Diamond vs. Lab-Grown vs. Moissanite: Which Center is for You?
When you’re shopping for an engagement ring, it’s important to keep in mind that you have options when it comes to the center stone. Yes! Your engagement ring doesn’t have to have a diamond as the center. In today’s age of technology and innovation, science has allowed gemstone manufacturers to produce alternatives to the natural diamond, like lab-grown diamonds and lab-grown moissanite. Both of these alternatives sparkle and shine just as brightly as a natural, mined diamond and usually have a lower price point.
As a jewelry store with 70 years in the diamond business, we’re still partial to the natural diamond. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share some of the alternatives with you! Sometimes diamonds aren’t for everyone, and we understand! We want you to have all of the facts, so check out the comparisons below:
Nowadays, “diamond” is synonymous with “jewelry” -- many people don’t bother to
differentiate between the two. Diamonds are one of the most popular and widely used stones in the jewelry industry. They’re known for their unmistakable sparkle, eye-catching fire, and life-long durability.
Natural diamonds are formed deep below the Earth’s surface. Diamonds are formed over billions of years and under tremendous pressure and heat. Volcanic eruptions blast the roughly formed diamonds to the surface where they’re able to be mined. The rough stone is measured, cut, and polished (usually by hand) into the faceted, sparkling diamonds we’re used to seeing today.
A big part of a diamond’s appeal is its durability. Diamonds are the hardest naturally-occurring substance on Earth – meaning nothing can scratch a diamond, other than another diamond. They are highly resistant to breaking and chipping, but they aren’t indestructible! Diamonds are also highly stable, meaning they can withstand extreme chemical and temperature changes. Due to this durability, diamonds often last long enough to be passed down from generation to generation.
Each and every diamond is different. Every diamond is unique and has its own “fingerprint” based on its cut, color, clarity, and carat size. Even the diamond’s clarity characteristics, or inclusions, will be unique in every diamond. It’s these clarity characteristics, along with cut, color, and carat size, that determine the price of the diamond. A large diamond with a high color, high clarity, and great cut proportions will be much more expensive than a smaller diamond with an average cut, color, and clarity. Larger diamonds are also extremely rare, so the larger the diamond, the more consumers expect to pay.
Why a diamond?
“Diamonds are Forever”, and yes, they can be! Due to their extreme durability and hardness, diamonds are commonly passed down from generation to generation and can still be worn after a hundred or more years! Vintage diamonds, usually a different cut than the diamonds we’re used to seeing today, are also commonly sought after for their histories. If you’re looking for a classic engagement ring with the traditional, sparkling center stone and if you have the budget for it, a natural diamond is for you!
Don’t let the term “lab-grown” fool you! A lab-grown diamond is 100% carbon and shares the exact same chemical and physical characteristics of a mined diamond. Lab-grown diamonds are not synthetic or imitations: they’re the real thing! They have the same eye-catching fire and unmistakable sparkle as a natural diamond. In fact, lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds look so similar, most trained jewelry professionals can’t tell the difference between the two! It takes special machines to differentiate, and more obviously, lab-grown diamonds are disclosed with a laser inscription on their girdle.
The majority of lab-grown diamonds are grown through Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) or high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) crystal formation. HPHT diamonds are made in environments of extremely high temperature and pressure conductive to diamond growth. They place a small diamond “seed” into carbon and expose it to temperatures above 1500 degrees Celsius and pressurize it to approximately 1.5 million pounds per square inch. The carbon melts and starts to form a diamond around the center seed, where it’s then cooled to form a pure carbon diamond.
CVD diamonds begin as a thin slice of diamond “seed” (usually HPHT produced) placed into a sealed chamber and heated to around 800 degrees Celsius. The chamber is filled with carbon-rich gas and the gas is then ionized into plasma by technology similar to a microwave. The ionization breaks the molecular bonds in the gases, and the pure carbon adheres to the diamond seed and slowly crystallizes.
Both of these lab-grown diamond processes can create a diamond in 3 months – much faster than the billions of years it takes a natural diamond to form!
Durability and characteristics:
Lab-grown diamonds share the exact same physical and chemical characteristics as natural, mined diamonds. Lab-growns are still the hardest, naturally-occurring substance on Earth and are still a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Nothing can scratch a lab-grown diamond other than another lab-grown or natural diamond! Lab-grown diamonds even have their own cut, color, and clarity characteristics, just like natural diamonds. Their internal inclusions are unique to each stone, meaning no two lab-grown or natural diamonds will look exactly the same!
Lab-Grown vs Natural:
The only difference between a lab-grown diamond and a natural, mined diamond is their origin. One is grown in a lab in a matter of months and one is formed under the surface of the Earth over billions of years. Their chemical compositions are exactly the same.
Why a Lab-Grown Diamond?
So, if these stones are exactly the same, why choose lab-grown over natural? Many people like the idea of a lab-grown diamond for ethical reasons. Lab-growns are made within a controlled environment and consumers know exactly where and when the diamond was created. Many lab-grown diamonds even have a recorded birthday! Since lab-grown diamonds can be made much faster than natural diamonds, they typically have a smaller price tag – usually 15-20% lower than an equivalent mined diamond. If you’re looking for an ethical alternative but still want that signature diamond sparkle without the diamond price tag, a lab-grown diamond is for you!
Another option in the diamond decision isn’t a diamond at all – nor is it trying to be. A moissanite is a very popular diamond alternative, with a white color, brilliant sparkle, and sparkling faceting. Moissanite fell to the Earth in a meteorite and was discovered by Nobel-prize winning chemist Dr. Henri Moissan in 1893. Since natural moissanite is very rare, most moissanite on the market is lab-grown. It shares a similar durability and hardness with diamond and also has a high refractive index that gives it amazing fire and sparkle!
After his discovery, Moissan spent the rest of his life trying to recreate the gemstone. In the 1990’s, scientists were able to thermally grow silicon carbide crystals to create this gemstone in a lab environment. The process of growing moissanite can be very complicated and expensive so, much like lab-grown diamonds, a single lab-grown moissanite stone can take two to three months to create.
Durability and Characteristics:
Lab-grown moissanite is very durable compared to diamond. Moissanite rates a 9.25 on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning it’s just below the hardness of a diamond. Lab-grown moissanite doesn’t break easily and is very resistant to heat and chemicals. In terms of sparkle, a moissanite has a higher refractive index than diamonds, meaning it can sparkle more than a diamond!
Why a Lab-grown Moissanite?
Much like lab-grown diamonds, lab-grown moissanite are ideal for the eco-friendly and cost-effective consumer. This gemstone is created in a lab with no concerns pertaining to a mining process and since they’re formed under strict conditions, the consumer knows exactly where the diamond came from and how it was made. Lab-grown moissanite costs much less than lab-grown or natural diamond jewelry. The price point, as well as its sparkle and dazzle, make it an increasingly popular engagement choice.
Every woman is different, so every engagement ring is going to be a little different! Natural diamond engagement rings are for the woman who wants that classic diamond that’s totally natural, billions of years old, that came straight out of the Earth. Lab-grown diamonds are for the woman who wants a diamond, but likes to keep her purchases more ethical while choosing a more cost-effective option. Lab-grown moissanite are great for the woman who does not want a diamond at all, but still wants the look of a diamond without losing the durability. We’re here to help you through the process of choosing an engagement ring -- and especially choosing that perfect center stone!