Updated August 17, 2017

Lab Created Diamonds: Do They Really Save Money?

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Lab created diamonds are misunderstood. They're not cheap "fake" diamonds. Here's the truth about this man-made rock.

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You want the perfect engagement ring, but you are on a budget. Lab grown diamonds can save you money. But are they worth it?

It depends on who you ask.

In this guide, we'll help you learn about man-made diamonds. Are they a good value? Should you propose with one?

Our goal is to help you fully understand your options. This way you can make the right decision for you and your loved one.

You will not be able to tell the difference between a lab created diamond and real diamond. In fact, even many jewelers can't see it with their loupe.

Should you bite? Let's learn more.

Tip: You may hear these terms: synthetic diamond, man-made diamond, artificial diamond, and eco diamond. They all generally mean lab grown diamonds.

What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?

So what exactly is a man-made diamond? How could something that takes millions of years to cultivate be grown in a few weeks in a lab?

First, lab created diamonds are real diamonds. They have carbon structures the same as a real diamond. It's just that the process is sped up in a controlled lab environment.

They start with a carbon "seed." The seed is placed into a chamber where the heat, pressure, and gases make the diamond grow. The process takes between 6 and 10 weeks. Once full crystallization takes place, the diamonds are cut and polished. They then go through the same grading process as regular diamonds.

The final product is one that has the same characteristics as a real diamond.

Synthetic diamonds will have natural flaws due to the formation of the rock. And just like a real diamond, it'll have different tints of color.

Simulant Diamonds vs Lab Created Diamonds

Lab created diamonds are not diamond simulants (such as cubic zirconia). Diamond stimulants are things that look like a diamond, but do not have the same properties. They're also known as diamond alternatives.

Diamond stimulants include cubic zirconia, moissanite, and white sapphire. They do not have the same physical and chemical properties of a diamond and do not perform in the same way. They're also not as durable as diamonds.

Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, are very much real diamonds. They are identical to naturally made diamonds from the Earth.

The common diamond stimulants are:

  • Cubic zirconia: This looks exactly like a diamond. They are perfectly colorless and flawless. They may also shoot off a different type of sparkle. It's more of a rainbow sparkle. CZs are also less durable than diamonds. They have no resale value at all.

  • Moissanite: This is a rock first discovered in a meteor crater. Now, they are lab grown. It's similar to a diamond in look, brilliance, and hardness. It also has more of a rainbow sparkle instead of a diamond's white sparkles.

  • White sapphire: This is a natural gemstone. However, white sapphire does not have the brilliance of diamonds. They often appear a bit hazy.

Pricing: Lab Created Diamonds vs Real Diamonds

Let's face it, diamonds are expensive. According to The Knot, an engagement ring's average cost in 2016 was $6,163. This is an increase of 21% over the last 5 years.

If those numbers scare you, you may want to consider more affordable options.

You'll hear retailers claiming that lab grown diamonds can save you as much as 50%. Let's find out if this is the truth.

We'll be using examples from top online jewelers Blue Nile and James Allen. We'll be comparing the price against Brilliant Earth's lab grown diamonds.

About Brilliant Earth: Brilliant Earth was founded on a principle that goes beyond just conflict-free diamonds. All of its diamonds are sourced from pure, ethical mines that offers fair wages and without human rights issues. They also have a give-back program to provide education and economic development in mining areas. Brilliant Earth also carries a selection of lab created diamonds as an eco-friendly alternative.

We compared prices of synthetic and mined diamonds with the same characteristics.

Example #1: Round, 1.15-carat, ideal cut, H, VS1 diamond. Here's what we found:

Example #2: Princess cut, 1.0 carat, H, VS1 diamond.

Example #3: Round, 1.57 carat, F, VVS2 diamond.

In general, synthetic diamonds are a bit cheaper than mined diamonds. You can save 20-35% with a lab created diamond.

Tip: Pay close attention to who provides the certification. We prefer GIA or AGS graded diamonds. They are the most reputable labs with the most consistent grading standards.

Note that Brilliant Earth uses IGI certification for their lab created diamonds.

Should You Propose with a Lab Grown Diamond Ring?

Now the bigger question is whether you should propose with a lab created diamond. Should there be a difference? In reality, your relationship shouldn't be based on the size of your diamond or its origin. But that's how our society runs, unfortunately. So how do you know if it's okay?

Talk with your loved one. Ask her thoughts on the topic. Many women have an idea of what they want already.

Here are some reasons why some women are against lab grown diamonds:

  • They want the real thing. They don't want a man-made one passed off as real. This mostly stems from not fully understanding what lab diamonds are.

  • Diamonds are special because they're rare (or so we think). They're not special anymore if a lab can just mass-produce them in weeks.

  • There's less resale value in man-made diamonds. The resale value of diamonds is weak in general. But synthetic diamonds are even worse, because they can be just be made in large quantities. So there's no historical value or rare-ness value.

But there are just as many pros for considering a lab created diamond:

  • No social and ethical dilemmas. Many mined diamonds come from conflict areas or pose human rights issues. Synthetic diamonds are made in safe environments with fair wages.

  • More environmentally friendly. A single carat of diamond requires 200-250 tons of earth to be mined. It doesn't take that much energy to grow a diamond.

  • You can buy a diamond for a lot less. This also means you can afford a larger and higher quality diamond. Or even a fancy colored diamond.

Some women don't have a preference. They are just happy to be getting married. Others have had an idea of what they wanted since they were little girls. Knowing what she has her heart set on can help.

How Synthetic Diamonds Are Made

Synthetic diamonds are created one of two ways:

  • High Pressure/High Temperature (HPHT): This method imitates the natural environment where diamonds are created. Small diamond seeds are placed into a press that generates very high pressure and high temperature (over 2000C). This grows the seeds into larger diamonds, like a sped-up version of what happens beneath the Earth's surface. HPHT is an old method that started in the 1950's.

    The HPHT treatment is also used to enhance the color of poor quality natural diamonds. An ugly brown diamond can go through the process and come out colorless. While this sounds good, be careful of HPHT treated diamonds. If a diamond has been enhanced, labs generally disclose it on their report.

  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD): This is a more modern technique. In this method, diamonds are grown from a hydrogen-carbon gas mixture. Little diamond seeds are placed into a microwave plasma oven, which is filled with gases and heated to 800C-1200C. The carbon is activated and attaches to the diamond seeds atom by atom, until they grow into diamonds large enough for cutting. The CVD process allows for more control over the growth environment, so it can create higher quality diamonds.

The Final Word

This is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong decision. We have always been about helping you make the best choices for your budget. If you want to save some money by buying a lab created diamond, there's nothing wrong with it.

Synthetic diamonds are very much real diamonds - just not mined from the Earth. Make sure you and your sweetie understand this and that she's okay with not having "the real thing." It's more a mental block than anything else.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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How to Buy an Engagement Ring

How to Buy an Engagement Ring


Diamond Clarity


Diamond Prices

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