Different shapes diamonds on white background

Mined vs. Laboratory-Grown Diamonds: What Is the Real Difference?

Different shapes diamonds on white background

Mined diamonds are beautiful, mysterious and rare. They survive an incredible journey to reach us, a journey that may have begun as long as 3.3 billion years ago. They are created when carbon is put under immense pressure and temperature deep within the earth, at distances of 250 miles or even more.


One of nature's most unique and dazzling gifts, diamonds come from two types of deposits. Primary deposits generally consist of diamond bearing “pipes” of a volcanic rock called “kimberlite”. From deep within the earth, these deposits were carried to the surface in molten rock called magma. Secondary deposits, also referred to as “alluvial deposits”, were formed as a result of erosion of material from primary deposits and contain diamonds that traveled some distance from their original source.


It requires 20 tons of kimberlite to yield a diamond averaging one carat!


Regardless of the way diamonds are mined, enormous investment and technical skills are necessary to construct, maintain, and operate a mine. In open pit and underground mines, the ore is crushed to uncover diamonds. Undersea mining entails drilling into thesea bed to recover diamond bearing gravel. Riverbed mining is often done on a smaller informal scale, also known as artisanal digging and involves the most basic equipment, such as sieves and pans, to find diamonds.


What Are Mined Diamonds?


Mined diamonds are beautiful, mysterious and rare. They survive an incredible journey to reach us, a journey that may have begun as long as 3.3 billion years ago. They are created when carbon is put under immense pressure and temperature deep within the earth, at distances of 250 miles or even more.


One of nature's most unique and dazzling gifts, diamonds come from two types of deposits. Primary deposits generally consist of diamond bearing “pipes” of volcanic rock called “kimberlite”. From deep within the earth, these deposits were carried to the surface in molten rock called magma. Secondary deposits, also referred to as “alluvial deposits”, were formed as a result of erosion of material from primary deposits and contain diamonds that traveled some distance from their original source.


It requires 20 tons of kimberlite to yield a diamond averaging one carat!


Regardless of the way diamonds are mined, enormous investment and technical skills are necessary to construct, maintain, and operate a mine. In open pit and underground mines, the ore is crushed to uncover diamonds. Undersea mining entails drilling into the sea bed to recover diamond bearing gravel. Riverbed mining is often done on a smaller informal scale, also known as artisanal digging and involves the most basic equipment, such as sieves and pans, to find diamonds.


The diamond is lifted by small tongs Image Credit

Price and Value


The price of the mined diamond is defined by its uniqueness, rarity, and brilliance. Its characteristics assessed by 4Cs standards created by the Gemological Institute of America in 1940, also affect the price. In comparison with lab-grown diamonds, mined diamonds are more expensive because the process of mining, cutting, and polishing requires tremendous effort and resources.

Diamonds lie on a large green leaf

Sustainability


There are initiatives by the by the diamond mining countries, the mines and industry trade groups to insure that diamonds are mined in the least impactful way.


  • • Actively supporting biodiversity conservation at each mine

  • • Protecting natural land to preserve critical habitats and endangered wildlife

  • • Ensuring that land used is reclaimed at the end of mining operations and is safe for wildlife and communities

  • • Preserving natural resources through continual improvements to water and energy management programs and usage of natural resources

Conflict / Blood Diamonds


The Kimberley Process (KP), in place since 2000, unites administrations, civil societies, and industry in reducing the flow of conflict diamonds - ‘rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments’ - around the world.


The Kimberley Process unites 82 countries around the world, includes organizations like the World Diamond Council and a mandate by the United Nations, is responsible for stemming 99.8% of conflict diamonds.


Diamonds shine beautifully from the falling rays of light on a white background

What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?


Laboratory-created diamonds are atomically, physically, and optically the same as earth-mined diamonds. Laboratory-grown diamonds are created using cutting-edge scientific knowledge and technologies. They have the same chemical and visual properties as mined diamonds. The first laboratory-grown diamonds were produced by the team of General Electric Research laboratory in New York in 1954. These diamonds were used in industrial applications. Gem quality laboratory-grown diamonds were introduced in the 1980s.


Laboratory-grown diamonds could also be called “lab-created”, “manufacturer name-created” diamonds according to the Jewelry Guides by FTC. So, when you buy laboratory-grown diamond jewelry, you should be provided with information about the diamond and understand what it means.

Formation process


Comparing the time needed for creating a man-made diamond vs. a natural one, there is a big difference. The process of growing diamonds in a lab takes only about 600 hours. There are two primary methods to produce diamonds:


  • • High Pressure High Temperature process (HPHT)
  • • Chemical Vapour Deposition process (CVD)

The HPHT process replicates the process of forming mined diamonds under the earth. Gemologists place a diamond seed into carbon in a growth chamber with extremely high pressures and temperatures to grow the diamond. Then they are cut and polished by a cutter.


In the CVD process, a diamond seed is located in a growth chamber, which is filled with heated carbon-containing gas. When the gas reaches the right temperature (about 900–1200°C) the diamond is formed from layers of carbon deposited on the seed. It causes the growth of the seed and the creation of a diamond crystal as a final product.

Price and Value


In comparison between laboratory-grown. and mined diamonds, the lab-grown diamond with the same carat, color, cut, and clarity as a natural diamond can cost about 30 to 40% less. It’s determined by the much shorter and renewable process of producing the diamonds.

Sustainability


Lab-growth diamonds are considered sustainable and eco-friendly. The process of creating these diamonds doesn’t require disturbing land and the environment. Also, working conditions in the lab are safer and more comfortable. However, there are some potential sustainablity issues while producing man-made diamonds. The HPHT and CVD processes need huge amounts of energy because of the high temperature required to grow diamonds. Some growers, however, are investing in energy production such as wind farms to offset the energy usage.

Diamond Grading Mined and Laboratory-Grown Diamonds


Most Geological Laboratories grade both Mined and Lab-Grown diamonds. GIA grades mined as well as laboratory-grown diamonds. A diamond that is submitted for GIA grading is assigned its tracking number and put into a storage case. Gemologists weigh and measure the diamond using an electronic micro-balance and an optical scanning device. These devices allow determining accurate measurements, facet angles, and proportions of the diamond. The next step is to distinguish man-made diamonds vs. natural diamonds. For that, GIA uses highly sophisticated equipment. The results indicate mined vs. lab-grown diamonds by utilizing advanced spectroscopic technology and the GIA’s diamond identification research. The results of grading are presented in the GIA Natural Diamonds Reports and GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamonds Reports.


Gem testing device illustration

Conclusion


The first diamond engagement ring was given in 1477 by Archduke Maximillian of Austria. The modern diamond market has been around since 1866. But laboratory-grown diamonds are becoming very popular as a less environmentally impactful and affordable alternative. Laboratory-grown diamonds are even included in the list of the biggest engagement ring trends of 2020.


Mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds have both similarities and distinctive features. What diamond to choose for your engagement ring? The choice is yours. Take their characteristics into account and make an informed decision.


In the Engage App, or Website, you’ll find a wide range of diamonds and engagement rings, both in mined and lab-grown. Moreover, you’ll be able to customize an engagement ring according to your preferences and choose a diamond origin.