? And which one is better? Keep reading to find out!

What Are Natural Diamonds?

Natural diamonds are formed deep within the Earth under intense heat and pressure. They usually take 1-3 billion years to form and are forced to the surface by volcanic eruptions.

Because they are so rare, natural diamonds can be quite expensive. Around 60% of all natural diamonds come from Africa, although deposits have been found in other parts of the world like Australia, Russia, Canada and India.

Diamonds are first mined from kimberlite and lamproite volcanic pipes or alluvial deposits (riverbeds and beaches). Then they are cut, polished, and refined into beautiful jewellery.

What are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are also known as synthetic diamonds. 

They are man-made diamonds created in a laboratory using edge-cutting technology, under controlled conditions that simulate the natural process of diamond formation. The result is an identical chemical composition and physical structure to natural diamonds. 

Synthetic diamonds have been produced commercially since 1955, and today, they can be made in almost any color, size, and quality. While some synthetic diamonds are sold as finished gemstones, most are used for industrial purposes (for example, drill bits, saw blades, and heat sinks). 

How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Created?

Synthetic diamonds are created with high pressure and temperature (HPHT). 

During this process, a small seed diamond is placed in a chamber with graphite and a metal solvent. The chamber is then heated to around 2200 degrees Celsius and subjected to extremely high pressure—about 725,000 pounds per square inch. 

This causes the carbon atoms in the graphite to rearrange themselves into the crystal structure of a diamond around the seed crystal. 

Another popular method for creating synthetic diamonds is chemical vapor deposition (CVD). 

In CVD, a small seed crystal is placed in a reaction chamber and exposed to a plasma of hydrogen and methane gases. The hydrogen breaks down the methane molecules into their constituent carbon atoms, which settle on the seed crystal's surface and begin to grow into a larger diamond. 

CVD-created diamonds tend to have flat sides and uneven shapes since they don't form in the same type of crystal structure as natural diamonds. As a result, they are often used for industrial applications rather than jewellery.

 

Major Differences Between Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds

So you're in the market for a diamond, but you're not sure whether to go for a lab-grown or natural diamond. Both have their pros and cons, and it can be tough deciding your best option. 

Here's a quick rundown of the key differences between lab-grown and natural diamonds.

1. Composition / Mode of Origin


Natural diamonds are formed over millions of years deep within the Earth's mantle. They are composed of pure carbon atoms arranged in a lattice structure. 

On the other hand, synthetic diamonds are created in laboratories by artificially recreating the conditions under which natural diamonds are formed. 

2. Purity


Natural diamonds typically contain small impurities, such as nitrogen or boron. These impurities cause molecules of different sizes and shapes to be present in the diamond lattice, which ultimately affects the diamond's colour (for example, causing it to appear yellowish or greenish). 

On the other hand, synthetic diamonds are usually purer and have fewer impurities than their natural counterparts. As a result, they tend to be clearer and have a higher clarity rating.

3. Hardness and Durability 


Both natural and synthetic diamonds are incredibly hard, but natural diamonds are slightly harder.

On the Mohs scale, natural diamonds are rated at 10, the highest possible rating. Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, are rated at about 9.6. However, synthetic diamonds could also weigh 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, depending on the starting material, temperature and pressure used in creating the diamond.

Regarding durability, natural diamonds could shatter when hit with enough force. Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, are more resistant to shattering because of their purity. They don't have any impurities or imperfections that could weaken their structure. 

4. Resale Value


Natural diamonds are rarer and more sought-after by collectors. And this is because they retain more cultural significance than lab-grown diamonds.  

Since synthetic diamonds are mass-produced in labs, their resale value is weak. There's no historical or rareness factor here, as anyone can easily make them with the right materials. 

With a natural diamond, you may get 50% (or more) of the original value back. With synthetic diamonds, it's often less than 10%. So if you ever decide to sell your diamond jewellery, you'll get more money for pieces that contain natural diamonds.

5. Sustainability 


Lab grown diamonds are the future of jewellery. 

Unlike natural diamonds, they're ethically sourced and environmentally conscious, with no mining process to harm anyone or damage natural resources in countries where it's mined. This resonates well among new generations who want sustainable practices maintained throughout their lives.

Additionally, the ethical sourcing of lab-grown gems means lower costs when compared against natural stones—about 30% less expensive on average.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Lab-Grown or Natural Diamonds: Which is Better?

The choice between lab-grown and natural diamonds ultimately comes down to personal preference (and budget). 

If you're looking for a cheaper option that is physically and chemically identical to a natural diamond, then a lab-grown diamond is probably your best bet. Synthetic diamonds are about 40% cheaper than natural diamonds, and are more ethical too.

But if you're looking for a diamond with its own unique story, then a natural diamond might be more your style. Whichever type of diamond you choose, ensure it comes with certification, and you get specialised jewellery insurance for it.

How Can I Differentiate Between a Natural or Lab-Grown Diamond?

The best way to tell lab-grown and natural diamonds apart is with a diamond tester. 

This uses electrical conductivity to differentiate between pure carbon (which makes up both natural and lab-grown diamonds) and impurities like nitrogen (found in most natural diamonds). 

However, even experienced gemologists can't always tell them apart with the naked eye, so don't expect to be able to spot the difference unless you have access to specialised equipment.

 

Wrapping Up: Don't Forget Insurance

When choosing between lab-grown and natural diamonds, there's no clear-cut winner. It depends on your individual needs and preferences. 

A natural diamond is still the best choice if you're looking for a diamond with personality, sentimental value, and investment potential. On the other hand, if you're looking for a more affordable option, lab-grown diamonds are the way to go.

Above all, don't forget to insure your precious diamonds. It doesn't matter if it's natural or lab-grown. A diamond is still a diamond at the end of the day, and Q Report offers the most comprehensive insurance for all kinds of diamonds, watches and other jewellery

Ready to give your diamond all-round coverage and protection? Then fill out this online quote form to get started.

 

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