Laboratory-Grown Diamonds vs. Synthetic Diamonds

Q: What is the Difference between

Laboratory-Grown Diamonds (aka Lab-Grown)

Laboratory-Created Diamonds (aka Lab-Created)

Factory Grown Diamonds

Manmade Diamonds

and Synthetic Diamonds?

A: Absolutely nothing! They are ALL the exact same thing.

Social Media Nonsense

If you listen enough to social media jewelers, you will find that many of them will make a distinction between “laboratory-grown diamonds” and “synthetic diamonds.”

But there is no difference. Laboratory-Grown Diamonds and Synthetic Diamonds are exactly the same thing. In fact, all of these:

Laboratory-Grown Diamonds (aka Lab-Grown)

Laboratory-Created Diamonds (aka Lab-Created)

Factory Grown Diamonds

Manmade Diamonds

and Synthetic Diamonds

are all exactly the same!

Let us explain, and hopefully shed some light (no pun intended) on the subject.

5 carat, CVD Laboratory-Grown Diamond

What are Laboratory-Grown Diamonds?

Laboratory-Grown Diamonds are diamonds that are created, not in nature, but in a laboratory or factory by growing crystals of carbon.

The challenge for scientists: to make crystals of carbon that have the exact same physical hardness of 10 – just like natural diamonds, that are chemically the same, made from crystallized carbon – just like natural diamonds, and that handle optics the same, light refraction, diffraction, reflection, brilliance, dispersion, polarization, etc.- just like natural diamonds.

After decades of experiments, scientists have discovered two methods to economically create gem quality diamonds in a laboratory.


The first method, which seems rather obvious, is called High Pressure, High Temperature, or “HPHT.” Just like Mother Nature, scientists figured out that if diamonds are grown under high pressure and high temperature in nature, then we should be able to recreate that in a laboratory. By squeezing elemental carbon using large presses, and with very high temperatures, transparent diamond crystals can be formed.


The second method to create diamonds in a laboratory is by using high temperature, but not so much pressure. High temperature in the CVD process comes from using microwave technology. The microwaves are focused on methane clouds (vapors), which then cause pure carbon to drop from the cloud and onto a growth plate. As the carbon atoms stack up on each other, they grow into diamond crystals. This method is called Carbon Vapor Deposition, or “CVD.”

How Long Does it Take?

Making a one-carat diamond in a laboratory may take only two weeks or so, rather than millions of years in nature. Because of the quick growth, and that clean laboratory environment (e.g. few other elements or minerals around to complicate the growth), Laboratory-Grown Diamonds have distinct properties (although usually not easily detected) that can be used to identify their origin.

Manufacturing plant for Laboratory-Grown Diamond, HPHT

The “Laboratory” Factory

Because the scientific process of discovery in how to make diamond was established in a classically imagined laboratory, these diamonds have been labeled “Laboratory-Grown.” Of course, in making millions of carats of gem quality diamond, you need more than just a “laboratory.” You need manufacturing plants – factories.

“Factory-Grown Diamonds” are therefore the same as “Laboratory-Grown Diamonds,” just pointing out that these are not created in your classically imagined “laboratories.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, one should use the word “Laboratory” instead of “Lab”
so there is no possible misunderstanding. If you should see the term “Lab-Grown diamonds,”
just know that this means the diamonds were grown in a “Laboratory.”

So just to be clear, laboratory grown diamonds are diamonds. They are not “like a diamond.” They are diamond. The only difference from natural mined diamond is that they are not made in nature and dug up out of a mine. They are made in a laboratory or a factory.

Manufacturing facility for growing CVD Laboratory-Grown Diamond

So What are “Synthetic Diamonds?”

“Synthetic diamonds” are the same as Laboratory-Grown Diamonds. In fact, this was the first terminology for Laboratory-Grown Diamonds.

The gemological and mineralogical definition for a synthetic gem or mineral is that a synthetic has exactly the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as the natural material, just like we mentioned above for laboratory-grown diamonds. Synthetic Diamonds are made using HPHT or CVD. Sound familiar?

It should. Plainly speaking, they are the original Laboratory-Grown Diamonds.

Historically Speaking

For a little historical perspective, Synthetic Diamonds have been made for decades. Because the original quality was not gem quality, their sole purpose was for industrial use, like cutting and drilling tools. It has taken over 50 years to improve the technology necessary to create affordable and beautiful gem quality diamonds in a laboratory.

What Synthetic Diamonds/Laboratory-Grown Diamonds/Created-Diamonds/Factory-Grown Diamonds are NOT:

They are NOT fake diamonds.

They are NOT artificial diamonds.

They are NOT faux diamonds.

They are NOT imitation diamonds.

They are NOT Cubic Zirconia.

They are NOT synthetic Moissanite.

They are NOT natural diamonds.

Synthetic Diamonds/Laboratory-Grown Diamonds/Created-Diamonds/Factory-Grown Diamonds are all the same.

Period. No ifs, ands, or buts ….

No other explanations needed.

No additional descriptions or comments for one over the other.

They are simply different ways to label the same created diamond.

Are you still confused?

If they are all diamonds made in a laboratory (or factory) then why is there so much confusion?

Well, it turns out that the term “synthetic” has been the problem.

In gemology and mineralogy, “synthetic” gems are the real thing but made by man. As we mentioned before, they are not imitations.

But for many other product categories, the term “synthetic” DOES mean imitation, or fake, faux, or even substitute.

Synthetic Leather

Take synthetic Leather. Synthetic Leather is not cowhide manufactured in a factory. It’s most likely some kind of plastic material that looks and feels like leather, but it’s not leather. In the leather industry, they can call it synthetic leather.

And there are other products as well that have a synthetic that is not really just a manmade version of the real product.

This is probably why there is so much confusion.

So much so, that GIA has removed the term from Laboratory-Grown diamond identification and grading reports, just so there is no confusion. The FTC also recommends not using it.

We Should All Thank Tom Chatham

Speaking of the FTC, you can thank Chatham Created Gems for moving the gem industry away from using the term synthetic for just that very reason. Chatham wanted to call their emeralds Chatham Created Emeralds. But the FTC insisted they use the term Synthetic Emerald.

Legal battles ensued, all the way to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Chatham fought the FTC from preventing other language to describe synthetic gems, and won.

Because of Chatham Created Gems, now everyone can call their synthetic gems “created,” “laboratory-grown,” “man-made,” etc.
See the partial regulations below.

And look for the new book: The Chatham Legacy – an American Story.

Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries

16 CFR Part 23 § 23.25 Misuse of the words ‘‘ruby,’’ ‘‘sapphire,’’ ‘‘emerald,’’ ‘‘topaz,’’ ‘‘stone,’’ ‘‘birthstone,’’ “gem,” ‘‘gemstone,’’ etc. (a) It is unfair or deceptive to use the unqualified words ‘‘ruby,’’ ‘‘sapphire,’’ ‘‘emerald,’’ ‘‘topaz,’’ or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone to describe any product that is not in fact a natural stone of the type described. (b) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word ‘‘ruby,’’ ‘‘sapphire,’’ ‘‘emerald,’’ ‘‘topaz,’’ or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone, or the word ‘‘stone,’’ ‘‘birthstone,’’ “gem,” ‘‘gemstone,’’ or similar term to describe a laboratory-grown, laboratory-created, [manufacturer name]-created, synthetic, imitation, or simulated stone, unless such word or name is immediately preceded with equal conspicuousness by the word ‘‘laboratory-grown,’’ ‘‘laboratory-created,’’ ‘‘[manufacturer name]-created,’’ ‘‘synthetic,’’ or by the word ‘‘imitation’’ or ‘‘simulated,’’ so as to disclose clearly the nature of the product and the fact it is not a natural gemstone.

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