Complete Guide to Lab Grown Diamonds – Everything You Need to Know

collection of four lab grown diamonds engagement rings tacked on the ring finger
photo via Diamond Nexus

They say there is truly nothing like a diamond, but what about lab grown diamonds? We love the sentiment behind diamonds, especially when one has been offered to you by the one person in the world who you simply cannot live without! (That part is key.)

But what makes a perfect diamond…even better? Today we’re filling you in on the latest technology in engagement rings and beyond — the lab grown diamond.

We’ve teamed up with Scott Friedman, Master Gemologist Appraiser at the International Gemological Institute, to answer all your burning questions about lab created diamonds. We’ll give you all the pros and cons you need to be aware of when considering lab grown diamonds over their mined alternative.

And should you eventually decide that lab grown diamonds are for you, we’ll share where to buy your diamond ring, alongside a few of our very favorite bands. Let’s get started!

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What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?

oval lab grown diamonds engagement ring with gold band
photo: Keyzar

Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds that are produced in a lab, rather than mined from the earth. While mined diamonds take billions of years to form, lab grown diamonds can be grown in a few weeks.

Lab grown diamonds also don’t require the destruction and environmental degradation that comes with mining for diamonds.

At the core of it is this: the two diamonds are the same gemstone. They look the same, and from a chemical composition standpoint they quite literally are the same. One is simply created in a lab and the other is created under the surface of the earth. It’s as simple as that.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds Real?

two women holding hands while wearing solitaire round cut lab grown diamond engagement rings
rings from VRAI | photo by Helena Wong Photography

Yes, lab grown diamonds are real! Like we said, the chemical composition of a lab grown diamond and a mined diamond is identical. They are both real diamonds.

What is the Difference Between Lab Grown Diamonds and Natural Diamonds?

The key difference between a mined diamond and a lab created diamond is that the lab grown diamonds are born in the lab and “grown” with cutting-edge technology that replicates the natural process.

And rather than it taking billions of years for them to be created, lab created stones can be grown in a matter of weeks. Cool, right?!

Is a Lab Created Diamond Cubic Zirconia?

The short answer? No, a lab created diamond is not cubic zirconia.

Scott at IGI tells us, “while the growth process for lab grown diamonds are different from mined, the chemical composition, physical and optical properties are identical. Cubic zirconia (CZ) are not, making it a simulant made to resemble diamonds.”

Essentially, cubic zirconia might resemble a real diamond at first glance, but isn’t actually a real diamond. Lab grown diamonds are in fact real diamonds.

He explains, “the growth process for CZ involves melting different materials, including zirconium oxide powder and a mixture of stabilizers at a very high temperature, and then cooled to form crystals. These crystals are then cut and polished for jewelry. There is no carbon in CZ, which is the main element in diamonds.”

All of this to say, the chemical composition of cubic zirconia is entirely different than that of diamonds. So no, diamonds built in the lab and cubic zirconia are not at all the same thing.

How Are Lab Grown Diamonds Made?

tree branch nature inspired emerald cut lab grown diamonds engagement ring
photo: Keyzar

Now that we know that lab created diamonds are in fact real diamonds and that they are not cubic zirconia, how exactly are they made?

Scott breaks down the science for us. “A laboratory grown diamond is a human-made diamond developed in a laboratory environment by one of two growth processes. HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) or CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition).

With the HPHT process, pure carbon powder is pressed into a capsule and subsequently placed in a growth chamber. Under extreme heat (1300-1600°C) and pressure, a rough diamond crystal will grow over a few weeks.

The CVD process begins with a diamond seed being placed inside a vacuum chamber. Next, a mixture of gases containing hydrogen and methane are heated at just the right pressure until they vaporize, and carbon starts to settle onto the seed layer by layer essentially growing.”

So basically, lab grown diamonds are able to take the process that takes place within the earth over the course of billions of years and put it in overdrive to give you a real diamond in the course of a few weeks. Pretty wild!

How Much Do Lab Grown Diamonds Cost?

bride wearing round cut lab grown engagement ring from Clean Origin

One of the biggest wins for choosing a lab grown diamond? The price. Scott at IGI tells us, “Typically, there is a 35 to 40 percent price difference between mined and lab grown diamonds, if all 4C’s are equal.”

Talk about a steal. That’s good news for you because you’re either:

  1. saving on the ring by getting the same size and quality diamond at a lower price tag or
  2. you’re getting a bigger diamond for the same price as a mined diamond.

The production side of lab grown diamonds require a bigger upfront investment. That said, there are less players involved in the supply chain for lab grown diamonds. And this reduction leads to cost savings that get passed on to you.

Your lab created diamond touches fewer hands along the way, resulting in a less expensive rock. You as the shopper receive those cost benefits.

Are Lab Grown Diamonds Worth It?

art deco sunburst diamond engagement ring
photo: Mary Costa Photography, as seen in this colorful backyard wedding

Scott tell us, “You can find value in just about anything, whether that is monetary or sentimental value. When comparing natural mined diamonds to lab grown diamonds, the one major factor that sets them apart is rarity.

When something is rare, its value tends to increase. Lab grown diamonds do present value mainly by allowing you to afford more diamond for your money. A consumer would be able to purchase a larger or higher quality stone and still be within their budget. If this sounds like what you are looking for, then I would recommend considering a lab grown diamond.”

Lab Grown Diamond Resale Value

Are you primarily looking at your jewelry purchases as investments? There are a few things to think about when it comes to diamonds in general, and lab created diamonds specifically. Scott fills us in on everything you should know about resale value.

Question: When comparing resale value, how do diamonds created in the lab stack up to their mined counterparts? And how do they compare with other precious gemstones?

Scott’s Answer: The secondary market for lab grown diamonds is still being established.  At this point, mined diamonds and colored gemstones will command a higher resale value than lab grown diamonds, due to the rarity factor.

There are three factors of value to consider, which are beauty, durability and rarity. Mined diamonds possess all three, whereas lab grown diamonds, only possess beauty and durability.

Question: What percentage of original retail price could someone expect to get for their pre-owned mined diamond vs a lab grown diamond?

Scott’s Answer: Typically, you can expect to receive offers of around 75% below the retail price when you try to sell mined diamonds back to the trade. Note, with lab grown diamonds you can expect an even greater percentage discount. One thing to keep in mind, is that a retail jeweler will not purchase an item back for more than what they can find it for at wholesale.

Question: Given that lab grown diamonds are growing in popularity, is it anticipated for them to grow in resale value? Will they cap out at the same or similar resale value as mined diamonds?

Scott’s Answer: Mined diamonds benefit from having years of marketability and an established secondary market to resale your stones. With lab grown diamonds essentially being a human-made luxury product, I expect resale value to be driven by the branding of stones themselves.

For example, when you have a Chanel handbag, the value is in the brand name. It will be up to the lab grown diamond brands to build value for their name, which will dictate its overall resale value.

Takeaway: Diamonds in general aren’t known for their resale value. That includes both mined and lab grown ones.

Can a Jeweler Tell if a Diamond is Lab Created?

diamond engagement ring with organic boho shape
photo: Cheers Babe Photography, as seen in this 60’s inspired elopement in San Francisco

And if they can tell the difference, what exactly can jewelers identify when compared to a mined diamond of similar carat, clarity, cut, and color? In essence, are there any significant ways where the differences between mined diamonds and lab grown diamonds can be detected?

Scott at IGI clears things up. He says, “since they are chemically and physically identical, lab grown diamonds can only be distinguished from mined diamonds with advanced equipment or by an experienced gemologist. The handheld diamond testers, which most jewelers have, are not very accurate in determining mined or lab grown.

All diamonds which are submitted to the International Gemological Institute (IGI) for grading, will first be screened to make this distinction. Retail jewelers should sell lab grown diamonds that come with an independent grading report from a reputable laboratory such as IGI to help you buy with confidence.”

Do Lab Grown Diamonds Get Cloudy?

round cut solitaire lab grown diamond engagement ring
rings by VRAI

And if so, at what point in the diamond’s lifecycle would that happen? If not, what keeps lab created diamonds from getting cloudy or fading? And how does this all compare to mined diamonds?

Cloudiness can be seen in both mined diamonds and lab grown diamonds. And the lab grown kind aren’t more or less susceptible to getting cloudy.

Scott clears up the confusion on this topic. “In both mined and lab grown diamonds, cloudy inclusions are caused by clusters of tiny crystals inside the stones; this is an effect of the growth processes and will not change over time.

The cloudy inclusions that some lab grown diamonds have results from the HPHT growth process and is not seen in CVD grown stones. In the early days of production, it was more prominent, however the process has improved, and we are seeing stones with higher clarities come through the lab more frequently.

These inclusions are typically only visible under 10x magnification and not seen with the naked eye. Regarding fading, it is not a common occurrence in either kind of diamond.”

All of this to say, generally speaking, you need not be worried about cloudiness in your diamonds, whether grown or mined.

Are Lab Created Diamonds Ethical and Environmentally Friendly?

cushion cut lab grown diamonds engagement ring with halo

There’s a lot of talk out there about lab grown diamonds being more sustainable than mined diamonds, but is that actually true? We took this question to the pros, so we could get the facts straight. Are these diamonds truly more sustainable, or is that all talk?

Mined diamonds obviously have a direct impact on the earth. And mining practices aren’t exactly known to be kind to the earth. But are there any sustainability drawbacks that you as the shopper should be aware of when looking at lab created diamonds as an earth-friendly alternative?

We asked Scott, and he had some interesting info to share. He tells us, “Some would argue the energy needed to produce lab grown diamonds removes any sustainability benefit, however certain producers are using alternative energy sources to power their factories. Going one step further, certain producers and industry leaders including IGI, are becoming more sustainable by offsetting carbon emissions.”

And while diamond mining companies are taking steps toward more earth-friendly practices, the fact remains that mining any natural resource takes a toll on the environment. Lab grown diamonds take less energy to create — a significant difference when it comes to building an eco-friendly engagement ring.

So what about the moral/ethical side of things? Regarding human rights issues and ethics, are there any problems with lab grown diamonds that shoppers should be aware of when making a purchase?

Scott tells us there are not any concerns here. “Since lab grown diamonds are produced in modern factory settings, there are no known human rights or ethics issues.”

So if you’re looking for a diamond that doesn’t present any possible ethical or moral conflicts, a lab created diamond might just be the right pick!

Do Lab Grown Diamonds Last?

tilted horizontal emerald cut lab grown diamond engagement ring
rings by VRAI

They say a diamond is forever, but can the same be said for their lab grown counterparts? Scott tells us not to worry. “With both mined and lab grown diamonds having the same chemical, physical and optical properties, both are equally as durable. In fact, both have a mohs hardness rating of 10, which is the highest on the scale.”

What does this mean? Lab created diamonds and mined diamonds are extraordinarily durable and built to last. Whichever you choose, your rock is extraordinarily strong.

Lab Grown Diamond Grading

We asked Scott if there was any difference in the grading and certification process for diamonds created in the lab versus those that are mined from the earth.

He tells us, “at IGI we believe the consumer has the right to know what their diamond’s quality is, based on the internationally accepted system for diamond grading.

That is why since 2005 we have graded lab grown diamonds the same way we do for mined. Our Laboratory Grown Diamond Report will include all 4C’s grading information, as well as proportions, measurements, polish/symmetry and fluorescence grades.”

Benefits of Lab Grown Diamonds

Should You Go With Lab Created or Not?

proposal next to a helicopter with a lab grown diamond engagement ring
photo by Stephan Arias

There are a few pros and cons you should be aware of when choosing between lab grown vs mined. Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned from Scott and IGI.

Pros of Lab Grown Diamonds

  • Lab grown diamonds are conflict free.
  • Assuming all 4C’s are equal, a lab created diamond will cost you about 35-40% less than its mined counterpart. This translates into either cost savings or a bigger diamond, depending on your budget.
  • Lab grown diamonds tend to be more sustainable. And many of the companies that create them are working towards reducing their carbon footprints.
  • You’re wearing a gem that represents the astounding progress of science. Your diamond represents science’s ability to expedite a billions of years process in a matter of weeks.

Cons of Lab Grown Diamonds

  • Lab grown diamonds don’t have an established resale market in the same way mined diamonds do. That said, mined diamonds don’t have great resale value either. In general, this is something to consider when you’re viewing a jewelry purchase solely or primarily from an investment standpoint.

Our Favorite Lab Grown Diamond Engagement Rings

Love the idea of a lab grown diamond engagement ring? Us too! Now that you know the facts, we’re sharing a few of our favorite rings and styles we’ve fallen in love with.

1: Cluster Halo Lab Grown Oval Diamond Engagement Ring

oval lab grown diamonds engagement ring with cluster halo and yellow gold band

This oval lab created diamond engagement ring by Capucinne is truly a dream. We love the regal shape of the cluster halo and yellow gold band. Oh so lovely!

shop the cluster halo oval diamond ring

2: Twig Banded Oval Lab Created Diamond Engagement Ring

twig shaped band oval lab grown diamonds engagement ring

We love the organic look of a nature-inspired engagement ring. The band on this beauty incorporates a twisted twig design, with little diamond blooms dotting the sides. And the lab created oval diamond in the middle is the perfect centerpiece.

shop the twig band engagement ring

3: Stackable Crown Shaped Cluster Band from Valley Rose Studio

crown shaped cluster grown diamonds stack ring

We can’t get over how gorgeous this lab grown diamond stack ring is. It looks like a crown, right?! Especially with that stunning marquise cut diamond at the top to round out the cluster of round cut stones beneath.

shop the stackable crown cluster band

4: The Signature V Ring with Round Cut Lab Diamond

v shaped signature ring from VRAI with a round cut lab diamond

The plunging v shape of this band is stealing our hearts. We love that the dip in the band perfectly holds the round cut lab created stone and frames it beautifully. This ring’s structure is perfect for stacking, too!

shop the signature v ring from VRAI

5: Boho Marquise Cut Diamond Engagement Ring from Valley Rose

marquise cut lab grown diamonds engagement ring with bohemian halo design and yellow gold band

A marquise cut diamond and gorgeous bohemian halo fit for a queen. That’s what we see when looking at this absolutely breathtaking engagement ring from Valley Rose Studio. We’re pretty sure you won’t be able to stop staring at your ring finger once you have this stunner sitting pretty on it.

shop the boho marquise cut engagement ring

Basket Set Emerald Cut Engagement Ring

Are you as obsessed with our collection of affordable Diamond Nexus diamond alternative engagement rings as us? You need to check them out now!

6: Oval Halo Lab Grown Diamond Engagement Ring from VRAI

VRAI halo oval lab grown diamonds ring

A classic design for a classically stunning look. Can we agree that the classics are classic for good reason? This beautiful oval shaped diamond ring with a studded band and halo is beautiful, without being overdone. We love!

shop the oval halo lab grown ring

7: Pear Shaped Solitaire Lab Created Diamond Engagement Ring from VRAI

VRAI signature lab grown solitaire pear shaped diamond engagement ring

What could be more sweet and more delicate than this pear shaped solitaire lab diamond ring from VRAI?! It features an 18K yellow gold band and the prettiest pear cut stone that can stand out all on its own. Such a gorgeously simple and modern design.

shop the pear shaped solitaire ring

8: Dainty Diamond + Opal Yellow Gold Band Engagement Ring from Valley Rose

opal engagement ring with three lab grown diamonds and 14K fairmined yellow gold band

We love it when engagement rings incorporate other gemstones in them, and this opal accented band is but one example we’re totally obsessed with! The lab diamonds dot either side of the creamy rainbow-toned opal stone, and provide a stunning cool white contrast to the yellow gold band.

shop the opal + diamond engagement band

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Think you might just want a gemstone engagement ring? We’ve rounded up the most stunning non-diamond rings you MUST see!

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9: The Stone Trio Engagement Ring from VRAI

VRAI three stone lab grown diamonds engagement ring with 18K yellow gold band

What’s prettier than one emerald cut lab created stone? Three, of course! VRAI makes it super easy to customize this stone trio ring with the stone cut of your choosing, but we love the design with three emerald cut diamonds. It makes for a gorgeously geometric and glimmering design.

shop the stone trio ring

10: Art Deco Inspired Frances Lab Diamond Engagement Ring

vintage Art Deco inspired lab diamonds engagement ring

Adore the vintage look of an Art Deco ring, but want a ring that’s both ethically made and environmentally sustainable? With this gorgeous Art Deco inspired lab grown diamond engagement ring from Clean Origin, you can have your cake and eat it too.

shop the Art Deco Frances ring

11: Natura Lab Engagement Ring with Antique Filigree Band Design

Natura lab grown diamonds engagement ring with antique filigree band design

We love the way this engagement ring incorporates the old and the new: a lab created stone paired with a band that incorporates an antique filigree design. What a perfect combination!

shop the Natura lab created engagement ring

12: Nature Inspired Leaf Diamond Engagement Ring

nature inspired lab grown diamonds engagement ring with yellow gold band-and leaf design

We’re smitten with the leafy frame around the round cut lab grown diamond on this engagement ring. It’s delicate, dainty, and oh so pretty. Not to mention, the symmetrical nature-inspired band does the most incredible job of framing that glimmering diamond!

shop the diamond leaf ring

13: Three Stone Emerald Cut Lab Grown Diamond Engagement Ring

rounded prong lab grown diamonds trio engagement ring with yellow gold band

Another gorgeous ring with a trio of emerald cut lab grown diamonds. Can you tell we love this style of ring?! So good we just had to include it twice!

There’s something so elegantly simple and modern about this particular design, while also having some slight Art Deco influences with its angular geometric shapes.

shop the three diamond engagement ring

14: Milky Way Inspired Crown Shaped Stackable Diamond Band

Milky Way inspired asymmetrical crown shaped stackable lab grown diamonds engagement ring

Capture all the stars in the sky with this Milky Way inspired stack band. We love the crown shape of this band and how perfect it’d look when stacked with other rings. And we especially love the idea of pairing two of these bands with a solitaire gemstone ring in the center.

shop the Milky Way inspired band

Looking for More Sustainable Engagement Ring Options + Ideas?

Look no further than our guide to moissanite vs diamond rings. Moissanite is another common alternative to mined diamonds that offers couples a more ethical and sustainable stone option.