When shopping for diamond jewelry, you'll have the choice between lab-grown diamonds or mined diamonds. Before you make a decision, understand the differences between the two and why those differences matter. Lab-grown diamonds provide an ideal alternative for those seeking a budget-friendly and ethical choice. Whether you're buying an engagement ring, a pair of earrings or a luxury watch, lab-grown diamonds could be the best option for you.
Mined diamonds take billions of years to form, resulting from the pressure and heat within the Earth. Meanwhile, lab conditions replicate the natural process in a matter of weeks. The results are identical aside from microscopic differences — natural diamonds sometimes contain nitrogen, while lab-grown diamonds do not. In addition, lab-grown and Earth-formed diamonds tend to have different minuscule inclusions.
Because mined and human-made diamonds have the same chemical makeup, lab-grown diamonds are genuine. Aside from inclusion variations, lab diamonds and mined diamonds are indistinguishable. You'll find no visible difference between the two. Only a professional gemologist with high-tech equipment can spot the microscopic inclusions that distinguish Earth-formed diamonds. On the other hand, imitation materials like cubic zirconia will have notable quality differences, such as dullness or poor scratch resistance.
All lab-grown diamonds are Type LLA, meaning they are pure carbon. A Type LLA diamond is brighter and harder than other diamonds. It is rare to find in nature — only 2% of Earth-mined diamonds are Type LLA. In this way, lab-grown diamonds offer a higher quality than their mined counterparts.
The most significant difference between Earth-formed and lab-formed diamonds is their price tags. Lab diamonds are much less expensive than mined diamonds with comparable characteristics. A lab-grown diamond offers unmatched affordability, while being indistinguishable from the genuine article with the naked eye. In the past, if you wanted an affordable alternative to a diamond, you'd have to buy a completely different stone with notable variations in appearance. Today, you can save a great deal of money and still have a diamond on your finger.
Keep in mind, lab-grown diamond prices should continue to drop, which means a lab-grown diamond has minimal resale value. If you think you may want to resell your jewelry someday, you might want to opt for a mined diamond. However, if you're making a purchase you do not anticipate reselling, such as an engagement ring or family heirloom, a lab-grown diamond is perfect.
The fundamental characteristics of a diamond are its cut, color, clarity and carat. Laboratory conditions can reproduce the same qualities you'll find with mined diamonds — however, it's crucial to note a few differences.
Cut refers to a diamond's shape and geometry. Different cuts help accentuate a diamond's inherent shine and brightness. Examples of popular cuts include round, princess, pear, emerald and cushion. Synthetic diamonds can achieve any of the shapes you'd find on mined diamonds. They're subject to the same cut-precision ratings, which help determine value.
Somewhat paradoxically, a diamond's color rating is all about the absence of color. A pure and perfect diamond will have no color at all, but this is rare in nature. Color rating affects value — a yellowish or brownish hue makes a diamond less desirable and expensive. Lab-grown diamonds are also subject to color ratings. Though you'd expect all synthetic diamonds to achieve perfect color, varying lab conditions can produce color changes. Some human-made diamonds undergo a specialized treatment process to remove unwanted colors. With mined diamonds, the presence of nitrogen or other trace chemicals causes color differences.
Carat refers to a gemstone's weight. Each carat is 200 milligrams or .20 grams, and you can find diamond carat measurements down to the hundredth decimal place. For instance, a diamond might weigh .25 carats. Diamonds with a higher carat rating weigh more and may or may not appear larger, depending on the cut. A higher-carat diamond will be worth more than a lower-carat diamond with similar characteristics and quality. You'll find a wide range of carat options for lab-grown diamonds.
One of the crucial differences between human-made and mined diamonds is clarity. Diamond clarity has to do with tiny surface imperfections and inclusions — the fewer, the better. Diamonds with high clarity ratings are worth more. Lab-grown and Earth-formed diamonds contain different types of inclusions. If you look at a lab-grown diamond under a microscope, you may spot tiny metallic particles, since most lab-grown diamonds form in a molten metal solution.
In a mined diamond, you can find a wide variety of inclusions. Examples are feathers, other gems, pinpoints or clouds. As a natural diamond forms and rises to the Earth's surface, it almost always picks up debris. These tiny particles become trapped in the formed diamond, either deep within or near the surface.
Overall Impact on the Four C's
While specialized microscopes reveal minute differences, lab-grown diamonds can achieve all the same standards for the Four C's as mined diamonds. You can buy synthetic diamonds of any cut shape, color, carat measurement and clarity rating you prefer.
One of the main reasons to choose a lab-grown diamond is the ethical impact. Lab-grown diamonds eliminate the ethical concerns associated with diamond mining. The exposure of "blood diamonds" raised concerns for many consumers, showing how diamond mining fueled conflict in Africa and relied on forced labor. While new laws and regulations make it easier to trace a diamond's origin, the ethically safe option is to buy a synthetic alternative.
Lab-made diamonds involve no labor exploitation or human rights violations. In addition, the synthetic process is better for the environment. Growing a diamond in the lab requires much less water and energy than mining, producing a far smaller carbon footprint. In addition, the mining process disturbs vast plots of land, which can result in pollution and habitat loss for animals.
Generally, lab-grown diamonds offer more reliable ethical standards. If you're concerned about human rights and the environment, you have two options — be diligent and ask questions when searching for a mined diamond, or buy a lab-grown diamond instead.
Whether they come out of the Earth or a lab, there's something special about diamonds. Diamonds offer unparalleled emotional and cultural significance. If you're looking for a budget-friendly and ethical diamond, you might choose a lab-grown one. Lab-grown diamonds are indistinguishable from their mined counterparts, offering just as much customization and variety.
If you're looking for the highest-quality, best-priced jewelry in Austin, Texas, consider Diamonds Above. At Diamonds Above, we sell rare gemstone jewelry at fair prices with one-on-one service. We'll help you maximize your budget and choose the best piece for you. Whether you're looking to buy an engagement ring, a fashion piece, a luxury watch or a loose stone, we can help. Contact our store today with any questions.
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