Lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular as a savvy and sustainable alternative to natural diamonds. While they might look identical to the naked eye, lab-grown diamonds come in at a fraction of the cost due to the fact that they take a matter of weeks to make, rather than millions of years!
So, are lab-grown diamonds technically real? Yes, absolutely! It's important to remember that engineered diamonds are still absolutely ‘real’ because they are chemically and optically the same as mined diamonds. In fact, the problem buyers face when deciding whether to purchase a lab-grown diamond or a natural one is often purely sentimental. It really comes down to how you feel about wearing a diamond that isn’t ‘natural’ - in the sense that it wasn’t formed in rock millions of years ago. If you're thinking about buying one for an engagement ring, for example, no one would be able to tell whether you are wearing a lab-grown diamond on your finger, if that’s something you’re worried about.
The rise in searches for synthetic diamonds is largely driven by shoppers looking to invest in something less costly and more sustainable. Younger audiences such as Millennials and Gen Z's are more likely to make eco-friendly choices when it comes to where they spend their money.
Another major player helping to raise awareness around lab-grown diamonds is Kimai, an ethical jewellery brand launched in 2018 that’s gone from strength to strength in just a few short years. Now famed for bringing lab diamonds into the public eye, Kimai has garnered attention from the likes of Megan Markle, Emma Watson and Jessica Alba, and more recently gained a £250k investment from Stephen Bartlett on BBC One show Dragon’s Den.
We expect to see a lot more interest in lab diamonds over the next few years. So, if you’re thinking about purchasing an engagement ring made with man-made diamonds, make sure to consult our essential guide first. We’ve included a broad selection of frequently asked questions about the stone, from how they’re made to whether they’re really a cheaper option. Here's everything you need to know.
Lab-grown diamonds VS natural diamonds: what's the difference?
There are pros and cons to choosing a lab-grown diamond over a natural one, but there's no denying that they're becoming an increasingly popular option, whether you're buying an engagement ring or a special piece of jewellery. Here's a quick breakdown of the positives and negatives associated with engineered diamonds.
- To the naked eye, lab-grown diamonds look identical to natural ones, so you can't actually tell the difference!
- They're often a much more sustainable choice because they're grown in a lab under controlled conditions (sometimes using renewable energy), are easier to trace and don't destroy the earth through mining.
- They're much cheaper and can cost around half the price of natural diamonds.
- Lab diamonds are real and authentic - they are chemically and optically identical to natural stones.
- Lab diamonds are fully certified, so buyers have proof of their value and authenticity.
- Lab diamonds don't hold their value over time, so aren't a great investment. Of course, that all depends on whether you're hoping to sell your diamond one day!
- They don't have the same romanticism as a diamond that's millions of years old.
Lab-grown diamonds: FAQs
Still have more questions? Don't worry! We've answered all your frequently asked questions below, from what they are to where to buy them. Keep on scrolling to find everything you need to know.
What are lab grown diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are exactly that: diamonds grown in a laboratory, rather than formed naturally in the earth. They’re created by replicating the conditions under which natural diamonds are made, which is largely a combination of heat, pressure and time. Of course, the main difference between the two is that engineered diamonds take a matter of weeks to make, as opposed to millions of years.
Are lab-grown diamonds ‘real’ diamonds?
Yes! Lab diamonds mirror the same qualities of natural diamonds in pretty much every way. They look the same, their chemical make-up is the same, and they’re formed in the same way. To the naked eye, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a man-made stone and a natural one. There are, however, lots of differences relating to price, value and rarity, but rest assured that a diamond made in a lab is still 100% real.
Lab grown diamond rings from ethical jeweller 12Fifteen
Are lab-grown diamonds cheaper than natural diamonds?
In short, yes, lab grown diamonds are much cheaper than natural diamonds. While they’re still certainly a significant investment, engineered diamonds tend to be priced between 10-50% less making it much easier to buy the ring of your dreams. Why? It mostly comes down to the fact that they are cheaper to make: they don’t require mining, they’re relatively quick to produce, and they are renewable.
However, it’s important to remember that man-made diamonds do not hold their value, while real stones will retain, if not increase, in value over time.
Are lab-grown diamonds more sustainable than natural diamonds?
When it comes to whether lab diamonds are a more sustainable choice, the answer is: it depends. Producing lab diamonds still requires huge amounts of energy, although some companies use renewable sources to help offset their carbon footprint. It’s worth doing your research about the company you’re buying them from first.
However, many people argue that any alternative to diamond mining is a ‘better’ choice, especially considering the issues around human rights, traceability and sustainability associated with the practice. Natural diamonds also have a huge carbon footprint. According to a 2021 report by Imperial College London, a single carat has an average carbon footprint of 108.5kgs of CO2, totaling approximately 16 million tonnes of CO2 a year.
Lab-grown diamonds certainly aren’t a cost-free alternative to natural diamonds, but they are often considered a more sustainable one.
Can a jeweller tell if a diamond is lab grown?
Jewellers are unable to tell if a diamond is lab grown simply by looking at it. Cutting edge equipment such as a special microscope is required to help determine if a diamond is lab grown or not.
Where can you buy lab grown diamonds?
Just like natural diamonds, lab grown diamonds are available to buy from a jewellers, although do note that not all retailers sell the engineered stone. If you’re on the hunt for a lab-grown diamond engagement ring, then these are a few of our favourite brands:
The brand: Kimai
Why: If it's good enough for Megan Markle, it's good enough for us! This sustainable brand has garnered praise from an array of big names, with all its jewellery made from 18k recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds.
The brand: 12Fifteen
Why: 12Fifteen sells lab-grown diamonds only, with many costing up to 50% less than natural ones. We like that you can compare its extensive range of lab diamonds by shape, carat, cut, colour, clarity and price via a handy chart online.
The brand: Brilliant Earth
Why: Not all of Brilliant Earth's diamonds are grown in a lab, but its synthetic range is really extensive and includes a broad selection of engagement rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. You can also create bespoke items and filter your lab diamond by shape, carat and price.
The brand: VRAI
Why: VRAI is another brand that's soared in the last couple of years. It now has stores globally, but it creates all its lab-grown diamonds in Diamond Foundry's carbon neutral plant in Washington, which uses hydropower from the Columbia River. Pretty neat.
Are lab grown diamonds certified?
Similarly to natural diamonds, lab-grown stones require certification to attest to their quality and value. This can include attributes like colour, cut, clarity and weight, as well as how well the diamond is graded. Lab diamonds require certification in order to confirm that they are genuine and valuable – a certificate vouches for its authenticity and assures the buyer of its worth.
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