Updated: May 20
Boy oh boy is this a hot topic! Both sides are so passionate with their viewpoints. As a modern jewelry manufacturer, we acknowledge there needs to be a space for both lab-created and mined diamonds in today’s marketplace... as long as you (the consumer) understands the differences, and the jewelers offers you full disclosure.
This article isn’t meant to lean either way. I just want to get out some information to help you make a knowledgeable choice. The variables involved may be based on your values, your budget, or both. Lab-created or mined each have their own positive and negatives. But the choice should always be yours based on some facts. So, let’s kick this party off…
What is a mined diamond?
A mined diamond, composed mostly of carbon, is created by nature under extreme special circumstances. The diamond crystal forms deep inside the Earth through extreme heat and pressure over billions of years. Long dormant volcanic flows carried the rough closer to the surface.
What is a lab-grown diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds are grown in a laboratory. In fact, they are grown in a laboratory under the same conditions as in nature. Carbon atoms form diamond crystals replicating similar intense heat and pressure as found in nature, deep within the Earth. The biggest difference between a lab created and a mined diamond is time. What takes nature almost two billion years, they can now replicate in a laboratory in just a matter of weeks. Lab-grown diamonds are categorized as either high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD) diamonds, depending on the method of their production.
Naturally mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds are formed in the exact same way. Both require a massive amount of energy, heat, and pressure that squeezes the carbon atoms together forming a diamond rough. The resulting characteristics of the rough is identical. They both require the same care to be cut and polished into beautiful light emitting sparkly gems. Accredited Gemological laboratories use sophisticated specialized equipment to identify mined from lab-grown. The naked eye or even the magnifying loupe jewelers use cannot distinguish one from the other.
Color & Quality
Color enhancement of lab-created diamonds for grading (the rainbow colors) is easier as scientists can add traces of varying elements in the growing process to produce the desired hue. In nature roughly 2% of mined diamond rough have color. Clarity on the other hand is random as even minute atmospheric discrepancies while growing will affect the rough’s characteristics. Both lab and mined are graded using the exact same color/clarity scales.
It looks like both types (lab and mined) have adverse environmental impacts. Mines move roughly 1,700 tons of earth per one carat of diamond while labs use roughly enough energy to power a house for a month. Mines have lower CO2 emissions than labs but create more debris.
Accelerating lab created diamond production and decreasing overhead costs due to technological improvements seem to be lowering lab grown costs. Conversely decreasing production due to drops in demand and increasing costs associated with the mining process has the higher grade mined diamonds making costs increasing. When sold at a comparable markup, lab created diamonds can be as much as 40-50% less than their mined counterparts.
In fact, industry leaders just responded to Pandora’s Laboratory Grown Diamond Announcement - Read the announcement.
Mined diamonds have a history of increasing in value over time and if production decreases its probable values will continue to increase. Lab created diamonds are still relatively new to the market but as production ramps up prices could possibly decrease making the likely of added value not probable. What motivates the individual to choose one over the other is personal. Is the motivation size, resale value, color/clarity or is it the diamond’s “character”? Is it a dream about to come true or a practical step in a process? That is up to you.
With all that said, here's the thing. When buying diamonds, you should do what is best for you and /or your partner - not what any marketers or salespeople tell you to. If you are on a budget (like most of the world) lab-created can be a great option. If you are a traditionalist, you may feel that tradition dictates a mined diamond. Just be happy with your decision and enjoy.
Here are some videos I found helpful in understanding the difference.