Sunday, March 18, 2007

Synthetic vs Natural Diamond

How does a Lab created diamond compare to a natural one for a wearer?

Appearance and care: Same in both cases

A lab created diamond will look exactly the same as a natural one under normal conditions ie normal light and no magnification. So NO jeweler or non-gemologist can make out the difference between a natural and lab created diamond unless the inclusions are big enough to see with the naked eye. The brilliance, fire, scintillation, and the radiance will be exactly the same in both.

Colorless Synthetic Diamond

It is 10 on the Moh’s scale which is the same as a natural diamond (hardest known substance to us). This means that it will last you for the same time as a natural one (forever) and not get scratched. Both the diamonds have the same chemical composition and molecular structure which means that a lab-created diamond will also chip in the same fashion as a natural one and requires the same kind of care.

Diamond creating machine

You can expose it to ultrasonic cleaning in the same way as a natural diamond and most of all you can put it in all of the same settings as a natural diamond.

Inclusions: Difference

The important thing that you should be aware of is that a lab-created diamond will have 'inclusions' which are 'lab created'. You can expect black specs (flux) or carbon inclusions of various sizes and un-natural shape whereas in a natural diamond you can expect natural inclusions such as a feather (small crack like appearance) etc. or regular natural black or dark inclusions.

4 C’s: Few differences

They both have their own system of grading clarity. An IF (Internally Flawless) Lab created, untreated, colorless diamond over 30 points is almost as rare as a natural counterpart. As the size increases in either, the rate per carat of the stone also increases.

CVD Diamond plates

The color, cut and weight in either of the two diamonds is judged on the same basis. You would buy either of the two diamonds keeping these 4Cs in mind.

Treatment: Practically the same

Diamonds of any sort are treated for 2 major reasons… to improve the color or to remove or hide the inclusions.

Color Enhancement: Usually done by exposing the diamond into a controlled high pressure high temperature (HTHP) environment. It is usually performed on select diamonds in near colorless or slightly brownish color (G to N color usually) to make them colorless or near colorless. This ‘moves’ some of the molecular misbalance in the diamond to ‘correct’ the color. It can be performed on only select diamond types. Both Lab created diamonds as well as some natural diamonds are treated in this way. The treatment is permanent and can be detected by gemological tools and sometimes by the loupe as well.

Lab-created diamond in fancy color


Hiding the inclusions: This is done in order to hide or ‘burn’ the inclusions inside a diamond. It is usually done by drilling a hole into the diamond by controlled laser and ‘burning’ out the inclusion. The laser drill hole is a permanent ‘line’ inside the diamond and is very much legal if declared in the clarity report.

Sometimes the drilled hole or the burned out cavity is filled with a transparent substance (with a high refractive index) so as to make the cavity ‘lost’. This filling is not permanent and should definitely be declared because stones with filling cannot be graded correctly. Many lab created diamonds are treated by laser drilling because they tend to have large carbon inclusions. Many lower clarity grade natural diamonds are also treated in this way. The laser drill marks are easy to see under a microscope or a loupe.


CVD Synthetic Diamond- Uncut

Resale value: Definitely not the same

For a natural diamond, you may not have too many difficulties in selling it in any part of the world. However, as of now, there is a very small market for synthetic diamonds. Please be aware that the amount of money that you are spending on a lab created diamond may not get its return for you if you ever want to sell it off again. Learn the resale, return, exchange and upgrade policy of the store that you are buying from. There is a tremendous cost difference between diamonds created by the CVD (Carbon Vapor Deposition) method and the HTHP (High Temperature High Pressure) method। This difference may not count to as much when you buy your diamond but it will matter when you go out to sell it.

Jewelry made with synthetic diamonds

You should know what is the return for your money in the future so be aware of the return, exchange and upgrade policies before buying even a lab-created diamond. The re-sale value of a real diamond is definitely way more than that of a lab created one so be sure of where you are putting your money.

Jewelry made of Lab-created Diamonds

You can get your diamonds appraised at GIA or several other appraisal bodies so be sure to do so when you buy a large diamond whether it be natural or created.

To pool in content for the Jewelry Design Depot, please write to me at surbhi.s.gupta@gmail.com

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