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LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS VS. MINED DIAMONDS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

All you need to know

The creation of lab-grown diamonds and their differences to naturally mined diamonds is a debate that withstands the test of time. Both are, without a doubt, diamonds. They both may be visually and chemically identical, however, some subtle differences are noted when it comes to each diamond’s story. One dates back a million years ago, and the other was recently grown in a laboratory. For those curious to learn more about the differences and similarities between lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds, this article is for you. (Gia.edu, 2020)

How are mined diamonds made?

Before we start comparing lab diamonds versus mined diamonds, let’s first take a look at how earth-mined diamonds are naturally made. Mined diamonds date back to as long as three billion years ago. They’re a result of many years of high geological pressures and temperatures beneath the Earth’s crust. Ever wonder what diamonds are really made out of? Well, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a diamond is a mineral that consists of “essentially pure carbon crystalized in the isometric cubic system”. Nevertheless, not all mined diamonds are created equal. Diamonds are different in terms of color, size, shape, and clarity, depending upon the prominent growing conditions, as well as the existing trace minerals. For example, trace amounts of nitrogen mixed within the carbon will result in a vivid yellow gem color.

When rare volcanoes erupt, these diamonds are brought closer to the earth’s surface, waiting to be mined. For this reason, mined diamonds can only be extracted from deep, deep mines through a very complex mining process that requires specialized machinery and a large mining crew. With so much detail and complexity, there is no wonder why diamonds are considered to be among the most valuable materials in the world.

Fueling the future of lab-grown diamonds

As the name implies, lab-grown diamonds, often referred to as man-made diamonds, are grown in highly controlled laboratory conditions. With diamond mines drying up in the last few years, lab diamonds are, without a doubt, making more and more heads turn within the last couple of years. Today, lab-grown diamonds are made by mimicking the high pressure and high temperature conditions that are prominent beneath the Earth’s crust, similarly to how earth-mined diamonds form. Interestingly, this process can be completed in as little as three months. The result is a uniquely lab-grown diamond that looks identical to naturally mined diamonds.

Apart from the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method, lab-grown diamonds can also be created through the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. The CVD method is a recently developed technique in which diamonds are produced from a heated mixture of hydrocarbon gas and hydrogen in a vacuum chamber at very low pressures. (Gracio, et al , 2010). The process of the CVD method can be completed in as little as one month, depending upon the size of the crystal.

Apart from the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method, lab-grown diamonds can also be created through the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. The CVD method is a recently developed technique in which diamonds are produced from a heated mixture of hydrocarbon gas and hydrogen in a vacuum chamber at very low pressures. (Gracio, et al , 2010). The process of the CVD method can be completed in as little as one month, depending upon the size of the crystal.

Lab-grown diamonds vs Naturally mined diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds seem to have captivated attention at a fast-growing rate within the jewel and gem industry, and it’s definitely not without a reason. But what truly is the difference between a mined diamond and a lab-grown diamond? If they’re both rea diamonds, and both composed of carbon, are there any real differences between the two?

We’re glad you asked. The main difference between a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond comes down to the way it’s created. While earth mined diamonds are formed naturally beneath the earth’s crust, as a result of millions of years of high pressures and temperatures, lab-grown diamonds, as their name implies, are created within a laboratory by a team of scientists.

Despite their very different origins, both lab and mined diamonds have the same properties and structure, making the two appear identical to the naked eye. Both diamonds have the same sparkle and clarity, the same types of color, the same consistency, and also both retain an extremely high melting point. Lab-grown diamonds can only be distinguished by trained gemologists with technical lab equipment that can detect their crystal patterns. In response to those who might refer to lab-grown diamonds as fake - the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2018 has declared that lab-grown, “synthetic” diamonds are officially diamonds, due to their identical visual and chemical properties to their mined diamond counterparts.

Are lab-grown diamonds flawless?

Just like naturally mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are not completely flawless. The growing process of lab-grown diamonds inevitably leaves some internal marks in the gem, referred to as inclusions. Nevertheless, this should not be a deterrent from buying a lab-grown diamond. Inclusions are considered to be a gem’s birthmark; a normal consequence of the pressure and temperature conditions that diamonds go through while forming. Both lab-grown and naturally mined diamonds get assigned a clarity grade which, in turn, implies how noticeable and evident a diamond’s inclusions are.

Lab-grown diamonds for the win

Not surprisingly, the diamond industry is not as beautiful as it seems. The industry is notorious for ethical issues pertaining to the poor working conditions of the mining crews, as well as for the environmental consequences of the mining process. More specifically, that act of diamond mining has been argued to be a labor-intensive activity in which workplace safety standards are below average. Moreover, diamond mining requires energy and resources that impact the natural environment and the ecosystem. Within this context, Thomai Serdari, professor of luxury marketing at New York University, says that “A lot of diamond companies are still very opaque about their operations…There haven’t been any particular strict guidelines to ensure that a diamond is truly coming from the area a dealer is claiming it’s coming from.” (Nytimes.com, 2020).

Therefore, choosing a lab-grown diamond can keep the minds of the environmentally-conscious and ethically-minded at peace. Considering that lab-grown diamonds are created and grown by scientists in laboratories, one thing is for sure: they are entirely ethical. It’s truly no wonder why lab-grown diamonds behold the future.

It all comes down to the price

As you might have guessed, the price difference between lab-grown and mined diamonds is quite substantial; one of the primary reasons that many people choose lab-grown diamonds vs naturally mined diamonds. The large difference in pricing is mainly due to the method of production and extraction. While naturally mined diamonds require a long supply chain with expensive machinery, lengthy working hours, and high overhead costs, lab-grown diamonds are produced in a laboratory by a team of scientists.

As a result, lab-grown diamonds are offered at a much lower price that are suitable for all wallets and income levels. Depending on the color and size, lab-grown diamonds can be up to 20-40% less expensive than a naturally mined diamond; a significant difference considering the two diamonds appear identical to the naked eye (Cape Town Diamond Museum, 2020). Taking this into consideration, lab-grown diamonds can provide an opportunity to offer affordable fashion jewelry to the public.

The Bottom Line

There is no disagreement that lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds share the same chemical properties and physical characteristics. The main difference between the two comes down to the way they have been created: one dates back to billions of years ago, formed beneath the earth’s crust, while the other originates from a laboratory, a process created quite recently. While naturally mined diamonds are considered to be extremely special and rare, lab-grown diamonds have plenty of their own benefits that might outweigh the rarity of mined diamonds. As you might have expected, these benefits refer not only to the price difference, but also to the ethics of the production and extraction process. At the end of the day, the choice between a lab-grown diamond and a naturally mined diamond comes down to your personal preferences, budget, and ethical concerns.

Metatitle

The main difference between a lab-grown diamond and a naturally mined diamond comes down to the way it is created. While earth mined diamonds are formed naturally beneath the earth’s crust, as a result of millions of years of high pressures and temperatures, lab-grown diamonds, as their name implies, are created within a laboratory by a team of scientists.

References

Gia.edu. (2020). Is There a Difference Between Natural and Laboratory-Grown Diamonds?. (Available Online)

Griffin, O. (2020). Diamond Mines Are Drying Up. Are Lab-Grown Gems the Answer?. (Available Online)

Gracio, J & Fan, Q & Mendes, Joana. (2010). Diamond growth by chemical vapour deposition. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. 43. 374017. 10.1088/0022-3727/43/37/374017.

Cape Town Diamond Museum. (2020). Synthetic vs Real Diamonds | CT Diamond Museum. (Available Online)

You Know Your Diamond’s Cut and Carat. But Does It Have Ethical Origins?.(Available Online)

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