Lab-Grown vs. Earth Mined: A Comparison

Lab-Grown vs. Earth Mined: A Comparison

7th May 2020

Diamonds are a symbol of beauty and refinement. They are one of the most valuable and desired gemstones on the planet. The high demand for this precious material has led to the refinement of lab-grown processes, which provide an alternative to earth-mined stones. However, their differences go far beyond their origins.

The process

The story behind lab-grown diamonds begins with a single carbon seed. This is placed into a carbon-rich environment and placed under large amounts of pressure and heat, replicating the natural process which takes place in the Earth’s crust. This process takes between six and ten weeks for the diamond to be fully-cultured.

Earth-mined diamonds take thousands of years to form in the Earth’s crust. The immense pressure and extreme temperatures that are naturally present in this layer enables the diamond to gradually grow. They form in kimberlite pipes which are crevices whereby the conditions allow for the growth of gemstones within rock.

The structure

The physical and chemical structure of lab-grown diamonds and earth-mined diamonds are identical. Premium examples of both types are therefore equally as hard and heavy, and share similar levels of transparency. This striking similarity makes it almost impossible for even the most experienced gemmologists to tell lab-grown diamonds from those that have been mined from the earth.

The quality

Once the ‘raw’ stone has been made, or unearthed, they are polished to determine their quality. Whilst lab-grown diamonds have an almost 100% quality rating, earth-mined diamonds have a relatively low quality of around 20%. The superior quality of lab-grown diamonds comes down to the perfection of their process. Culturing diamonds has been an area that has been trialled and tested for centuries, since the late 18th century. The recent refinements to this process have enabled near-perfect diamonds to be regularly made. The quality of these stones lies in the pureness of their colour and clean composition of their structure.

The environmental impact

This is undoubtedly where the largest difference between the two types of diamond lies. As the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are created under the measured confines of a laboratory. However, earth-mined diamonds require excavating from vast amounts of the earth. This alone has a negative environmental impact, but this process is also unreliable: you can never be sure whether you will find enough diamonds to make a profit, so the more you have to mine, the larger the environmental impact.

Here’s some numbers to highlight the differences (per carat):

  • Lab-grown diamonds produce: 0.5 kilograms of mineral waste, 0.028 grams of carbon emissions and 82 litres of water usage.
  • Earth-mined diamonds produce: 2386 kilograms of mineral waste, 57,000 grams of carbon emissions and 577 litres of water usage.
Human impact

Lab-grown diamonds are advantageous for their people. These laboratories are vital to creation of ethical jewellery and are therefore seen as collaborative members, and treated as such. We pay the laboratories we work with as we would do any partner of our company. Diamond laboratories require skilled and expert scientists in order to conduct their work, which means the quality of diamonds is assured and removes the possibility of cruelty which comes with cheap labour.

It is no secret that earth-mined diamonds are the products of an unfortunately cruel industry. The term ‘blood diamond’ has come to commonly refer to stones that are acquired from earth mining. This industry fuels war amongst communities and governments and relies on extensive use of child labour. There is now an organisational system in place, attempting to deal with the widespread damage this is causing – but the path to eradicating these unethical practices remains long and difficult.

Lab-grown diamonds and earth-mined diamonds are visually beautiful materials. However, their outer beauty should be used to reflect the inner beauty of the person who wears them. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide for yourself whether lab-grown diamonds make sense to you. We are incredibly proud at Sacet to champion conflict-free jewellery and the lab-grown diamond industry.