Lab Diamonds 101: How do Lab-Grown Diamonds Work?

Lab diamonds are disrupting the diamond industry as they steadily increase in popularity and are seen everywhere from engagement rings to stud earrings, thanks to their affordability, ethics, and sustainability. But some people still have unanswered questions about lab-grown diamonds since they are such a new phenomenon. When you invest in our rings (especially engagement rings!) and other diamonds, we want you to feel confident that you know all of the important details about lab diamonds. There is a lot to learn when it comes to the world of lab-grown diamonds, but we’ve rolled up the most need-to-know information into this handy guide to help you make an informed investment. And if you don’t see your question answered in this blog (or have questions about custom rings or other jewelry), you can contact us and we’ll be happy to chat with you. Here we go!

Are lab-grown diamonds real diamonds?

A resounding and emphatic yes! This is the most common misconception about lab diamonds, as the mining industry was working overtime to try to damage lab diamonds’ reputation by leveraging the term “synthetic diamonds” as a synonym for lab diamonds. And while we aren’t saying there’s anything wrong with actual diamond simulants (like moissanite and cubic zirconia), it would be discouraging when shopping for engagement rings to learn that the diamond isn’t actually real. However, since lab-grown diamonds are definitely real diamonds, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put an end to this deceptive marketing practice of using the words “synthetic” and “natural”. In revising its Jewelry Guides for diamond rings and other jewelry in 2018, the FTC stated, “The Commission no longer defines a ‘diamond’ by using the term ‘natural’ because it is no longer accurate to define diamonds as ‘natural’ when it is now possible to create products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds.”

That leads us into the “why” behind how lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds — it all comes down to their chemical structure. Diamonds are made from the element carbon, and this is true whether a diamond is formed in the Earth or is grown in the lab.  While this is a naturally-occurring process within the Earth that creates mined diamonds, the same process can be mimicked in the lab through various processes (more on that later). Therefore, since mined diamonds and lab diamonds are created from the exact same stuff, they are chemically, physically, and optically the same! The differences aren’t in the diamond, but in the ethics, the sustainability, and the affordability (more on that later, too).

...And the colored lab-grown diamonds — they’re real, too?

Another resounding and emphatic yes! To many consumers, this is one of the most exciting things about lab diamonds because historically, colored diamonds have been very expensive due to their rarity. However, thanks to scientific breakthroughs that allow for the creation of colored diamonds in the lab, diamond rings and stunning stones of every hue are now available for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

Wondering how this is possible? Again, it all comes down to elements. Like we mentioned above, diamonds are made from carbon, but often times, trace minerals are trapped in the process. These trace minerals are what create the colors, and those colors vary based on what type of mineral it is, as well as how much is mixed in with the carbon. For example, boron creates blue diamonds, while nitrogen is responsible for yellow, brown, and orange diamonds. Green diamonds are made thanks to gamma radiation, and it’s thought that pink and red diamonds are created due to higher pressure in their formation process.

If you find this scientifically fascinating like we do, wait until you see how beautiful these colored lab-grown diamonds are. From loose stones to engagement rings, earrings, and even statement rings, colored lab-grown diamonds are not just stunningly beautiful, they’re also very fashionable (and of course real).

Why do lab diamonds cost less than mined diamonds?

One of the major reasons that consumers are drawn to lab diamonds is because of their more affordable price tag. However, it’s important to know that just because lab diamond rings cost less than mined diamonds, it doesn’t mean that they are lacking in quality. In fact, lab diamonds are often of better quality than mined diamonds, because they’re formed in a controlled environment and therefore have fewer impurities! As for the pricing, there are some considerations when it comes to the supply chain — think of how much more cost effective it is to grow a diamond in a lab as compared to using heavy machinery to dig through thousands of tons of Earth in hopes of finding diamonds. But another huge factor in the price difference is simply the markup imposed by the mining industry, which is due to the De Beers company having such a large share of the industry for so many years. With lab diamonds, you aren’t paying the extra markups — you’re only paying for the actual creation of the diamond in the lab.

Something else we’d like to point out here, too — at New World Diamonds, we are proud to offer the most affordable diamonds on the market. From our rings (including engagement rings) through to our loose stones, we have the best prices available (compare them for yourself here). This is because we own our very own lab, so we have direct access to the diamonds that we create and don’t have to rely on the ‘middleman’. This also means that all of our diamonds are grown in the U.S.A. To learn more about why not all lab-grown diamonds are created equally, check out this blog.

Are lab-grown diamonds certified?

The answer to this definitely depends on where you buy your lab diamonds. While not every retailer offers a diamond certification with their diamond rings or loose stones, this is not the case at New World Diamonds. Instead, we stand by the diamonds that we create, and we ensure that each and every diamond is certified in an independent laboratory. To be more specific, our .25 carat up to .99-carat weight stones are certified by International Gemological Laboratories (IGL), while any of our diamonds that weigh one carat and above are certified by the International Gemological Institute (IGI).

Lab diamonds are graded using the same standards as mined diamonds (since remember, they’re essentially the same thing). This grading system utilizes the Four C’s: carat, cut, clarity, and color. Each of these categories provides unique information about your diamond, and you can think of your diamond certificate kind of like a report card for your diamond. In short, it vouches for the quality of what you’re purchasing. It’s also extremely useful to have in case you decide to sell your diamond in the future. In fact, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) considers it so important to obtain a diamond certification that they included it in this blog about how to buy a diamond.

If you’re concerned about seeing the certification at an online retailer likes ours, don’t be. We share the certification details in our product descriptions as well as share the certificate number on some products (check out these engagement rings as examples). A copy of the certificate will be mailed to you along with your purchase, whether it’s a loose diamond stone or one of our rings.

How do you grow a diamond in the lab?

This is a great question, as it seems almost unbelievable that some diamonds within beautiful engagement rings start from a tiny carbon “seed”. The old method of growing diamonds is one that mimics the natural process to a ‘tee’; it’s known as High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT). While this method is effective, it uses a lot of energy and has limitations when it comes to creating colored diamonds. Therefore, we use the Chemical Vapor Distillation (CVD) Method, which involves placing a tiny bit of carbon in a controlled chamber, exposing it to high heat, and then allowing it time to crystallize. If you’d like to learn about this in more detail, read here.

 Conflict-free diamonds: how do lab-grown diamonds stack up?

Lab diamonds are actually the only truly traceable, 100% conflict-free diamonds. We know you may have heard otherwise — especially if you know about the Kimberley Certificate that many ask for when shopping for engagement rings — but let us explain.

The world learned about blood diamonds and how they were fueling rebel militias back in the 1990s, and everyone was rightfully horrified by the human atrocities being committed. To try to resolve this issue, the UN asserted the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which is a resolution that contains 54 members who represent 81 countries in order to try to stop the buy and trade of blood diamonds. However, the Kimberley Process falls short for a number of reasons, mainly due to its lack of a tracking system and its failure to enforce non-compliance.

Additionally, the Kimberley Process is heavily scrutinized because it has turned a blind eye to the ethical crimes being committed in the mining industry. Consider this excerpt from a statement by the Human Rights Watch: “Although the Kimberley Process has made important progress in curtailing the trade in conflict diamonds, the group’s long-term credibility and relevance have been undermined by a narrow focus on the activities of anti-government rebel groups and its unwillingness to incorporate human rights protections into its standards and operations. The group's charter mandates a focus on conflict diamonds and narrowly defines that term to refer only to diamonds used by rebel groups to finance wars against legitimate governments. The Kimberley Process should adopt a broader focus on the full range of human rights abuses connected with diamond production, regardless of whether they are committed by governments, rebel armies, or private actors.”

 In short, there is horrific worker exploitation across the mining industry, where workers are paid well below livable wages (less than $2/daily in some cases!) and even children are preyed upon as child laborers. These are the things that many people don’t know about when shopping for engagement rings, but we are grateful to be in a position to spread awareness. We are very passionate about how we are helping with these issues through the creation of lab diamonds, and we are proud to offer 100% conflict-free diamonds.

Are lab-grown diamonds eco-friendlier?

Absolutely. There are many environmental issues within the mining industry. Consider what it really takes to find an Earth-formed diamond: moving hundreds of tons of Earth, which requires heavy machinery and destroys ecosystems along the way. This leads to an uptick in air pollution along with excess carbon emissions that can be avoided by opting for lab-grown diamonds.  A lot of water is also required to mine for diamonds, which is especially problematic considering that many of the citizens where diamonds are mined do not have consistent access to clean drinking water. If you want to learn more about the environmental issues, you can read this blog we wrote on sustainability. But the bottom line is, if you’re searching for engagement rings that are eco-friendly, then lab diamonds are the best solution.

Do lab-grown diamonds have resale value?

They do! This is another myth spread by the mining industry, as many misinformed consumers fear that a lab diamond isn’t as strong of an investment. However, that’s just more false information; the truth is that while any diamond you buy (lab-formed or mined) can be resold, they all will depreciate in value. That’s right — you’ll be hard-pressed to sell a diamond for as much as you paid for it, much less to earn money on it (unless, of course, it’s an extremely rare diamond that might be sold at an auction or something similar!). But that doesn’t mean that your diamond has no resale value — it simply means that diamonds don’t resale for as much as one paid for them. There is a market for resale though, and it’s important to know that we create engagement rings that last forever thanks to their structural durability. So, if you do decide to sell your diamond in the future, you can be assured that it still will be of excellent quality.

Can lab-grown diamonds be put into custom settings?

At New World Diamonds, they absolutely can. We have an assortment of loose stones that you can choose from in order to design rings (or other jewelry!) that suit your style. Or, perhaps now that you’re more informed about the pitfalls of the mining industry, you want to swap out the diamond in your engagement ring — we can do that, too. Whatever your needs, we have a team of artisan designers who are eager to turn your visions into reality using our stunning conflict-free stones. Simply get in touch with us, and we’ll start creating something incredible to celebrate your moment.

We hope this has answered all of your questions about lab diamonds! You can also peek into our FAQ if you’d like to learn more about New World Diamonds. Whether you’re shopping for engagement rings, everyday rings, necklaces, bracelets, or earrings, we’d love to help you find something that brings you joy. Browse our full selection of gorgeous diamonds, or get some curated gift ideas via this Gift Guide.

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