Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds? The Truth About Man-Made vs Mined Gems

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds? The Truth About Man-Made vs Mined Gems

In recent years the diamond industry has undergone changes due to the increasing popularity of lab grown diamonds. These gems are attracting consumers looking for cost effective options as compared to mined diamonds. However their arrival has sparked a debate; do lab grown diamonds qualify as real diamonds or are they just crystal copies?

The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem. While lab-grown diamonds are scientifically and optically identical to the natural diamonds, they differ in terms of their origin and value.  This article will delve into the complexities of lab grown diamonds, exploring their creation process, similarities and differences from earth-mined diamonds, and the ongoing debate over their legitimacy.


What Exactly Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds, also referred to as cultivated, or man-made diamonds, are diamonds produced in controlled laboratory settings using advanced technology. Unlike natural diamonds, which take billions of years to form deep within the Earth's mantle under extreme heat and pressure, lab-grown diamonds can be manufactured in a matter of weeks or months.

The two primary methods used to grow lab diamonds are:

  1. High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT): In this process, a small diamond seed is placed in a hydraulic press and exposed to extremely high temperatures (around 1,500°C) and pressures (around 1.5 million pounds per square inch). These conditions replicate the intense environment found deep within the Earth's mantle, allowing the seed to slowly crystallise and develop into a larger diamond. The HPHT method was first successfully used in the 1950s by a team of researchers at General Electric to create synthetic diamonds. Today, it remains a popular and efficient way to produce high-quality lab-grown diamonds, particularly for larger carat weights.
  2. Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD): This method involves placing a diamond seed in a sealed chamber and exposing it to a hot plasma of carbon-rich gases, such as methane [1]. The gases undergo a breakdown process causing the carbon atoms to settle on the seed and gradually form a diamond layer by layer. The CVD process is known for producing diamonds with exceptional clarity and purity due to the controlled environment that reduces the risk of inclusions or impurities. It's also more suitable for growing smaller carat weights and fancy coloured diamonds.

Regardless of the technique used for growth, lab created diamonds possess the same chemical composition ( carbon) and crystal structure as natural diamonds. They display the same physical and optical properties, such as extreme hardness (scoring 10 on the Mohs scale) , thermal conductivity, and that signature sparkle that makes diamonds so desirable.

In fact, lab-grown diamonds are so optically identical to natural diamonds that even experienced gemmologists require specialised equipment to distinguish between the two. The only way to definitively identify a lab-grown diamond is through advanced testing, such as spectroscopy or growth pattern analysis [2].


The Difference Between Natural and Lab-Grown Diamonds

While lab-grown diamonds share the same fundamental characteristics as natural diamonds, there are several key differences that set them apart:

  1. Origin: Natural diamonds are formed deep within the Earth's mantle over billions of years through immense heat and pressure, making them a limited resource. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are created in a controlled laboratory environment, essentially making them an unlimited resource. This difference in origin is a most significant factor separating the two types of diamonds. Natural diamonds are truly unique geological wonders, each with its own story and journey through the Earth's depths. Lab-grown diamonds, while scientifically identical, lack this natural history and are instead the product of human ingenuity and technology.
  2. Growth Time: The formation of natural diamonds takes billions of years, whereas lab-grown diamonds can be produced in a matter of weeks or months, depending on the desired size and quality. For example, a 1-carat natural diamond may have taken over 3 billion years to form deep within the Earth's mantle [3]. Whereas, a lab-grown diamond of the same size can be produced in as little as 6-10 weeks using the CVD method.
  3. Imperfections: Natural diamonds often contain minor imperfections or inclusions, which are unique to each stone. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, can be grown with fewer or even no imperfections, making them virtually "flawless" if desired. These inclusions in natural diamonds can range from tiny crystals or feathers to clouds or cavities within the diamond structure. While they don't necessarily diminish the beauty of the diamond, they do add character and uniqueness to each stone. On the hand, lab grown diamonds can be carefully crafted to minimise or remove these imperfections resulting in a flawless gemstone.
  4. Cost: Due to the controlled and efficient production process, lab-grown diamonds are generally 50% or more cheaper than their natural counterparts of comparable size and quality. This cost difference makes them a more affordable option for consumers, especially for larger carat sizes. For example, a 1-carat natural diamond of excellent quality (colour and clarity) can cost upwards of $5,000 or more [4]. In contrast, a lab-grown diamond of the same size and quality may cost around $2,000-$3,000 [5]. This significant price difference becomes even more pronounced as the carat weight increases.
  5. Resale Value: While lab-grown diamonds may not hold their resale value as well as natural diamonds, which are often seen as status symbols and heirlooms, the gap is narrowing as lab-grown diamonds become more accepted and mainstream. Traditionally, natural diamonds have maintained a better resale value due to their rarity and perceived value as precious gemstones. However, as lab-grown diamonds gain wider acceptance and demand increases, their resale value is expected to improve. Reputable retailers like Blackwell Jewellers now offer lab-grown diamond collections, further legitimising their status as valuable gemstones.

Are Lab Diamonds a More Ethical and Eco-Friendly Option?

One of the main driving forces behind the growing popularity of lab-grown diamonds is their ethical and environmental advantages over mined diamonds. The traditional diamond mining industry has long been plagued by issues such as:

  • Conflict Diamonds: Also known as "blood diamonds," these gems are mined in war zones and sold illicitly to finance armed conflicts and civil wars, often involving human rights abuses and violence.
  • Environmental Impact: Diamond mining is a resource-intensive process that can cause significant environmental damage, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.
  • Labour Practices: The mining industry has been criticised for poor labour practices, including low wages, hazardous working conditions, and even child labour in some regions.

In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are produced in tightly controlled environments, eliminating the risk of conflict diamonds and minimising environmental impact. The lab-grown diamond industry is also subject to stricter labour regulations, ensuring better working conditions for employees.

Additionally, the energy-efficient processes used in diamond synthesis have a much lower carbon footprint compared to traditional mining operations. Some lab-grown diamond companies even use renewable energy sources, further reducing their environmental impact.

However, it's important to note that the traditional diamond mining industry has also made significant strides in addressing these issues through initiatives like the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the Responsible Jewellery Council. Additionally, diamond mining plays an important economic role in many developing countries, and the rise of lab-grown diamonds could potentially impact these communities.

Do Lab Diamonds Look Different Than Natural Ones?

To the naked eye, lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds are virtually indistinguishable. They share the same optical properties, including:

  • Brilliance: The intense sparkle and reflective quality of diamonds is due to their high refractive index and exceptional ability to bend light.
  • Fire: The colourful flashes of light (known as "fire") that diamonds exhibit when moved are caused by the precise way the gemstone disperses light into its colour spectrum.
  • Scintillation: The pattern of light and dark areas that create the "sparkling" effect in diamonds is known as scintillation, and it's a result of the diamond's facet arrangement and cut quality.

Both natural and lab-grown diamonds can display these optical characteristics to the same degree, depending on their cut quality and overall proportions.


However, one area where lab-grown diamonds may have an advantage is in the production of rare fancy coloured diamonds. While natural fancy coloured diamonds are incredibly rare and valuable, lab-grown diamonds can be consistently produced in a wide range of colours, including vivid yellows, pinks, blues, and even reds.

This is achieved by carefully controlling the growth environment and introducing specific impurities or dopants during the synthesis process. For example, adding small amounts of boron can create a beautiful blue hue, while nitrogen can produce yellow or orange tones.

Aside from their origin, the only other potential difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds lies in their clarity characteristics. As mentioned earlier, lab-grown diamonds can be grown with virtually no inclusions or blemishes, resulting in a higher proportion of "flawless" or "internally flawless" gemstones.

In contrast, natural diamonds often show unique inclusions and imperfections that can be seen under magnification. While these inclusions don't necessarily detract from the diamond's beauty, they may add to its rarity and value in the eyes of some collectors and experts.

Popular Myths and Misconceptions About Lab Diamonds

Despite their scientific legitimacy, lab-grown diamonds have faced a fair share of myths and misconceptions. Here are some of the most common ones debunked:

Myth: "They're not real diamonds."

Fact: Lab-grown diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically identical to natural diamonds. They are real diamonds, just created through a different process.

Myth: "They're less valuable."

Fact: The value of a diamond is tied to its rarity, quality, and demand, not necessarily its origin. While natural diamonds may currently hold a higher resale value, the gap is narrowing as lab-grown diamonds become more mainstream.

Myth: "They get cloudy over time."

Fact: Lab-grown diamonds are just as stable and durable as natural diamonds. They will not cloud, discolour, or deteriorate over time with proper care and maintenance.

Myth: "You can tell a lab diamond by its metallic look."

Fact: This is a common misconception likely stemming from confusion with cubic zirconia or other diamond simulants. Lab-grown diamonds exhibit the same optical properties as natural diamonds, including their characteristic sparkle and fire.

Caring for Lab Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds

When it comes to caring for and maintaining their beauty, there is no difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds. Both types of diamonds share the same properties, including:

  • Hardness: With a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale, diamonds are the hardest known natural material, making them highly resistant to scratches and abrasions.
  • Durability: Diamonds are incredibly durable and can withstand high temperatures, chemicals, and even exposure to most acids without being damaged.
  • Stability: Diamonds are stable and will not fade, discolour, or deteriorate over time if properly cared for.

The recommended care and cleaning practices are the same for both lab-grown and natural diamonds:

  • Use a soft brush and mild soap and water to gently clean the diamond regularly.
  • Avoid exposing diamonds to harsh chemicals, such as chlorine or abrasive cleaners.
  • Store diamonds in a safe, protective place when not being worn.
  • Have diamonds professionally cleaned and inspected periodically by a qualified jeweller.

By following these simple guidelines, both lab-grown and natural diamonds can maintain their brilliant sparkle and beauty for generations to come.

Who Buys Lab-Grown Diamonds and Why?

The consumer market for lab-grown diamonds is diverse and growing rapidly. While initially met with disbelief, lab-grown diamonds are gaining widespread acceptance as a legitimate and desirable alternative to mined diamonds. Here are some of the key reasons why people are choosing lab-grown diamonds:

  1. Affordability: As mentioned earlier, lab-grown diamonds can cost 50% or more less than natural diamonds of comparable quality and size. This makes them an attractive option for those looking for larger carat weights or seeking to maximise their budget.
  2. Ethical and Environmental Considerations: Many consumers are drawn to lab-grown diamonds for their ethical and eco-friendly credentials. By avoiding the potential issues associated with traditional diamond mining, lab-grown diamonds offer a guilt-free option for those concerned about sustainability and human rights.
  3. Unique Designs and Colours: The ability to consistently produce fancy coloured diamonds in a wide range of hues opens up new possibilities for unique and creative jewellery designs. Lab-grown diamonds can also be grown in uncommon shapes and cuts, appealing to those seeking something truly unique.
  4. Investment Potential: While the resale value of lab-grown diamonds is still lower than natural diamonds, their growing acceptance and market demand suggest that their investment potential could increase over time.
  5. Personal Preference: For some consumers, the idea of owning a gemstone created through cutting-edge technology holds a certain appeal and novelty factor. Others may simply prefer the idea of a conflict-free, eco-friendly diamond without sacrificing quality or beauty.

As lab-grown diamonds continue to gain mainstream acceptance, it's likely that their consumer base will continue to expand, encompassing a diverse range of preferences, budgets, and values.

Resale Value of Lab vs Natural Diamonds

One of the most contentious debates surrounding lab-grown diamonds is their resale value compared to natural diamonds. While natural diamonds have traditionally held their value better due to their rarity and perceived status as precious gemstones, the gap is narrowing as lab-grown diamonds become more accepted and mainstream.

Here are some key factors that influence the resale value of lab-grown diamonds:

  1. Market Acceptance: As consumer demand and acceptance of lab-grown diamonds increase, so too will their resale value. Major retailers like Blackwell Jewellers and industry leaders embracing lab-grown diamonds help legitimise their status and potential for retaining value.
  2. Grading and Certification: Just like natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds that are graded and certified by reputable gemmological organisations like the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) or the International Gemmological Institute (IGI) will hold their value better than uncertified stones.
  3. Quality and Rarity: While lab-grown diamonds can be produced in virtually any size or colour, those with exceptional quality, clarity, and rarity (such as larger carat weights or fancy colours) will command higher resale values, similar to their natural counterparts.
  4. Branding and Marketing: As with any luxury product, strong branding and effective marketing can help establish lab-grown diamonds as valuable and desirable, potentially increasing their resale worth over time.
  5. Transparency and Disclosure: Proper disclosure of a diamond's lab-grown origin is crucial for maintaining consumer trust and confidence, which in turn can positively impact resale value.

While natural diamonds currently maintain an advantage in terms of resale value, the gap is expected to narrow as lab-grown diamonds gain wider acceptance and legitimacy in the global diamond market.


The debate surrounding lab-grown diamonds and their legitimacy as "real" diamonds is a complex and multi-faceted one. From a scientific point of view, lab-grown diamonds are indeed real diamonds, sharing the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as their natural counterparts. However, their man-made origin and potentially lower resale value set them apart from mined gems, fuelling ongoing discussions and differing perspectives.

Ultimately, the choice between a natural or lab-grown diamond comes down to personal preferences, values, and priorities. For those seeking a more affordable and ethical option without sacrificing quality or beauty, lab-grown diamonds present a compelling alternative. On the other hand, those who value the rarity and natural history of mined diamonds may still prefer the traditional route.

As the lab-grown diamond industry continues to evolve and gain mainstream acceptance, it's likely that the debate will persist. However, one thing is clear: these man-made gemstones have disrupted the diamond market, offering consumers more choices and challenging traditional notions of value and rarity.

Whether you choose a natural or lab-grown diamond, the most important consideration is finding a reputable and transparent source, like Blackwell Jewellers, that can guide you through the process and ensure you make an informed decision that aligns with your values and desires.


[1] "Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Diamond Growth." Across International

[2] "How to Tell if a Diamond is Real or Lab-Grown." International Gemological Institute, 

[3] "How Long Does It Take for a Diamond to Form?" American Museum of Natural History, 

[4] "Diamond Price Chart: Price Per Carat." Diamond Clarity Chart, 

[5] "Lab-Grown Diamond Price Guide: How Much Do They Cost?" With Clarity, 

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