Are you torn between choosing sustainable lab diamonds vs mined diamonds? In this article, we explain the pros and cons of each – including quality, price and whether you can tell the difference between the two – so you can decide which one is best for you.
Are lab and mined diamonds the same or different?
Mined diamonds and lab diamonds are both genuine, real diamonds. They are exactly alike visually, physically and chemically.
Main difference lab and mined diamonds?
The main difference between lab and mined diamonds is their origin:
- Conflict-free mined diamonds have been extracted from the Earth. They were created by Mother Nature from carbon atoms subjected to intense volcanic heat and pressure deep underground more than 3 billion years ago.
- Sustainable lab grown diamonds are grown by scientists in a laboratory. They are created from a tiny shard of a mined diamond which is introduced to carbon atoms, under conditions which replicate the volcanic forces of Mother Nature.
Are lab diamonds “fake diamonds”?
No, lab diamonds are not fake diamonds. Sometimes people confuse lab grown diamonds with simulants like cubic zirconia, which are not diamonds. But this is not the case with lab diamonds. Lab diamonds are, simply, diamonds.
Can you tell the difference by looking at the two?
No, you cannot tell the difference between a lab grown diamond and a mined diamond by looking at them. Therefore, to protect consumers by offering total disclosure, lab grown diamonds are branded with a microscopic laser mark to distinguish them from mined diamonds. You cannot see this mark with your naked eye, but a jeweller will be able to see it with specialist magnifying equipment.
Are lab grown diamonds more affordable?
Yes, lab grown diamonds are more affordable than mined diamonds, giving you up to 40-60% more carats for your budget. Having said that, most people wouldn’t consider the price of lab grown diamonds “cheap” because:
- Even a small lab diamond jewellery item can still cost hundreds of pounds
- Lab diamond production is complex and challenging, and there’s a substantial cost involved
- Lab diamond jewellery is set in precious metals like gold or platinum, which have a high cost
Are lab grown diamonds sustainable and ethical?
Yes, lab grown diamonds are not extracted from the ground, which makes them environmentally sustainable and socially ethical.
Does this make mined diamonds “unethical”?
No. As long as you are buying mined diamonds from a reputable jeweller that abides by the Kimberley Process, your diamonds are ethical because they are conflict-free.
Which has better quality?
Mined diamonds and lab diamonds are quality-graded by expert gemmologists in exactly the same way. To do this, gemmologists use the Four Cs – Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight. Therefore, your diamond, whether sustainable lab grown of ethically mined, will simply be graded at the quality it has, for example, Premium Quality, H/Si or E/Vs. Having said that, since lab diamonds are more affordable than mined diamonds per carat, you’ll usually be able to get a better diamond colour and clarity quality for your budget if you buy a lab grown.
Price comparison example: lab VS mined
Here’s a price comparison between two rings. They’re exactly the same, except that the first one is made with mined diamonds and the second one with lab grown. Both diamonds’ quality grades are the same, certified as such by an independent gemmological authority. Both rings are set in 18K white gold. As you can see, the lab grown diamond ring is about £400 cheaper than the equivalent mined diamond ring.*
*Prices quoted correctly at the time of publishing and may change at any time
What do the experts say?
A recent Channel 4 program looked at the benefits of lab grown diamonds, saying they are becoming more readily available at “larger retailers like The Diamond Store.” The program’s diamond expert explained that lab and mined diamonds are identical, and that with lab diamonds “you’re looking at saving up to about 50%”.
Are sustainable lab grown diamonds better?
“Better” is very subjective. It’s like cars – if someone asked you if an Aston Martin or a Ferrari is better, your answer would depend on your individual taste, budget and opinion. It is the same with lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds. You can decide which is better for you by reading the following pros and cons…
Conflict-free mined diamonds – pros and cons:
- Simply beautiful to look at and last a lifetime
- A rare luxury created by Mother Nature, which awards a perceived “status” to the buyer
- A finite resource that will run out one day, which increases the perceived value
- More expensive than lab diamonds
- If you are concerned by the environmental or social effects of diamond mining on local communities, then mined diamonds are not the ideal choice for you
Sustainable lab diamonds – pros and cons
- Simply beautiful to look at and last a lifetime
- More affordable than mined diamonds
- Environmentally sustainable and socially ethical, which is appealing if you are concerned about the effects of mining on local environments and communities
- A rare “high tech luxury”, which has a perceived “status”, especially to Millenial and Gen Z buyers
- Grown in a laboratory instead by Mother nature, which lacks perceived “status” to some buyers
A word about “resale value” discussed in the media
There has been much talk about what will happen to the resale value of lab diamonds in the future. Many naysayers assert that the value of lab diamonds begins to fall from the moment of purchase, and therefore you’re better off with mined diamonds.
While this may be true, it really only concerns buyers who purchase diamonds for investment purposes. These types of buyers usually invest in very high end, collectable pieces or loose diamonds, not personal gift jewellery.
Most people buying an engagement ring or gift jewellery would be appalled by the idea of the wearer selling their personal, meaningful jewellery item later on. So “resale value” might not be a relevant consideration, if you simply want to give someone a beautiful gift that will make them happy.
Conclusion: Sustainable Lab Diamonds vs Mined Diamonds
Both sustainable lab diamonds and conflict-free mined diamonds are beautiful and luxurious, and will give you joy and wear for a lifetime.
On the one hand… if you want something luxurious created by Mother Nature, then you should choose mined diamonds.
On the other hand… if you want a sustainable and affordable piece of luxury, then lab grown diamonds are perfect for you. Either way, you now have a world of choice!
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