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Simulated Diamonds vs Lab Created Diamonds

Lab Diamonds vs Diamond Simulants

Should your sparkle come from a lab instead of a mine? Many people today are choosing to avoid the environmental impact of mined gems and show their brilliance or pledge their love with something more sustainable.

Are you curious about lab-grown alternatives to mined diamonds? Modern technology has created beautiful alternatives, some that look identical and others that aren’t quite the same. If you are comparing simulated diamonds vs lab created diamonds there are many important differences.

If you are comparing lab made diamonds vs natural diamonds, the differences are more subtle. The only difference between ordinary mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds is their origins and (of course!) how much they cost. 

In contrast, imitations like moissanite and cubic zirconia have different properties than diamonds and lab created diamonds: differences you can see.

Below we break down the properties and advantages of simulated diamonds vs lab created diamonds so you can choose what’s right for you.

 

Diamonds and Lab-Grown Diamonds: More Similarities Than Differences

Lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds are essentially the same. They are both pure crystallized carbon with a unique atomic structure that gives them beauty and durability. They have the same optical, physical or chemical properties. Other than price, the only difference between lab created and natural diamonds is where and how they form.

Mined diamonds formed naturally and slowly deep in the earth a billion or more years ago and rose to the surface in volcanic eruptions. Mining companies search around the earth looking for potential diamond deposits, which are often found in remote wilderness areas. Most diamond mines are huge open pits. Mines literally move mountains: an average of 250 tons of earth must mined to find a single carat of diamond. Diamond mines cost billions of dollars so mined diamonds are always expensive. 

Compare this to how man-made diamonds form. Lab created diamond crystals are grown in high-tech machinery in a few weeks. There are two ways to make diamonds in a lab. The HPHT process high pressure and high temperature similar to the depths of the earth where diamonds form naturally to encourage carbon to crystallize on a diamond seed, The CVD process heats methane and hydrogen gases to form a white-hot plasma which then deposits carbon atoms stripped from the methane in layers onto diamond seeds.

Although creating diamonds in a lab is a technological achievement that’s been refined over decades, requiring sophisticated equipment, energy, and expertise, it is less expensive than mining diamonds in remote areas. That’s why lab created diamonds are less expensive than natural diamonds. You can expect to save 30-50% if you choose a lab-grown diamond instead of an ordinary mined diamond of the same size and quality.

 

Diamonds vs Moissanite: Distinctly Different Looks

Lab-grown moissanite is a popular imitation of diamond, or diamond simulant. Moissanite is actually lab grown silicon carbide, also used as an industrial semiconductor and abrasive, with excellent durability, brilliance and dispersion. Crystals of silicon carbide aren’t found in nature bigger than microscopic grains. But if you are looking for an attractive lab-grown gemstone, moissanite is a good choice.

But moissanite has a different appearance than diamond because it isn’t diamond. You can tell the difference just by the way it looks. Moissanite handles light differently than diamond. It looks darker than diamond overall, with less bright white light returned to your eyes. It has more rainbow flashes of spectral colors than diamonds. This is often called the “disco ball effect” and it’s especially dramatic in larger carat weights. 

Moissanite is doubly refractive: that means the reflections of each facet that you see through the table are doubled. This optical effect can make the facet pattern look a little blurry. Moissanite also usually has more body color than diamond. Most moissanite is near colorless or is tinted with a faint gray or green hue. This can also make moissanite look darker than diamond when you place them side-by-side.

Moissanite isn’t graded by major gemological laboratories so you may want to choose a branded version to make sure that you receive a good quality stone. Pricing for moissanite varies a lot, from less than $100 per carat to $600 per carat for branded moissanite.

Moissanite is a good choice for fun fashion jewelry because of its dramatic rainbow sparkles. But unlike lab created diamonds, it won’t look exactly like diamond in classic styles like stud earrings, solitaire necklaces or engagement rings.

 

Diamonds vs CZ: The Most Affordable Alternative

Cubic zirconia, AKA “CZ” has been the most popular diamond simulant for more than 50 years. Some people call it “CZ diamonds,” but that’s not correct (and actually against FTC regulations) because CZ isn’t diamond at all. Cubic zirconia is lab-grown zirconium oxide created specifically as a diamond imitation. It is bright, brilliant, and very affordable. In fact, you can buy a one-carat CZ for about $10.

CZ doesn’t form in nature because zirconium isn’t stable in cubic crystals. To be stable at room temperature, it needs the addition of a chemical stabilizer like yttrium oxide or calcium oxide.  There are different recipes for CZ made by different manufacturers. That means CZ has a range of different chemical, physical, and optical properties. There are lots of different kinds of CZ and some kinds are better than others. Some CZ isn’t completely stable and will get darker and degrade in quality over time.

CZ has a good hardness of around 8.5, similar to emerald, and is a pretty good inexpensive diamond imitation. Jewelers use it in sample designs to illustrate what the piece will look like with real diamonds. It has less brilliance than diamond but slightly more fire. CZ is sold by diamond size rather than its own carat weight because it’s a bit denser than diamond and a one-carat CZ is noticeably smaller than a one-carat diamond. 

CZ is a great choice for fun fashion jewelry or travel jewelry in base metal or silver that you won’t worry too much if you lose it. You can wear it for a few seasons and if the sparkle begins to dull, you can just replace it.

Some retailers of cubic zirconia try to hide the fact that they are selling CZ, using language that implies that their products are set with lab-grown diamonds not diamond imitations, describing their CZ as “a lab-created diamond simulant.” The FTC warned five sellers of branded CZ, including Diamond Nexus, MiaDonna and Agape, not to use language that “falsely implies that the jewelry has laboratory-created or mined diamonds.” 

 

Other Diamond Simulants (And Why They Aren’t As Good)

There have been diamond simulants for as long as there has been diamond jewelry. The original imitation of diamonds was cut crystal. It isn’t a very good imitation: all glass, even crystal, has a relatively low refractive index, which means that light travels through it instead of being reflected back as brilliance. You can read right through it. In antique jewelry, you’ll often see crystal backed with metal or foil to make it more reflective.

White sapphire is another diamond look-alike you see in vintage jewelry. Sapphire has been grown in a lab since the 1920s. Lab grown colorless sapphire is widely used today for watch crystals and supermarket scanners because it is much more durable than glass. Lab-grown white sapphire is still used as a diamond substitute today in inexpensive birthstone jewelry and class rings.

 

Diamond Simulants vs Lab Created Diamonds: What’s Best?

Now that you know all the facts about simulated diamonds vs lab created diamonds, it’s time to weigh the factors and choose what’s best for you. If you are shopping for inexpensive costume jewelry, cubic zirconia offers the best imitation of diamond at the lowest possible price. But if you like diamonds but don’t like mined diamonds for ethical or financial reasons, lab-grown diamond jewelry has all the beauty of real diamonds and it costs significantly less. You can find beautiful classic lab-grown diamond necklaces, lab-grown diamond stud earrings and lab diamond engagement rings by Carbon Atelier on Amazon at surprisingly affordable prices.

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