What is the Difference Between a Natural and Lab-Grown Diamond?

June 28th, 2022

Lab-grown diamonds were first produced in the 1950s for use in industrial applications; however, it wasn’t until the 2010s that they were introduced to the jewelry industry. Recently they have become a popular alternative to natural gems.

Lab-Grown vs. Natural Diamonds: What is the Difference?

The primary difference between an organic and a synthetic diamond is their age; one is millions of years old while the other is grown in a lab over several weeks. However, there are several other factors to consider when comparing the two gemstones, including:

Formation and manufacturing

Natural diamonds are formed when carbon deposits, found approximately 90 to 125 miles beneath the Earth, are subject to intense heat and pressure. The conditions for diamond formation require at least 725,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and temperatures of 2000 – 2200°F. Diamond deposits rose to the surface of the Earth during deep volcanic eruptions that occurred eons ago, allowing diamond miners to source the raw stones.

Synthetic diamonds are created under similar conditions to natural diamonds; however, these conditions are generated inside carefully controlled laboratories. Two methods for creating diamonds in a lab are HPHT and CVD.

During the HPHT (high pressure-high temperature) process, a high purity carbon source is placed in a growth chamber heated to 2300 – 2900°F with pressure above 870,000 pounds per square inch. This melts the carbon source causing it to deposit on a diamond seed inside the chamber. A diamond seed is a small sliver of natural diamond crystal about the same width as a human hair.

CVD (chemical vapor deposition) introduces a gas, such as methane, to a vacuum-sealed chamber containing a diamond seed. The chamber is then bombarded with microwaves, breaking down the gas molecules into carbon, allowing them to deposit on the diamond seed.

Gemologist assessing a diamond

Morphology

Due to the differences in crystal formation between natural and synthetic diamonds, they have a different morphology (which can also affect their physical properties like light and color distribution).

A natural diamond crystal typically has a symmetrical octahedron shape with eight growth directions. An HPTP diamond is cuboctahedral with 14 growth directions, and a CVD diamond is shaped like a cube with a single growth direction.

These shapes are typically lost after cutting; however, gemologists and jewelers can still look at the differing fluorescence patterns using UV light to determine the gemstone’s morphology.

Price

There is a significant price difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds due to supply and demand. Because natural diamonds take millions of years to form, global supply is limited, while lab-grown diamonds have no supply cap.

These differences have resulted in a market that prices lab-grown diamonds up to 60% cheaper than natural diamonds. This allows consumers to buy a lab-grown diamond with the same carat value, cut, clarity, and color for a fraction of the cost of a natural diamond.

However, there is also a difference in resale value. Natural diamonds retain approximately 50% of their initial value, while lab-grown diamonds have a steep depreciation rate.

Hardness

Because both lab-grown and natural diamonds have the same chemical composition, they both rate a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. This ensures optimal durability and makes them both suitable for a range of applications, from diamond-tipped drill bits to engagement rings.

Should I Buy a Lab-Grown or Natural Diamond?

There is no visible difference between a lab-grown and a natural diamond, so the choice comes down to your budget and whether you prefer a sustainably sourced gem.

Lab-grown diamonds allow you to invest in high-quality gems at a more affordable price with fewer consequences for the planet.

Closeup of woman’s hand holding diamond earrings, necklace, and ring

Protect Your Diamond Jewelry With BriteCo™

Whether you purchase a lab-grown or natural diamond, it is crucial to protect your valuable jewelry with insurance from BriteCo.

BriteCo’s Fine Jewelry insurance policy offers up to 125% of the appraisal price in coverage for repairs or replacement of your diamond jewelry with a zero deductible. Use our convenient online tool to get a quote for an affordable monthly or annual payment.

BriteCo Jewelry Insurance Coverage

FOR JEWELERS:

Sign up for free
appraisal software

BriteCo Jewelry Insurance Coverage

FOR CUSTOMERS:

Learn more about
BriteCo insurance

About the Author

Dustin Sitar is the Director of Marketing and Operations at BriteCo dedicated to consistently serving and motivating customers through education and inspiration. Prior to joining BriteCo, Dustin was a Senior Analyst on the Merchandising Strategy team at Zappos.com focused on bringing new products to the market. He holds an MBA in Finance from the W.P. Carey School of Business.
BriteCo logo

Contact

805 Greenwood Street
Evanston, IL 60201

info@brite.co

BriteCo Inc. is a licensed insurance agency in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Please see the Licenses section of this website for more information. All insurance policies underwritten and issued by Glencar Insurance Company and administered by BriteCo.