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If you are reading this article, The Better Diamond would like to welcome you to the world of lab grown diamonds. You have undoubtedly heard the term “lab grown diamond” before on various occasions and have now brought it upon yourself to find out once and for all if lab grown diamonds are indeed real diamonds.

Lab grown diamonds have been making the headlines in recent years for all the right reasons - they are indeed real diamonds with lesser negative impact on the environment, humanity, and your wallet. In order to define what a real diamond is, let us first take a look at how natural diamonds are made. For the uninitiated, the term “natural diamonds” refers to diamonds that were naturally formed in the earth which are then dug out of the ground, sometimes also known as “mined diamonds”.

Natural diamonds start out their lives as carbon atoms 200 kilometers below the earth’s surface where temperatures reach 1000 degrees celsius with immense pressure, forming a crystalline structure known to us as a diamond rough. This process can take over a billion years before they reach the earth’s surface via kimberlite volcanic eruptions which last occurred over 40 million years ago. These diamond roughs which are mined, then need to be cut and polished before they bear semblance to what we recognise as jewellery grade diamonds. 

What is characteristic of these natural diamonds is their chemical composition and crystalline structure. Real diamonds are composed of a single element - carbon - with room for a minute amount of trace elements such as nitrogen and boron. They are usually 99.95% carbon, with the impurities imparting different colours to the diamond, affecting their colour grade. Given a diamond’s isometric crystal structure, where all the carbon atoms are bonded in the same way together in all directions, this is what gives the diamond its reputation for being the hardest material in the world, measuring a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Now that we understand how a diamond is made, as well as what makes a diamond real, let’s see how real a lab grown diamond is. Lab grown diamonds are also often referred to as “man made diamonds” or even sometimes “synthetic diamonds”. While the term “synthetic diamonds” is not technically wrong, it implies that the diamond is not real, and hence the term has slowly been phased out. One of the biggest faux pas is to refer to lab grown diamonds as “diamond simulants” or “artificial diamonds” as those terms refer to non-diamond alternatives such cubic zirconia and moissanite, which we will be discussing in a separate article. You can however also call them “cultured diamonds”, “man made diamonds” or simply “lab grown diamonds”.

So why is everyone insisting that lab grown diamonds are real diamonds? First of all, from an objectively scientific standpoint, lab grown diamonds are chemically, physically and optically identical to natural diamonds. They are made of the exact same chemical composition with the same isometric crystalline structure. Referencing the famous duck test - “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” 

And it is not by chance that lab grown diamonds are real diamonds; their formation in the lab highly resembles that of what went on in the earth billions of years ago, albeit condensed into a time frame of days, weeks or months. The very first lab grown diamond dates back to 1954 in a lab of General Electric where the process of High Pressure High Temperature, commonly referred to as HPHT, was invented. Since then, another method to grow lab grown diamonds was invented which is called Chemical Vapour Deposition, or CVD. If you are interested in finding out more about the various methods to grow a diamond, simply check out our article on HPHT vs CVD diamonds.

As the name suggests, High Pressure High Temperature follows the same principles of naturally occurring diamonds which were formed under higher temperatures and pressures deep inside the earth. Graphite is used as the carbon starting material which is then melted and compressed into a diamond crystal structure, resembling a diamond rough. This diamond rough is then also cut and polished before it is sold as a gem grade diamond. The result is a lab grown, but entirely real, diamond which is almost entirely indistinguishable from a natural diamond. Only sophisticated certifying laboratories are able to tell the difference through very minute differences.

Lab grown diamonds are graded by the same laboratories that grade natural diamonds, such as your Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and International Gemological Institute (IGI). Thus, they follow the same grading criteria such as your 4Cs, with the only difference being in the remarks which states “This Laboratory Grown Diamond was created by High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)/Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) growth process”

An unusual question that we often get asked is “Do lab grown diamonds lose their shine over time?” We are unsure who is behind this claim, but there is no scientific reason, nor evidence, that a lab grown diamond would lose its shine over time as it has identical physical properties to a natural diamond. The only way a lab grown diamond would lose its shine is the same way a natural diamond would, if it was covered in oil and dust, and much in need of a wash. This is where learning how to take care of your diamond jewellery comes in handy.

In closing, we would like to conclude with one of our favourite analogies to help clients understand the similarities between natural and lab grown diamonds. Let’s take babies for example, they can be conceived naturally through the birds and the bees, or they can be conceived in a test tube through in-vitro fertilization. These are 2 very different methods to achieve the same identical outcome, without being able to differentiate which is which as both the naturally conceived and IVF baby are just as real as one another. The decision then lies with you, do you care about buying a natural vs lab grown diamond, or are you just after a real diamond? The lab grown diamond has presented itself as a near perfect solution and substitute to the wars, crimes, injustice and environmental impact of the diamond industry. We can’t help but see it as The Better Diamond.