What is a synthetic diamond? A comprehensive guide


What is a synthetic diamond? A comprehensive guide

With prestigious luxury brands like DeBeers selling synthetic diamonds and LVMH investing in lab-diamond startup Lusix, it’s no surprise that more and more people are asking: what is a synthetic diamond? Here, we explore the definition of synthetic and lab-grown diamonds, and how this impacts their value on the resale market.

What is a synthetic diamond?

Synthetic diamonds are diamonds that have been created or “grown” by humans in a controlled environment. They are the same physically and chemically as a natural diamond, and these qualities have seen them surge in popularity over the past few years. Lab-grown diamonds can even receive official certification from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), with grading reports giving insight to their carat, cut, clarity and color in the same way as natural diamonds. Alongside being called synthetic diamonds, they are sometimes referred to as artisanal or man-made.

How are synthetic diamonds made?

There are a number of ways that scientists can make synthetic diamonds. These include Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) or High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT).

  • Chemical Vapor Deposition involves a small diamond seed (called a seed crystal) being placed in a small chamber. This is then filled with heated gasses. When these gasses are at optimum temperature, carbon starts to form in layers around the seed crystal. From this, the seed grows and turns into a square-shaped diamond crystal.  
  • The High Pressure High Temperature method is used to mimic how the earth naturally creates diamonds. This involved placing natural graphite in a machine where it is subject to extreme temperature and pressure. While experiencing these harsh conditions, it is crushed and transformed into a diamond.

How can you tell if a diamond is synthetic?

 To the naked eye, it is impossible to tell if a diamond is natural or synthetic. If you were to look with specialist equipment, you would see that natural diamonds contain tiny quantities of nitrogen, compared to lab-grown diamonds which contain no nitrogen at all. Interestingly, from July 1, 2016, the GIA’s own gemological grading reports stopped using the term synthetic in their diamond identification process, instead referring to diamonds created in laboratory conditions as "laboratory-grown".

Which is more expensive, synthetic or natural diamonds?

The price of a synthetic diamond compared to a natural diamond depends on many factors. Typically, lab-grown diamonds can be 20-40% less expensive, but this varies according to its cut, color, carat, and clarity. For example, if a synthetic diamond has no hint of color whatsoever, this might be valued more than a natural diamond with lots of imperfections. Brand can also play a role, and in the future, it may be that designer synthetic diamonds jewels will be just as expensive as natural diamonds, with consumers paying for craftsmanship, brand name, and associated status they convey.

Where can you buy a synthetic diamond?

These days, you can buy synthetic diamonds in most of the same places you can buy natural diamonds. This might be a local or online jeweler, or even on popular marketplaces and auction sites such as Etsy or eBay. Additionally, some people opt to buy their lab-grown diamonds direct from a manufacturer or a custom jeweler. The decision of where to buy a synthetic diamond ultimately depends on the style you are looking for and your preferred purchase experience.

Are synthetic diamonds fake?

Synthetic diamonds are structurally identical to natural diamonds. The only difference is that they are made in a lab. This means they have the same brilliance and sparkle, which is why many – including scientists – believe that lab-grown diamonds can still be considered as a “real” diamond.

Is a synthetic diamond a mineral?

Synthetic diamonds are not considered minerals like natural diamonds are. This is because they are manufactured in a laboratory setting, compared to natural diamonds that are made deep within the Earth’s mantle. This process takes millions of years of being subject to high pressure and extreme temperature conditions. For this reason, lab-grown diamonds cannot be classified as minerals from a geological standpoint.
However, although synthetic diamonds are not considered minerals, they are still valued for their likeness to natural diamonds. They share the same chemical composition, and are loved by many for their brilliance, durability, and enduring beauty.

Will my natural diamond hold its value?

As lab-grown diamonds become more and more popular, it is inevitable this trajectory will have an impact on the natural diamond market. With so many synthetic diamonds in circulation, it may cause the value of natural diamonds to gradually reduce over time.
For more insights into the current state of the diamond market, read our article for a timely, in-depth market analysis. If you’re considering selling your diamonds or pre-owned jewelry with diamonds, now might be the perfect moment to explore your options. Get in touch with our professional team today to learn more about how we can help you secure the best possible price for your unused jewels.