Lab Grown Diamonds 101

lab grown diamond 101
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | Apr 17th, 2024

Lab-grown diamonds have been trending in jewelry stores and online for the past few years. They have been presented as a great alternative to natural, mined diamonds. For many jewelers shoppers, there are two big issues with natural diamonds – the first is the steep price tag and the second is the environmental benefit of choosing a “greener” diamond. 

However, according to many diamond market analysts and jewelry experts, the buzz around lab-grown diamonds is dying down and all that’s left are worthless stones. There seems to be a lot of controversy about lab-grown diamonds so below we’ve tried to answer some of the biggest questions about these human-made stones.

What is a lab-grown diamond?

In simple terms, a lab grown diamond has the same chemical makeup as a real diamond but it was created by scientists in a lab rather than created organically millions of years ago beneath the earth. 

How is a lab-grown diamond made?

There are two methods of growing lab-grown diamonds: High-Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD): 

HPHT – This growing method is meant to mimic the conditions that create natural diamonds. During this process, a diamond seed is placed in a capsule in a specifically designed press that’s heated and pressurized to create the desired conditions. Carbon atoms within the capsule precipitate onto the diamond seed and the diamond crystal begins to grow. 

Image courtesy of Heribero Arribas Abato.

CVD – Chemical Vapor Deposition: This growing method takes place in a vacuum chamber. Diamond seed crystals are placed in the chamber and the chamber is filled with a carbon-containing gas. The chamber is heated and there is a microwave beam within the chamber which causes the carbon to precipitate and fall onto the crystals.

How long does it take to make a lab-grown diamond?

It takes between 3 weeks to two months for the growing process to be complete. After that, the diamonds, which are in the form of a cube, need to be cut and polished, just like a natural diamond.

How can you tell a lab-grown diamond from a natural diamond?

Without special tools, you cannot tell the difference between a lab-grown diamond and a natural diamond. Diamond experts and gemologists are able to spot the differences using tools in the diamond lab that can see the internal structure of a diamond. 

Different Shapes

When diamonds were created billions of years ago, they grew from the inside out in the shape of an octahedron (two pyramids connected at the bottom) and therefore have 8 octahedral surfaces. Lab-grown diamonds grow in a stack, giving them both octahedral and cubic surfaces. 

Different Makeup

Another difference is specific to HPHT diamonds. Because these diamonds have a type of metal attached to the diamond seed, the resulting diamond will often have traces of the metal within the diamond, normally in the form of nitrogen (natural diamonds are all or mostly carbon). Once the HPHT diamonds have finished growing, they can be heat treated to remove the color.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds a Greener Alternative?

Today, diamond and diamond jewelry shoppers are looking for environmentally friendly jewelry. Natural, mined diamonds are infamous for their environmental impact. The process of creating a mine and the mining itself can affect the local plants and wildlife, causing destruction and decreased local populations. Water sources can be disturbed and ruined, causing an even great impact. There are also plenty of socio-economic cons to diamond mining, especially in rural areas in Africa, such as Botswana. 

Proponents of lab-grown diamonds as a greener alternative argue that by replacing the mine and mining process with lab equipment, lab grown diamonds are better for the planet. While this is true, that’s not to say that lab-grown diamonds don’t have their own environmental impact. In order to create the conditions within the lab equippment to create lab grown diamonds – i.e. heat and pressure – these labs need to use a significant amount of energy. So while the carbon footprint of lab-grown diamonds is much less than mined diamonds, it’s not zero. 

The only truly zero-carbon footprint option when it comes to diamonds is recycled diamonds. When shoppers choose pre-owned or recycled diamonds rather than a newly mined diamond, their money is going toward the price of the diamond, rather than paying for anything related to the mining. 

What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Worth?

For many shoppers, the price tag of lab-grown diamonds is what makes them most attractive. Since there is no obvious difference between natural and lab grown diamonds, a person looking to buy a piece of jewelry can splurge for a much bigger, better diamond when they choose a lab grown. 

However, what are lab grown diamonds worth? 

Here’s a quick comparison:

A natural round cut diamond that is 1.26 carats, E color, VS1 clarity, and an excellent cut grade sells for an average of $11,430 (prices taken from Blue Nile and James Allen). When the same diamond is resold on Worthy, sellers can expect to receive between $4,600-$4,800. (based on Worthy data from 2023). 

A lab grown diamond with the same characteristics will sell for an average of $1,433 (based on Blue Nile, James Allen, and Brilliant Earth). When resold on Worthy, sellers typically receive $430-$450 (based on Worthy data from 2023). 

The Stats:

The Takaways

There are some definite pros and cons to lab grown diamonds. From an environmental perspective, lab grown diamonds are better than natural, newly mined diamonds but they are not a perfect solution. In terms of value, lab grown diamonds are not worth the investment – these diamonds are quickly losing their value, with retail prices dropping and as of now, the resale price is less than half and dropping fast. 

You’re best bet is to purchase a pre-owned diamond, which offers no new carbon footprint and will retain some of its value at resale. 

Worthy Staff

Worthy Staff

The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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