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Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Are laboratory grown diamonds real diamonds? Are laboratory grown diamonds real diamonds?

If you are thinking of buying an item of diamond jewellery and have been shopping around, you will most likely have come across the term “Lab-Grown Diamonds’. These may also be known by terms such as “gentle diamonds” or “cultivated diamonds”. But what are they? And how do they differ from ‘real’ diamonds? 

Well, to put the initial question of “are they real diamonds” simply; the answer is yes. They have the same chemical structure and composition, but they are essentially synthetic diamonds.

What does synthetic mean?

It means that it has been made by man as opposed to formed as a miracle of nature in the deepest depths of the earth’s crust over millennia. Instead, they are formed under conditions mimicking those found in the earth’s crust (IE high pressures and high temperatures), yet speeding the process along to a mere few weeks or even days. It is important to note, however, that even though they are synthetic, they have the same physical properties and chemical structures as a natural diamond. A synthetic diamond will still score a 10 on the MOHS scale (the gemstone scale of hardness) and possess the same refractive index of 2.42 (this is what gives diamonds the potential to have such great sparkle) and so on. And, they are generally the fraction of the price of a naturally formed diamond. 


There are two main types of synthetic diamonds, based on two different ways of creating them: CVD and HPHT. 


Image of diamond crystals: CVD (left), HPHT (centre) and natural (right)

How can you tell a ‘real’ diamond?

Firstly, a natural diamond can just be referred to as a diamond. A diamond is, intrinsically, a natural product and therefore you don’t have to specify that it’s natural - you can assume that it is. Secondly, unfortunately there is no visual distinction between a synthetic, lab-grown diamond and a diamond as both have the same chemical structure and there is no quick and easy test to do.

Synthetic diamonds are still a relatively new addition to the market, and the industry is still figuring out how to deal with them in relation to differentiation. Some companies may laser a tiny inscription on the girdle of the diamond, which would identify them as synthetic, but this is not a requirement. When selling synthetic diamonds, however, it has to be specified and identified - retailers are not allowed to trick you into buying a synthetic diamond, and are required to be transparent about it. But the difficulty then comes if the ring is sold second hand and passed on to another owner. Will they know? If it were to end up at an auction house in 50 years time, would it be able to be identified? It could easily become mis-sold as a diamond forevermore.

One way to possibly identify a synethetic diamond is that laboratory conditions yield high quality diamonds of Type IIA (read a bit more about diamond types here), which are free from any impurities within their chemical structure. This type of diamond is rare in nature, so if you’re assessing a very high quality type IIA diamond, there is a chance that it could be synthetic. Additionally, until relatively recently, laboratories were only producing stones up to 1.00ct, but now have started to grow larger synthetic diamonds. So these two factors may be suggestive of a diamond being synthetic...But honestly? It’s incredibly difficult to tell. 


Synthetic diamond (left) vs natural diamond (right)


What is a simulant?

A diamond simulant is different to a synthetic diamond. A simulant imitates a diamond, but does not have the same chemical structure or physical properties. It might be a natural material, or a synthetic one. For example, cubic zirconia and synthetic moissanite are simulants as they are colourless stones that produce similar optical effects to a diamond, and can be purchased for a fraction of the price. However, these are generally a lot easier to identify than a synthetic diamond. 


Are synthetic diamonds the “ethical” choice?

There are companies that specialise in synthetic diamonds and market them as “ethical”, “sustainable” and even “eco friendly” solutions. It is true that significantly less energy is used to create a laboratory grown diamond than a diamond mining system, as whilst considerable amounts of energy are required to recreate the conditions for diamond formation, these can be drawn from renewable energy sources. And, of course, we are all well aware of the historic tendencies of diamond mining to fund rebel groups (so called “conflict diamonds”), exploitation of local communities, and cause environmental damage. However, you are still stuck with the word “synthetic”, sadly, which takes some of the magic away from the mystery and allure of diamonds - a hypnotically beautiful material, plucked from the tempestuous depths of volcanic rock as a miracle of nature.

The best course of action? Like all things in the world of consumer goods, the best possible principles are those of reuse, recycle and reduce. That’s why using old cut, antique diamonds, or even modern yet preloved ones, is such a joy. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the impact of diamonds and jewellery consumption on the planet. This way, you can be confident and comfortable that you are making an ethical diamond choice and doing your bit for the planet, whilst also knowing that your diamond has a story to tell. And if a lovely old diamond is in an ugly old ring that isn’t to your taste? We can design a new ring around the old stone, just for you. This gives you the opportunity to create a ring that you love, whilst keeping your diamond choice sustainable. What's not to love?!

Click here to find out more about our Bespoke jewellery services

If you are thinking of buying an item of diamond jewellery and have been shopping around, you will most likely have come across the term “Lab-Grown Diamonds’. These may also be known by terms such as “gentle diamonds” or “cultivated diamonds”. But what are they? And how do they differ from ‘real’ diamonds? 

Well, to put the initial question of “are they real diamonds” simply; the answer is yes. They have the same chemical structure and composition, but they are essentially synthetic diamonds.

What does synthetic mean?

It means that it has been made by man as opposed to formed as a miracle of nature in the deepest depths of the earth’s crust over millennia. Instead, they are formed under conditions mimicking those found in the earth’s crust (IE high pressures and high temperatures), yet speeding the process along to a mere few weeks or even days. It is important to note, however, that even though they are synthetic, they have the same physical properties and chemical structures as a natural diamond. A synthetic diamond will still score a 10 on the MOHS scale (the gemstone scale of hardness) and possess the same refractive index of 2.42 (this is what gives diamonds the potential to have such great sparkle) and so on. And, they are generally the fraction of the price of a naturally formed diamond. 


There are two main types of synthetic diamonds, based on two different ways of creating them: CVD and HPHT. 


Image of diamond crystals: CVD (left), HPHT (centre) and natural (right)

How can you tell a ‘real’ diamond?

Firstly, a natural diamond can just be referred to as a diamond. A diamond is, intrinsically, a natural product and therefore you don’t have to specify that it’s natural - you can assume that it is. Secondly, unfortunately there is no visual distinction between a synthetic, lab-grown diamond and a diamond as both have the same chemical structure and there is no quick and easy test to do.

Synthetic diamonds are still a relatively new addition to the market, and the industry is still figuring out how to deal with them in relation to differentiation. Some companies may laser a tiny inscription on the girdle of the diamond, which would identify them as synthetic, but this is not a requirement. When selling synthetic diamonds, however, it has to be specified and identified - retailers are not allowed to trick you into buying a synthetic diamond, and are required to be transparent about it. But the difficulty then comes if the ring is sold second hand and passed on to another owner. Will they know? If it were to end up at an auction house in 50 years time, would it be able to be identified? It could easily become mis-sold as a diamond forevermore.

One way to possibly identify a synethetic diamond is that laboratory conditions yield high quality diamonds of Type IIA (read a bit more about diamond types here), which are free from any impurities within their chemical structure. This type of diamond is rare in nature, so if you’re assessing a very high quality type IIA diamond, there is a chance that it could be synthetic. Additionally, until relatively recently, laboratories were only producing stones up to 1.00ct, but now have started to grow larger synthetic diamonds. So these two factors may be suggestive of a diamond being synthetic...But honestly? It’s incredibly difficult to tell. 


Synthetic diamond (left) vs natural diamond (right)


What is a simulant?

A diamond simulant is different to a synthetic diamond. A simulant imitates a diamond, but does not have the same chemical structure or physical properties. It might be a natural material, or a synthetic one. For example, cubic zirconia and synthetic moissanite are simulants as they are colourless stones that produce similar optical effects to a diamond, and can be purchased for a fraction of the price. However, these are generally a lot easier to identify than a synthetic diamond. 


Are synthetic diamonds the “ethical” choice?

There are companies that specialise in synthetic diamonds and market them as “ethical”, “sustainable” and even “eco friendly” solutions. It is true that significantly less energy is used to create a laboratory grown diamond than a diamond mining system, as whilst considerable amounts of energy are required to recreate the conditions for diamond formation, these can be drawn from renewable energy sources. And, of course, we are all well aware of the historic tendencies of diamond mining to fund rebel groups (so called “conflict diamonds”), exploitation of local communities, and cause environmental damage. However, you are still stuck with the word “synthetic”, sadly, which takes some of the magic away from the mystery and allure of diamonds - a hypnotically beautiful material, plucked from the tempestuous depths of volcanic rock as a miracle of nature.

The best course of action? Like all things in the world of consumer goods, the best possible principles are those of reuse, recycle and reduce. That’s why using old cut, antique diamonds, or even modern yet preloved ones, is such a joy. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the impact of diamonds and jewellery consumption on the planet. This way, you can be confident and comfortable that you are making an ethical diamond choice and doing your bit for the planet, whilst also knowing that your diamond has a story to tell. And if a lovely old diamond is in an ugly old ring that isn’t to your taste? We can design a new ring around the old stone, just for you. This gives you the opportunity to create a ring that you love, whilst keeping your diamond choice sustainable. What's not to love?!

Click here to find out more about our Bespoke jewellery services

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