Lab vs. Natural Diamond Creation: What’s the Difference?

Is there a difference between a lab-created diamond and one that is found in the Earth’s natural process? The truth is there are some differences, but they are both 100% real and are certified as such. There’s a lot of information to know when deciding whether to purchase a natural or lab-created diamond. 

Natural diamonds are created either through the Earth’s mantle, subduction zones, asteroids, or meteoroids colliding together and are even found in space. Let’s focus on how they are made through the Earth’s Mantle since that is where most of the jewelry quality diamonds come from in the Earth’s natural process. 

Earth’s Natural Process 

Diamonds form in the Earth and take one to three billion years to make their ascension to the Earth’s surface via volcanic eruptions. Inside the Earth, the pressure will reach 725,000 pounds per square inch and around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, along with the perfect amount of time for a diamond to form. 

These stones do not grow for an entire billion plus years. The process will start and stop, as the perfect conditions reach their threshold, and this is where the element of time comes in. Next, carbon that is already in the Earth, whether from animals, plants, or rocks, is how the diamond forms into its structure. Kimberlite pipes form and the volcanic eruption creates a force that pushes the rough stone through the pipes to help it reach the Earth’s surface. 

Lab Created Diamonds  

In 1950, the High-Pressure High-Temperature machine was invented and allows for one diamond to be created at a time. The machine is able to replicate the same pressure and temperature that is found in the Earth’s natural process. With cremation diamonds from Eterneva, hair or ashes are used for the carbon and will go through a carbon purification process to remove any elements other than carbon. 

One gram of carbon is needed to make a diamond, and ashes equate to 1% to 4% of carbon. After the purification process, the carbon is ground into a powder to then be placed with a diamond seed in the HPHT machine. This is where the diamond grows! It may take more than one round in the HPHT machine to get the exact temperature, pressure, and time to make the perfect gem. 

Once that is complete, we have a rough diamond! We assess the quality and look to see what inclusions are there and how we want to cut around them to make the best diamond. We want to deliver exactly what we have promised. 

Next, we send the diamond to to our master cutters (and we even have one in-house). They will use a computer software system that shows the best angles to cut the stone to allow for the largest carat option and eliminate as many inclusions as they can. When this is complete, we can move on to the final touches of the diamond-making process. 

All diamonds created by Eterneva are then inspected and graded through the International Gemological Institute, where they will receive a certification to verify they are 100% real. They will review the diamond’s clarity, color, and quality. Some people will get a microscopic personal message engraved in the stone and that would happen at this stage. 

When the diamond is officially complete, it can be hand-delivered if you live near Austin, Texas. For anywhere more distant, FEDEX will deliver from the driver’s hands to yours. This entire diamond-making journey from start to finish can take anywhere from seven to 11+ months. 

 Factors To Look for in Lab vs. Natural Diamonds  

What are the factors to look for when it comes to a lab-made or natural diamond? Is it easy to tell the difference between the two?

Price 

Standard lab diamonds are often 50-60% cheaper than natural diamonds, and this is largely due to supply. Since it takes the Earth’s process about 1-3 billion years to make a diamond, supply is limited. There are also mines around the world that only have so many carats still available in their reserves. 

Value 

Natural diamonds retain 50% of their value and may be rising in value due to the potential decrease in supply. 

Lab diamonds are new to the market, so their price and value have fluctuated quite a bit. One factor that could change dynamics is if technology advances anymore to make a lab diamond more feasible. This could potentially lower the value of previously sold lab diamonds. 

Look 

Are we able to tell the difference between a lab or natural diamond with the naked eye? No, we cannot! Both types of gems will look the same and will have a similar sparkle and shine to them. Someone would know it is a lab diamond only if they were told or looked at its certificate. It would even be challenging for a jeweler to tell the difference. 

A lower clarity of a lab diamond may have more inclusions than a natural diamond, yet this could only be seen under a microscope. 

Certification and Quality Assessment 

Lab and naturally made diamonds both get certified but it has mainly been through different organizations. 

All naturally made diamonds go through Gemological Institute of America standards, which are the strictest grading in the industry. GIA has just started to grade lab diamonds, but they do not grade them frequently. The International Gemological Institute, which we used at Eterneva, was the first to grade lab diamonds and have the most experience. 

Why Would Someone Choose a Natural Diamond? 

Natural diamonds have a certain nostalgia to them. They already have a rarity to them due to how frequently they are produced by the Earth, the conditions they are mined in, or even the colors that are found. With a decrease in mining in our upcoming future, diamonds will become even rarer, while at the same time, keeping a strong value. We know that a natural diamond will be able to hold its value over the years. Some people even have family traditions passed down that are based around natural diamonds. 

Why Would Someone Choose a Lab Diamond? 

This option is the most affordable if someone has a certain budget to maintain. Some people also want to know and be confident that their gem was not taken from the Earth. When creating a cremation diamond at Eterneva, for example, the HPHT machine allows us to create the stone to the exact specifications in the design. We are also able to put the stone through the machine more than once to make sure we got it exactly how it’s wanted. 

So What Is a Fake Diamond? 

Is there such a thing as an imitation or fake diamond? Yes, in fact, there is! Since a lab diamond is carbon-based, that is what makes it a 100% real diamond. 

So what are the fakes in the industry? Stones like cubic zirconia and moissanite may look like diamonds and have been mistaken as diamonds before. Both of these stones are also made in a lab, yet do not have any carbon makeup. Cubic zirconia and moissanite will not have the same sparkle and shine as a diamond will.

Both of these stones are not as strong as diamonds either, and cubic zirconia scratches easily. When looking at them with a light, they will give off colors of the rainbow; whereas, diamonds will refract a white or grayish color. There is no value in either of these stones. Moissanite is often the one that gets mistaken the most as a diamond. 

In Conclusion 

Now we know that to the naked eye, there is no difference between a lab or naturally made diamond. It would even be hard for some jewelers to tell the difference! They are both created by the elements of pressure, temperature, time, and carbon. We also know that there are fake diamonds, cubic zirconia, and moissanite because they do not have any carbon in their structure.

There may be other reasons why someone would choose a lab or naturally made diamond— depending on their beliefs and views on the environment, what their budget may be, or traditions that are in their family. 

The one thing that does make these two types of diamonds different is their value. Diamonds will forever hold their value and with lab diamonds being so new to the market, their value may fluctuate over the years. It also depends on if there are any technological advances to the two types of machines that are used, the HPHT and CVD. 

Sources:

Are Diamonds Rare? | GIA 

HPHT and CVD Diamond Growth Processes: Making Lab-Grown Diamonds | GIA 

Natural vs Lab-Created Diamonds | They Differ

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