Everything you need to know about lab-grown diamonds vs mined diamonds

Everything you need to know about lab-grown diamonds vs mined diamonds

Shopping for diamonds is not like shopping for a new pair of jeans. No, no, diamond jewellery is an investment purchase that, unless you’re operating on a Kim Kardashian-equivalent budget, will likely not be an impulse buy.

Instead, you’ll want to put some serious thought into what stone to choose, the shape, setting and style – all things helpfully explained in our complete guide to the different engagement ring shapes and cuts out there. But there’s also another option you should take into consideration, should you buy a lab-grown diamond?

Lab-grown diamonds are becoming a more and more popular choice, largely due to their price and also their sustainable credentials. And with some of our favourite jewellery brands including the likes of Pandora and Mejuri now offering lab-grown stones within their collections, we thought it was about time we *fully* understood the differences between lab-grown and real – rather, natural or mined – diamonds.

To help, we consulted the experts, posing all the questions we could possibly think of. So, whether you want to know how to buy an engagement ring for your S.O. or are thinking of treating yourself to a sparkly pair of diamond earrings, you can shop for diamonds with confidence.

What are lab-grown diamonds?

First thing first: what actually is a lab-grown diamond? Simply put, a lab-grown diamond is a diamond that has been created in a laboratory as opposed to naturally mined from the earth.

How are lab-grown diamonds made?

There are a number of clichéd sayings that reference the immense pressure needed to create a diamond. While natural or mined diamonds get this pressure beneath the earth’s surface, lab-grown diamonds are made through a process involving high pressure and high temperature that mimics the environment in which a diamond naturally forms. The end result is a 100% crystallised carbon stone with the same chemical composition as an actual diamond.

What’s the difference between lab-grown diamonds and real diamonds?

Okay, so what’s different about a lab-grown diamond, then? According to Pandora, not much. Lab-grown diamonds are optically, chemically, thermally and physically identical to mined diamonds and all are graded on the same 4Cs as mined diamonds. That’s cut, clarity, colour and carat. The main difference is the diamond’s origin.

Because of this, it's almost impossible for the naked eye to tell the difference between a natural and a lab-grown diamond. "Even experienced diamond dealers aren't able to tell the difference, which is why most lab diamonds are stamped somewhere at the base. Without that, they'd be impossible to distinguish," Madie White, a jeweller who regularly works with diamonds, explains. When diamond shopping, your jeweller should always disclose exactly what stones you're looking at. You can also ask to see the certification if you want to be 100% sure.

CEO & Creative Director of her eponymous jewellery brand, Loveness Lee, adds, "There is zero compromise on quality with lab-grown diamonds. Some opinions argue that natural diamonds have investment value [as mined diamonds increase in value over time due to their natural scarcity] and lab-grown diamonds don't. However, in my opinion, diamonds should never be an investment purchase. The return on diamonds should be their beauty and sentimental value."

Are lab-grown diamonds cheaper than real diamonds?

The other main difference between lab-grown and mined diamonds is price, as lab-grown diamonds can be a more affordable option. Typically, a lab-grown diamond will cost over 50% less than a natural diamond with the same properties such as carat and size.

This comes back to how they’re made. Lab-grown diamonds are a non-exhaustive renewable product that can be efficiently created in as little as 2 weeks. Mining diamonds is an expensive (and sometimes dangerous, as well as occasionally unethical) process, so their increased price tag represents all those facets alongside their rarity.

Are lab-grown diamonds sustainable?

"Choosing a lab-grown diamond offers several advantages, primarily regarding ethical considerations and the environmental impact," the team at TheDiamondStore.co.uk tells Cosmo. The natural diamond industry is rife with unfair practices such as child labour, human rights violations, dangerous working conditions, and forced labour. And that's before we've even mentioned the ecological damage.

"Natural diamond mining has caused, among other brutal humanitarian issues, environmental devastation," Madie explains. Irresponsible mining causes severe damage to the land. "This leads to things like soil erosion, deforestation and relocation of local communities, due to lack of natural resources," she continues.

Environmentally, lab-grown diamonds have a significantly lower footprint, as they require less energy and resources to produce, compared to extracting diamonds from the earth. Pandora reports its lab-grown diamonds bear a carbon footprint that’s approximately 95% lower (!!) than natural diamonds.

It may be a dramatic viewpoint, but it begs the question, what's the point of having one of the oldest stones on earth on your finger if there's no longer an earth to wear it on?

Ultimately, "proving you have a safe lab is much easier than proving you have a safe, ethically staffed diamond mine," Madie concludes. If you do opt for a natural mined diamond, make sure your jeweller is sourcing stones from a safe and ethical diamond supplier so you have a conflict-free diamond.

Where to buy lab-grown diamonds

When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, Pandora really is leading the way on the high street. "We want more people to experience the power and beauty of lab-grown diamonds for every day, in classic diamond settings and some that are unexpected," says Pandora Creative Director Francesco Terzo. Everyday diamonds – who do we think we are, the Queen of Sheba?

While sustainable jewellery brands like Loveness Lee have always prioritised such eco-practices, more and more jewellers are jumping on the lab-grown bang wagon. Meaning there's plenty of choice of lab-grown diamond rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more to shop and grow your diamond collection.

Shop some of our favourite lab-grown diamond pieces now:

Lab-grown coloured diamonds

White diamonds aren't your only option though. Some labs have started introducing trace elements, like boron or nitrogen, during the growth phase – just like in naturally occurring coloured diamonds – which imparts vibrant hues to the diamonds naturally and uniformly throughout the crystal structure.

"Naturally occurring coloured diamonds are very rare and vivid colours even more so. With lab-grown coloured diamonds, scientists can control the colour to achieve the desired colour," explains TheDiamondStore.co.uk. The brand launched its Elara Collection, featuring an exclusive range of pink, blue, and yellow lab-grown coloured diamond jewellery in 2022 as more affordable options to rare, and expensive, natural coloured diamonds.

The Elizabeth halo engagement ring centres around a captivating 1-carat pink lab-grown diamond encircled by a halo of sparkling lab-grown diamonds. Retailing for £2,425 may still sound expensive, but it pales in comparison to the £50,000 it would cost if the diamond were naturally mined.

Other lab-grown precious gemstones

And it's not just diamonds being grown in labs. Loveness Lee has included lab-grown emeralds, sapphires, and rubies in its collections for customers who want the sustainable benefits of a lab-grown diamond but in other precious gemstones.

"We advise choosing a lower grade – between VVS2 to VS, rather than VVS1 – for your lab-grown diamonds and lab-grown gemstones," says Loveness. "The higher grades look too perfect and imperfections from the man-made inclusions give them charm and uniqueness, and can save you further on budget. We recommend seeking these elements of character when looking for a lab-grown gemstone."

What are moissanites?

Considered the less-pricier 'cousin' of the diamond, moissanites (pronounced moy-suh-nites) were discovered in 1893 by French chemist Henri Moissan and have for a long time gone underappreciated. They dazzle with even more brilliance than a diamond and boast nearly comparable strength. They're also better value meaning you can get more sparkle from your jewellery. Moissanites, like diamonds, are naturally mined stones offering the rarity associated with diamonds but at a price closer to that of lab-grown stones.

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