Home > Blogs

Natural vs. Synthetic Diamonds - Know the Difference

06 Oct 2021

Are you going shopping for the perfect couple engagement rings or searching the internet to buy solitaire rings online? Are you scared of getting ripped off as you do not know your diamonds? With some clarity on the differences between natural and synthetic diamonds, you will be able to identify what “real”, “man-made” and “simulated” diamonds are.

The Different Terms Used for Diamonds

The three most commonly used terms to describe diamonds are

  • Natural,
  • Synthetic
  • Simulated

So, let us begin by understanding the basic meaning of each of these terms.

What is a natural diamond?
A natural diamond forms almost a hundred miles below the earth's surface when carbon is subjected to high temperature and pressure conditions. It gets created over a period of one to three billion years. Once the diamond is formed in these natural geological underground conditions, it travels via molten rock closer to the earth’s surface where it is extracted by mining. It is then cut and polished and used either in jewellery or for industrial purposes. Natural diamonds are known as real diamonds.

What is a lab-grown diamond?
When a diamond is created in a laboratory using similar high temperature and pressure conditions, it becomes a lab-grown diamond. These man-made diamonds or lab-grown diamonds use the same material and process as natural diamonds - pure carbon and crystallization in an isotropic 3D form. So, the only difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds is that natural diamonds are created by geological processes over centuries and mined whereas lab-grown diamonds are created with the same chemical structure and optical properties inside a laboratory. Sometimes a lab-grown diamond is also called a synthetic diamond, cultivated diamond or cultured diamond. They may also be known by the process used to create the diamond – CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition Diamonds) or HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature Diamonds).

What is a simulated diamond?
A simulated diamond is a cheaper alternative to both natural and lab-grown diamonds. Simulated diamonds include cubic zirconia, synthetic mossanite, colourless sapphires, synthetic garnets, and spinels. These simulated diamonds or imitations only look like diamonds, but they do not share the same optical properties as natural or lab-grown diamonds. They are cheaper than natural or synthetic diamonds and are mostly used in artificial jewellery. Besides, they are also easier to distinguish from natural and lab- grown diamonds.

What is the difference between a natural diamond and a synthetic diamond?

Today lab-grown or synthetic diamonds use such advanced technological processes that it is extremely

difficult even for a gemmologist’s trained eye to tell the difference. In order to identify a natural diamond from a synthetic diamond, one requires more than the traditional loupe. So, the best thing to do is to request your jeweller for a GIA or IGI certificate before you invest in the best solitaire engagement ring.

In addition, here are a few differences between a natural diamond and a synthetic diamond:

1. Natural Diamonds have tiny amounts of nitrogen, while lab-grown diamonds have no nitrogen.
2. A natural diamond is rated a 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. A lab-grown diamond is a 9.25 on the Mohs Scale. (Since an engagement ring is worn daily and goes through rough and tough use, a natural diamond may be a better choice).
3. Every natural diamond has a unique “fingerprint” in its growth structure that tells its own creation story, unlike synthetic or lab-grown diamonds that are almost identical.
4. As a lab-grown or synthetic diamond is comparatively faster to manufacture and has a shorter supply chain, it is approximately 20-40% less expensive than the natural diamond.
5. The rarity or finite supply of the natural diamond makes it more valuable than lab-grown diamonds.
6. Natural diamonds also have a higher resale value.
7. A lab-grown diamond tends to have "tells”. This unique feature helps to distinguish it from the real or natural diamond.
8. Natural diamonds are heat conductors. Some lab diamonds may not have this property.
9. Lab-grown diamonds may look whiter and more sparkly than natural diamonds.
10. Lab-grown diamonds rarely have any inclusions.

Should I get a natural or a lab-grown diamond engagement ring?

When it comes to choosing a natural or a synthetic diamond, it all comes down to personal preference and how deep one's pocket is. Also, as more and more young couples find lab-grown diamonds more ethical because there is no mining involved, they prefer to buy synthetic diamond engagement rings. Besides, the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) has been grading laboratory-grown diamonds since 2007.
Beginning July 1, 2019, GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamond Reports and identification reports no longer use the term “synthetic.” The GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamond Report includes the standard GIA colour, clarity and cut grading scales for reference purposes.

Today, De Beers has also started to offer affordable lab-grown diamonds under the brand, Lightbox. “Lightbox will transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewellery that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now,” said Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers.

Finally, there is no right or wrong answer to selecting a natural diamond or a synthetic diamond engagement ring. It is your choice. So, get going and start shopping!