Lab-Grown vs. Earth Mined: A Comparison
7th May 2020
As a symbol of beauty and refinement, diamonds are one of the most valuable and desired gemstones on the planet. For centuries the earth has been mined, with South Africa, Russia and Botswana at the forefront, for these dazzling gems. The high demand for this precious metal has led to scientists replicating the process and creating spectacular lab-grown diamonds that are just as stunning as the real thing.
These alternatives to earth-mined stones are much more environmentally friendly and are growing increasingly popular. And their differences go far beyond their origins. Keep reading to find out more about earth mined and lab-grown diamonds.
How Earth Mined Diamonds are Created
Earth-mined diamonds are made from carbon and are created under extreme pressure and high temperature deep in the earth’s core. Around 3-billion years ago, after some volcanic activity took place, diamonds started to come up to the surface just waiting to be mined. Since then, the search and demand for diamonds have been huge.
It takes a lot to not only find but to extract these natural diamonds, with approximately 250 tonnes of earth needing to be extracted at a time to find a single carat. Because of this, a lot of damage has been done to the planet, including deforestation and the destruction of wildlife. This is why, over the years, many were searching for a more sustainable alternative.
The Process of Creating Lab-Grown Diamonds
The story behind the process of creating lab-grown diamonds begins with a single carbon seed. This seed is placed into a carbon-rich environment under large amounts of pressure and heat, replicating the natural process. After just a few weeks, typically between 6-10, the lab-grown diamond has been fully formed and is ready to be treated with heat and irradiation to enhance the look and colour.
Not only is this process much faster, but it also has less of an impact on the planet as scientists use common elements available to create them, rather than pulling them from the earth. Plus, people who are shopping for diamonds can rest easy knowing that no staff were made to work in inhumane, violent conditions.
The Structure of Earth Mined vs Lab-Grown Diamonds
Despite being made in two completely different environments, the physical and chemical structures of lab-grown diamonds and earth-mined diamonds are identical. This means that lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds. They are equally as hard and heavy, both scoring a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making them the hardest substance on earth, and share similar levels of transparency too.
The striking similarity between the two makes it almost impossible for even the most experienced gemologists to tell lab-grown diamonds from those that have been mined from the earth. The only way they can tell is by the lack of nitrogen in the lab-grown diamonds. All jewellers must also declare whether a diamond you’re buying, whether it’s a diamond engagement ring or diamond wedding ring, has been naturally or synthetically created.
The Quality of Earth Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds
Once the natural diamond has been created and extracted from the earth, they are then usually taken away to be polished to determined their quality. While very occasionally a flawless diamond can occur, most of the time they have a relatively low quality of around 20%. This means the majority will have several inclusions and a low colour and clarity grade. Typically natural diamonds aren’t enhanced either, so each stone has its own unique colours and characteristics.
On the other hand, lab-grown diamonds have an almost 100% quality rating, which comes down to the practice and perfection of the creation process. Since the late 18th century, scientists have been refining the process to create near-perfect diamonds regularly. The quality of these stones lies in the pureness of their colour and the clean composition of their structure.
This ultimately means that you’re more likely able to get an exquisite, high-quality diamond for the same price that you would pay for a natural diamond of lesser quality - making it great value for money.
The Environmental Impact of Earth Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds
The environmental impact of natural and lab-grown diamonds is undoubtedly where the largest difference between the two types lies. As the name suggests, lab-grown diamonds are created under the measured confines of a laboratory. And, while this isn’t perfect or fully sustainable, it has much less of an impact than earth mined diamonds. Plus, the lab-grown diamond industries are constantly learning and evolving to be as sustainable and ethical as possible.
At Sacet, we’re committed to responsible sourcing, which is why all of our metals are 100% recycled, our packaging is eco-friendly and our artisan workshops have been designed and constructed with a view to minimising our energy requirement.
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 are 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.
The Human Impact of Earth Mined and Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are advantageous for their people. These laboratories are vital for the 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 also 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 that comes with cheap labour. Every piece of our jewellery, from diamond necklaces, diamond bracelets and diamond earrings, has been hand-finished by trained craftspeople who have years of knowledge and skills that have been passed down through generations.
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.
If you’re struggling to decide which type of diamond is right for you, read our top 4 reasons to choose lab-grown diamonds.