In the guide below, we compare lab created diamonds and mined diamonds.
We explain what each is, but also outline what the main differences and similarities between them might be.
We also provide links to a number of resources that provide further information on each of these diamond types.
Summary – How Lab Created & Real/Mined Diamonds Compare
What Are Lab Created Diamonds, & What Are Mined Diamonds?
Lab created diamonds are diamonds formed in a human controlled laboratory environment
Mined diamonds on the other hand are diamonds that are formed with natural processes underneath the Earth’s surface, before being extracted with human mining practices
We list and explain the main differences between the two in the guide below
We list and explain the main similarities between the two in the guide below
How To Test Diamonds To Determine If They Are Lab Created, Or Mined
There’s equipment that can be used to determine if a diamond is lab created or mined.
There’s very small differences in the diamonds that this equipment can pick up when analysing the diamonds
We explain the equipment and testing processes below
This guide is a generalisation only.
The reality is that there are different labs that create different lab grown diamond products.
Each one will vary in how they form and finish their diamonds – so each one needs to be individually assessed if you intend to buy.
The same applies to mined diamonds.
What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are diamonds that formed/grown with human controlled processes, in a human controlled environment (i.e. labs and factories)
This means that the diamond growers have some level of control over the type of diamond they grow as well (it’s size, color, etc)
Growers start off with a seed of pre-existing diamond material
This pre-existing piece of carbon based diamond material is then subject to controlled temperatures and pressure in a ‘growth machine’ that simulates the conditions that naturally formed diamonds are exposed to
Growers can ‘grow’ a diamond in a matter of weeks to months
The growing process is not yet perfect – grown diamonds do have a ‘failure rate’, and there are currently some limitations in the types of diamonds that can be grown
It’s also worth noting that they still do currently rely on a pre-existing piece of diamond as the seed material – they don’t grow from nothing
What Are Mined Diamonds?
Mined diamonds on the other hand form naturally over the course of millions and billions of years (some estimates say 1 to 4 billion years)
They form miles under the Earth’s surface from a mix of pressure, temperature, and chemical reactions, before magma from deep volcanic eruptions help them rise to the Earth’s surface, where they are found in rocks.
At that point, humans are able to extract the diamonds via mining operations
Humans have no control over how these diamonds are formed, or the time it takes for these diamonds to form
These diamonds can come in all different sizes, colors, quality, and so on
The same way that there is a ‘failure rate’ for lab grown diamonds, not all naturally formed diamonds grow into a gem quality diamond
Lab Grown Diamonds vs Mined Diamonds: Main Differences
Some of the main differences between lab grown and mined diamonds might include but aren’t limited to:
– Lab Grown Diamonds Still Rely On Mined Diamond Material To Grow
Lab grown diamonds need a ‘seed’ of pre-existing carbon based diamond material that was mined out of the Earth at some stage to start growing.
Mined diamonds don’t depend on lab grown diamonds to start forming.
– How They Are Formed, Produced & Brought To Market
We explained above how each diamond differs in this regard.
Lab grown diamonds are lab formed and there’s a large amount of human control
Mined diamonds are naturally formed, and the types of diamonds that are formed are formed randomly, depending on the conditions they are exposed to during the formation process
– Speed Of Formation
Lab grown diamonds can be formed a lot quicker than mined diamonds
Lab grown diamonds might take a few weeks to a few months, and mined diamonds might take millions or billions of years to form
– Differences When Analysed With Testing Equipment
We talk about these differences in the testing section below in this guide
But, lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds might have microscopic and ‘insignificant’ differences when analysed with certain diamond testing equipment
These differences though are not noticeable to the naked human eye
– Sellers Of Each Type Of Diamond Might Make Slightly Different Offerings
These offerings can be related to the type of diamond they offer, sustainability criteria, ethics criteria, traceability or guarantee on the origin of the diamond material, and so on
– Purchase Price
Lab grown diamonds might be cheaper to purchase than mined diamonds.
Generally, they might be 10 to 20% cheaper, but might be up to 40% cheaper for some diamond products.
– Re-Sell Price, & How Much Value They Keep After Purchase
Lab grown diamonds might not hold as much of their original purchase price over time as mined diamonds.
This reduces the re-sell value of lab grown diamonds.
– The Size Of Each Industry Is Different
The mined diamond industry is currently far larger than the lab grown diamond industry – 2018/2019 estimates indicated the lab grown diamond industry was only about 1 to 2 % of the total diamond industry.
The lab grown diamond industry may have good potential to grow though.
– Sustainability & Eco Friendliness
There can be some debate around which type of diamond is more sustainable and eco friendly.
It might ultimately come down to the individual seller and how they source, mine or produce their diamonds.
On one hand, mined diamonds have the mining footprint, and involve transportation and processing of the mined diamonds.
On the other hand, lab grown diamonds still do use a small amount of mined diamonds as seed material, and there’s queries over the exact amount of energy they use, the type of energy they use (fossil fuel vs renewables), as well as the carbon footprint, waste byproducts that are produced, and also waste management.
Some lab grow diamond sellers might be reasonably efficient with electricity, and might use renewable energy for their operations.
It’s also worth noting that mined diamonds can be sold second hand or recycled, which averages out their initial sustainability footprint over the number of owners.
– Ethics & Social Responsibility
Similarly, which type of diamond is more ethical and socially responsible might depend on the standards the individual seller enforces to suppliers for the diamonds they sell.
Ethics include things like labor conditions (worker’s rights, and child labor), conflict free, fair trade, etc, whilst social responsibility can include contributing a % of profits to a social cause like investing in communities impacted by mining.
Some point out that initiatives like the Kimberly Process mean that mined diamonds have become a lot more ethical and socially responsible over the last few decades.
Others point out that this narrative might not be accurate in some ways, and mined diamonds still have certain ethical and social issues to address in some regions of the world.
Some lab grown diamond sellers sell their diamonds with a number of ethical guarantees and some also commit a % of profits to social causes.
– Some Argue Mined Diamonds Are More Unique, Rare & Are A Finite Resource
Because of the way mined diamonds form, and the amount of time it takes for them to form, some argue they are more unique, rare and finite as a resource compared to lab grown diamonds which can be produced commercially and almost ‘at will’
Having said that, one source indicates that far more mined diamonds are mined each year than lab grown diamonds being grown each year: ‘Mined diamonds come out of the earth in the millions of carats per year; diamonds come out of labs in the thousands’ (adadiamonds.com)
– Potential Difference In The Type Of Diamonds That Can Be Grown vs Formed Naturally
Some sources suggest that the traits of each diamond, such as size and color, might vary between the two types of diamonds.
On size …
For example: ‘[Some sources say that] rough mined diamonds can grow to upwards of 400 carats, whereas lab grown diamonds are limited at around 20 carats (ritani.com)’
On color …
From ritani.com: ‘… mined diamonds can have different trace chemicals in the diamonds to impact how their colors develop compared to lab grown diamonds’
The capabilities of lab grown diamond production might change over time though.
– Some Gemalogical Certifiers Might Grade Lab Grown Diamonds Differently Than Mined Diamonds
… the GIA doesn’t grade lab-grown diamonds the same way it grades organic diamonds (ritani.com)
Lab Grown Diamonds vs Mined Diamonds: Similarities
Some of the main similarities between lab grown and mined diamonds might include but aren’t limited to:
– They Are Essentially The Same Physically, Chemically, Structurally & Visually
Lab created diamonds are not fake or simulant type diamonds like Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite – they are real diamonds.
Lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds are essentially the same both when viewed from the naked human eye, and when looking at the chemical structure of the diamonds.
Both made of exactly the same material – fully crystalized carbon.
They both go through the same production process – cut, color, clarity, carat. Both have inclusions that affect their clarity.
Only ‘insignificant’ and minor differences can be picked up between the diamonds when analysed with specialised testing equipment.
Lab created diamonds can be made to the same level of clarity, color and brilliance as naturally mined stones.
… these man-made diamonds are almost indistinguishable …
– Imperfect Formation Of Each
The same way that lab grown diamonds have a ‘failure rate’, is a similar way that not all naturally formed diamonds form into a ‘gem quality’ diamond
How To Know Or Test If A Diamond Is A Lab Grown Diamond Or Mined Diamond
There’s three ways that someone might be able to know whether a diamond is lab grown or an organic mined diamond:
– If they have a certificate from an independent gemological certifying body.
– If a jeweller uses specialized equipment or a specialized device, such as spectrometers and X-rays, that shows the minor and trace differences in the two types of diamonds
– If a company inscribes the diamond identifying what type of diamond it is
Third Party Independent Certification
It’s generally best practice when buying a diamond to get this certification (which comes as a certificate) – we wrote more about what you might look out for when buying lab grown diamonds in this guide, and the different recognised certifying bodies
Some of the more well known third party certification parties for lab grown diamonds might be GIA, AWDC, IGI, GSI, IIDGR, AGS, or HRD.
Specialized Testing Equipment & Devices
An expensive device developed by DeBeers for diamond dealers is an instrument which uses ultraviolet light to detect the difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds will show a strong phosphorescent glow that is not common to natural diamonds.
Lab grown … colored diamonds are formed when small amounts of specific trace elements are present during the growth phase of the diamond, just like in nature.
In both white and fancy colored lab diamonds, the exact composition of trace elements may differ from their natural diamond counterparts.
Lab diamonds can only be distinguished from natural diamonds using specialized equipment that can detect the minor differences in trace elements and crystal growth.
… man-made diamonds are almost indistinguishable unless they are subjected to specialized testing equipment like spectrometers and X-rays (beyond4cs.com)
Some companies are also beginning to laser inscribe the side of the diamond so you know it’s man made (harpersbazaar.com.au)
Other Guides On Lab Grown Diamonds
Pros and cons of lab created diamonds
Finding the best lab grown diamonds: buyer’s guide
Comparison of mined diamonds and lab grown diamond to all other types of diamonds
How sustainable and ethical lab grown and mined diamonds might be