In the last decade, there has been a new trend on the rise in the diamond world: lab created diamonds. While the concept of man-made diamonds isn’t exactly new, the entrance in mainstream diamond retailers is fairly recent. As a result, many have asked what the difference is between lab created diamonds and mined diamonds, and how it affects the overall value of the gem. Let’s take a look at diamonds: created vs. mined.
What Is a Diamond
In order to understand the differences between lab created diamonds and naturally formed diamonds, it’s important to first understand the similarities. At their core, both versions are essentially the same as far as their chemical make-up is concerned, but there are variations.
“Diamond – the material, not the gem – is a mineral consisting of ‘essentially pure carbon crystalized in the isometric cubic system,’ according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which develops trading guides for the gem and jewelry industry,” explains the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Created Vs. Mined
Traditional diamonds are found in what is known as kimberlite pipes, deep in the earth. Many were formed billions of years ago and brought closer to the surface via lava flows before eventually being mined out in modern day.
Lab created diamonds, on the other hand, are manufactured in one of two processes which can be completed in mere weeks. The man-made process utilizes either the “High Pressure, High Temperature” (HPHT) method or the “Chemical Vapor Deposition” method to create essentially the same chemical make-up as natural diamonds in a fraction of the time.
How They Differ
Generally speaking, diamonds are created under circumstances of extreme temperatures and pressure which transforms pure carbon into the clear gems we are familiar with. While diamonds are considered strictly carbon, natural diamonds often contain trace amounts of other elements and compounds that are present in nature simultaneously.
Many of these elements are what give way to the variety of colored diamonds we see in retail stores across the globe. Since these elements are not present during the man-made diamond creation process, lab created diamonds differ by being pure carbon.
How to Tell the Difference
As you might expect, whether a diamond is naturally formed or man-made, usually makes a noticeable difference in the final price tag. Since the make-up directly affects the overall quality of the gem, it’s important to know how consumers can tell the difference between the two versions before making a purchase.
In their raw form, the creation of diamonds is most evident. Diamonds created naturally will form in the shape of an octahedron and grow in 8 different directions. When created using the HPHT method, the diamonds form a completely different shape – a cuboctohedron, with growth in 14 different directions. By comparison, when the CVD method is used, diamonds form in a simple cube with only 1 direction of growth.
The easiest way for consumers to tell if they are looking at a lab created or naturally created diamond is to ask to see the diamond’s certification. Generally speaking, most jewelers will ensure proper notation on the origin and gradings of any diamonds they sell. The GIA and other respected gem grading organizations have many modern tools that allow them to note the origin of each piece and grade them accordingly.
Ensuring the Quality of Your Diamond
Since it can be impossible to determine a diamond’s origin with the naked eye, it’s imperative that consumers take an active approach in learning about each piece before purchasing. Ask your jeweler to see the certification for any diamond before purchasing it and ask questions in any circumstance that isn’t clear.