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What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

03 August 2021 4 min read

Here at illi, we use lab-grown diamonds in all our diamond jewellery. From studs to pendants, we think lab-created diamonds are absolutely beautiful and we hope you’ll agree when you take a look at our range.

But, what exactly do we mean by ‘lab-grown’? Are lab-grown stones real or fake? Are they valuable? Why should you consider choosing them over mined gems?

Here’s everything you need to know about lab-grown diamonds.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Real Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are 100 percent real diamonds.

Mined diamonds are formed from carbon and created using immense heat and pressure. Just like lab-grown diamonds. The only real difference between diamonds grown in a lab and diamonds mined from the earth is their origin.

Chemically, physically and optically identical to mined diamonds, lab-created diamonds, also known as cultured or synthetic diamonds, are stunning, sparkling and everlasting. They are just as durable as mined diamonds and they won’t ever go cloudy.

Each lab-grown diamond is independently assessed and certified by several professional gemologists, using the 4Cs (cut, clarity, colour and carat). The same process used to certify mined diamonds.

You cannot tell a lab-grown diamond from a mined diamond. Even a jeweller wouldn’t be able to tell. Only major gemological labs with specialist equipment can truly differentiate between the two.

One diamond laid on wood

The History of Lab-Grown Diamonds

Attempts to manufacture diamonds in a lab began as early as the late 1800s. However, it wasn’t until the mid twentieth century that the team at General Electric (GE) Company managed to recreate the ideal conditions that mimic Earth’s natural processes. Using a 1,000 tonne press to achieve simultaneous temperatures of 5,000°F and pressure of 1.5 million pounds per square inch.

While successful, this process was incredibly expensive and the costs of creating the gemstones outweighed the potential profits. GE continued to use it to make diamond powder for abrasives, however.

While most of us think of diamonds sparkling on a ring or necklace, in fact jewellery only makes up a portion of the diamond market. 70 percent of manufactured diamonds are used in drilling, cutting and grinding. Diamonds can also be used to disinfect polluted water sources.

Thanks to their incredible heat conducting ability, engineers recognised diamonds’ potential for use in electronics. The predicted growth of this market spurred significant leaps in diamond growing technology. Most notably, the introduction of the CVD method (more on that below).

How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?

Most mined diamonds were formed between one and three billion years ago, under intense heat and pressure, conditions found in the Earth’s mantle, some 100 miles below Earth’s surface. Diamonds quickly form and are brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions.

Lab-grown diamonds are created through one of two main methods. Each uses a seed crystal (a sliver of diamond) as the base on which the diamond will form.

High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT)

This method imitates how diamonds grow in nature. Pure carbon is subjected to extremely high temperatures and pressure, forming a diamond around the seed crystal. This method uses a lot of energy and was the one first used by the engineers at GE. It can also create diamonds in any colour. Ideal if your heart is set on a much sought after pink or yellow diamond.

Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD)

CVD was developed in the 1980s in response to the need for cheaper manufacturing processes. In this method, the seed crystal is placed in a chamber with a mixture of hydrogen and methane gases. Microwave power then heats the chamber, exciting the gas and causing the diamond to grow.

Just like Earth diamonds, lab-created diamonds also have small flaws (known as inclusions) and colour differences.

Why Buy a Lab-Grown Diamond?

Attitudes towards lab-grown diamonds are changing.

According to a report by MVI, 70 percent of consumers aged 21-40 would consider buying a lab-grown diamond engagement ring. The market segment for lab-grown diamonds has increased by 15 to 20 percent year on year. And with growing popularity among celebrities and public figures, the trend towards lab-grown, sustainable jewellery won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Buyers today are more conscientious of their impact, seeking ethical alternatives to traditional purchases, while keeping value in mind. Lab-grown diamonds offer value for money and peace of mind for consumers.

Cost

Lab-grown diamonds cost around 30 percent less than mined diamonds.

The difference in cost has nothing to do with quality. Instead, while mined diamonds pass through many hands to get to you, the supply chain for lab-grown diamonds is relatively small.

Instead of shelling out more for a mined diamond, opt for lab-created gems and put that extra money towards your honeymoon, your home or something special.

Environmental Impact

Traditional diamond mining has a devastating impact on our natural world. From mines so big they can be seen from space, to polluted water sources and destruction of land. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, have minimal impact. They do not require any of the harsh processes used in traditional mining. Everything can be done in the confines of the laboratory.

It’s important to note that there is currently a lack of data on the carbon footprint of manufacturing processes, with some arguing that it could be significant. However, many labs use only renewable energy in production, and the environmental impact of mining is far more widespread.

Ethical Sourcing

While the Kimberly Process works to ensure diamonds mined today are conflict-free, this process has been heavily criticised by human rights groups. The only way to truly ensure your diamond is 100 percent conflict-free and ethically sourced is to buy a lab-grown gem.


If you’re looking for a sustainable, eco-friendly diamond, illi creates beautiful, lab-grown diamond jewellery. The same sparkling beauty, without the negative impact.

Shop our range of lab-grown diamond earrings and necklaces now.