Diamond being examined to determine if it's mined or lab grown.

Understanding the Differences Between Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds

Since cutting-edge Chemical Vapour Deposition technology emerged in the 1980s, diamonds have been sorted into two distinct categories: mined or lab-grown. Mined diamonds, formed naturally in the earth over millions of years, have long been the industry standard. However, lab-grown diamonds, which technicians create in controlled laboratory environments, have fluctuated in popularity over the years.

While both types share many similarities regarding their physical and chemical properties, they also have significant differences that impact price and consumer choice. This article dives deeper into the contrasts between mined and lab-grown diamonds to help you better understand these choices and make an informed decision when purchasing your next piece of diamond jewelry.

Diamonds on a table

The Origins and Characteristics of Mined Diamonds

Mined diamonds are the traditional form of diamonds. They've been valued and desired for centuries because of their beauty, durability, and symbolic significance. Natural diamonds are formed deep within the earth's mantle, where high pressure and temperature conditions cause carbon atoms to crystallize over millions of years. The diamonds become accessible to humans when they rise to the earth's surface through volcanic eruptions or other geological processes.

One of the key characteristics of mined diamonds that adds to their significant value is their rarity. The process of natural diamond formation is incredibly lengthy and must occur under specific geological conditions, which keeps the supply relatively low. Buyers and distributors also appreciate mined diamonds for their unique imperfections, called inclusions, which are used to identify and distinguish one diamond from another.

Lab-Grown Diamonds: The Modern Alternative

In contrast to mined diamonds, which occur naturally within the earth, lab-grown diamonds are manufactured using advanced technological processes that artificially replicate natural diamond formation. There are two primary methods used to create lab-grown diamonds: High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).

In the HPHT method, a small diamond seed is placed in a high-pressure press, where it is subjected to extreme heat and pressure, causing carbon atoms to crystallize around the seed and form a larger diamond. In the CVD method, a laboratory technician places the diamond in a vacuum chamber and introduces it to carbon-rich gas. The gas is then ionized, causing carbon atoms to accumulate on the seed and form a diamond. In both methods, machinery simulates a billion-year (with a "B") process in around ten weeks.

Four Notable Differences Between Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds

For all their similarities in appearance and physical, chemical, and optical properties, there are still several crucial differences between natural and lab-grown diamonds. Remember that this list isn't an exhaustive exploration of all the differences, but it should help you choose the right option for your situation.

Origin and Source

Mined and lab-grown diamonds (obviously) come from different sources, but a bit more nuance is involved. Lab-grown diamonds begin as a diamond "seed," a single crystal diamond about as thick as a human hair.

Cost and Affordability

Lab-grown diamonds are typically more affordable than mined diamonds as they aren't as scarce as natural diamonds. Additionally, the process of creating lab-grown diamonds is more cost-effective than mining diamonds from the earth, resulting in lower prices for consumers.

Quality and Characteristics

Believe it or not, both mined and lab-grown diamonds can exhibit the same traditional quality characteristics, such as cut, clarity, color, and carat weight. Some diamond experts argue that lab-grown diamonds may have fewer inclusions and defects due to the controlled environment in which they are created. However, this comparison depends on the natural diamond more than the lab-grown diamond.

Perceived Value and Market Acceptance

Mined diamonds are often perceived as more valuable and desirable due to their rarity, natural origin, and the sheer length of time they take to develop. However, this perception is changing somewhat as lab-grown diamonds become more mainstream and accepted in the market.

Making an Informed Choice

The choice between mined and lab-grown diamonds ultimately depends on your unique preferences and priorities. If you value the natural origin and rarity of mined diamonds, and are willing to pay a premium for these characteristics, then a mined diamond is likely the best choice. On the other hand, if you are more concerned about cost and environmental impact, among other considerations, then a lab-grown diamond may be a better fit.

Discover the Diamond of Your Dreams at Mervis Diamond Importers  

Our goal is to help our clients find not just the best diamond, but the right diamond, for them or their loved ones. Whether you're seeking a naturally-made mined diamond or a lab-grown alternative, we strive to provide the highest-quality pieces in the industry.

Whether you're in the market for an engagement ring, wedding band, or designer jewelry piece, Mervis Diamond Importers proudly serves Washington, D.C. area customers with unrivaled service throughout their shopping experience. Schedule an appointment online or by calling our store today.