Guides

Lab grown diamonds - Everything you need to know

Got questions about lab grown diamonds? We cover everything. Including how they're grown, their ethics and how to buy one that you'll treasure forever

The quick version

In short, lab grown diamonds are created in a lab instead of being dug out the earth

They're 100% real diamonds. Visually and chemically identical to their mined counterparts.

They're much more environmentally friendly with none poor working conditions found in most diamond mines. And they're one of the only types of diamond which can be guaranteed as conflict-free.

And they'll save you money too.

What's not to love?

What makes a lab-grown diamond different from a mined diamond?

Despite the common misconception, you'll have a very hard time telling the difference between a lab and mined diamond.

The only reliable way to identify the difference is with a very powerful magnifying glass and some gemology training.

That's because lab grown diamonds are visually and chemically identical to their mined counterparts.

There's no imitation involved like there is with cubic zirconia or moissanite. Just real, genuine diamond.

The only real difference is in their origin, which is why the Federal Trade Commission in the USA banned the use of 'synthetic' to describe them.

How can you tell the difference between lab grown and mined?

In short, you can't with the naked eye. You'll need some help from a jeweller.

And even then, they'll need some help from some specialised equipment.

The easiest way is to look up the certificate number which all diamonds have laser etched on their surface. You'll need a powerful magnifier to read it.

Beyond that, it needs to be checked with scientific testing equipment. You can skip these next few paragraphs if you're not interested in the deeper science!

One way is with a chemical test called 'Type II' testing. You can split all diamonds into two classes, I and II. Class I diamonds are very common and have a level of impurity from trace Nitrogen.

Class II diamonds have no measurable amount of Nitrogen in them. Class II mined diamonds are incredibly rare and desirable for their purity. However, almost all lab diamonds are pure enough to achieve the higher class.

So if you have a class II diamond, odds are it's a lab grown diamond.

Other tests include Photoluminescence, Spectros­copy and UV Radiation. They all basically involve exposing the diamond to different types of radiation (safe levels for humans!) and seeing how they react.

Buying A Lab Diamond

Why should I choose a lab diamond over mined?

The main reason we recommend lab grown diamonds is because we make ethical engagement rings and lab grown diamonds are much more ethical and sustainable.

Another huge benefit is the cost savings, which as of 2022 are around 30 - 40%.

The savings achieved can either save you money for your wedding, or get you an engagement ring which would have previously been out of your budget.

We have more financial information about lab grown diamonds if you'd like to read more.

The ethical benefits of lab grown diamonds

Diamonds grown in a lab are undeniably more ethical and sustainable than their mined counterparts.

The carbon footprint of creating a lab diamond is fraction of what it takes to extract a mined diamond from the earth.

Our estimates put it at 20%, despite the large amounts of energy needed to grow diamonds. And for our lab diamonds, all that energy is carbon neutral.

And let's also consider the environmental factors too.

The damage that mining does to the landscape, wildlife and air quality of the local areas is massive.

Most of the biggest man-made holes in the earth are because of mines. Some can even be seen from space!

Additionally, lab diamonds don't rely on large scale mining operations which are notorious for worker's right violations. Lab diamonds only require a tiny seed diamond to start of the growing process.

The demand for these mined seed diamonds can be fulfilled by artisan miners, who work to much higher ethical standards.

Lab grown diamond ethics

Are lab grown diamonds conflict-free?

Yes, all lab grown diamonds are conflict free, but the details on this might surprise you.

Conflict-free is a definition that is used when a diamond abides by the Kimberley Process, an international organisation who want to eliminate conflict diamonds.

That all sounds great, but the organisation is largely ineffective for a number of reasons you can read about here.

The truth is that only a tiny percentage of conflict-free diamonds can be called ethical. The supply chains need to be tightly controlled, as is the case with Canadamark diamonds or our Botswana supplier. Otherwise tainted diamonds can and will get mixed in with conflict-free batches..

Lab diamonds don't have this issue, they're made in developed counties (ours come from the USA) and the supply chains are very short compared to mined diamonds, which can exchange hands dozens upon dozens of times before being sold to consumers.

Read more about Nightingale's ethical sourcing

Are lab-diamonds 'real' diamonds?

Yes.

They have the same atomic structure and the same physical, chemical and optical properties as mined diamonds. The difference with a lab grown diamond which makes people question their validity is their origin, with lab grown diamonds beginning in the lab and mined diamonds beginning in the earth’s mantle.

However, the origin and the use of technology does not change the fact that both types of diamond of physically, chemically and optically identical. Lab grown diamonds are very different from other items that attempt to mimic the optical characteristics of a diamond such as diamond simulants.

The notion that lab-grown diamonds are fakes or synthetic, is simply incorrect and lab grown diamonds are often misunderstood due to these labels people give them.

How are lab-grown diamonds made?

The short answer is that lab diamonds are grown in a laboratory setting using highly advanced technological processes that allow us to produce the identical conditions under which diamonds are found to naturally develop in the earth's mantle.

This process of mirroring the natural conditions that diamonds thrive in, provides us with the ability to ensure that the carbon atoms are arranged in a diamond crystal structure found in mined diamonds.

And here's the long, much more scientific answer...

Lab grown diamonds are grown from 'seeds' - tiny diamond fragments that flower into flawless mature stones, thanks to the attention and expertise of skilled technicians working in cutting edge laboratories.

A mix of gases is applied to the seed under high temperature, causing the diamond to grow, atom-by-atom, until a perfect gemstone as good as any mined diamond is formed.

There are only a few labs around the world are capable of producing gem-quality diamonds at the present time. However, scientists have been creating diamonds since the 1950s, replicating the conditions deep within the Earth by heating carbon to extreme temperatures while squeezing it in a hydraulic press.

These early lab diamonds were used in industry where visual properties were not important, but the hardness and conductivity were.

It took research over several decades to cultivate large gem-quality stones. These were still not as large or as clear as the best mined diamonds, and most were coloured yellow or brown from the nitrogen required to stabilise the growing process.

Today there are two methods to grow diamonds that are truly the same as mined diamonds, CVD (chemical vapour deposition) method and the HPHT (high pressure high temperature) method.

Lab grown diamonds grown by the Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method start off in the lab as carbon seeds which act as a substrate on which the new stone can grow.

The seeds are then placed inside an airless chamber. The chamber is then pumped full of ultra-pure carbon-rich gasses such as hydrogen and methane that become a plasma which causes the carbon atoms in the gas to separate and fall onto a diamond substrate, building up layers that ultimately result in a rough diamond crystal.

After this replication of the natural growing process, known as the diamond formation, crystallisation occurs and the lab grown diamonds mature in six to ten weeks.

When a stone reaches a certain size it is put inside a second chamber and the diamond seed is excised from the crystal by laser to be reused to grow a new diamond.

Just like with any earth mined diamond, it will then be cut, polished and graded within a lab by gemologists.

The HPHT method was the original method of creating lab-grown diamonds, first introduced in the 1950s. Diamonds grown by the HPHT method also begin with a small diamond seed that is placed into pure carbon.

The diamond seed is then exposed to intense pressure and heat in a chamber. The carbon melts which begins to form a diamond around the seed. The substance is then carefully cooled to form a diamond to be cut and polished just like a mined diamond.

There are three tools used to to grow diamonds by the HPHT method in a lab.

These are the cubic press, split-sphere (BARS) press and belt press. The belt press was first used to grow diamonds in a lab with more modern cubic and split-sphere presses introduced which are much more efficient in terms of yield as many larger, gem-quality diamonds have been produced using these methods.

Make an enquiry about our lab-grown diamond rings

Our staff are trained on all aspects of precious jewellery, from crafting to aftercare.
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Are lab-grown diamonds the same as cubic zirconias?

Sometimes people confuse lab grown diamonds with things like as cubic zirconias, moissanites etc. The two are actually very different, these items are referred to collectively as 'diamond simulants'.

A diamond simulant, whilst possessing the same aesthetic characteristics of a diamond, are not actually carbon crystals and don't have the same chemical or physical properties as a diamond.

Lab grown diamonds on the other hand, are identical to diamonds in all three properties. Additionally, whilst you would need a lab to tell a lab grown diamond from a mined diamond, someone familiar with diamonds will be able to spot a diamond simulant with the naked eye.

Diamond simulants therefore have a lower value. This may be of interest to those who want the look of a diamond for a lower price and aren’t too concerned about the actually properties of the simulant.

Lab-grown diamonds are made up of carbon atoms arranged in exactly the same structure you'd find in a mined diamond. Cubic zirconia, moissanite and other diamond simulants are not true carbon crystals - rest assured we never work with these diamond lookalikes. When you buy our lab diamonds you get the real thing.

Where do Nightingale's lab-grown diamonds comes from?

The CVD diamonds that Nightingale retail are grown in the USA. Lab grown diamonds made by the HPHT method are grown in Russia and India but, in our opinion, the CVD lab grown diamonds are superior so we only retail stones grown by this method.

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