Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that were grown by scientists in a lab. They share the same chemical makeup as natural diamonds, and are optically identical. The biggest differences between natural and lab-created diamonds are how they’re made, and how rare they are.
Laboratory grown diamonds share an identical chemical make up to natural diamonds, both consisting of pure carbon in a cubic crystalline form. The difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is how they are formed. Natural diamonds form below the surface of the earth over millions of years, whereas lab-grown diamonds can be created in a lab over a period of a few weeks. Lightbox diamonds are grown to match the chemical properties of a natural diamond and the finished stone is optically identical. You can find more details on how they’re made below.
There are a few methods used to create lab-grown diamonds. Typically, lab-grown diamonds start with a tiny lab diamond, like a seed. The seeds are placed in a chamber called a plasma reactor (in the case of CVD synthesis) or a large mechanical press (if manufactured by HPHT). Then, depending on the technology used, some combination of heat, pressure and a carbon source are used to make the crystals grow, layer by layer.
Lab grown diamond seeds are loaded into a CVD reactor. Then, a mix of gasses containing carbon is added at a very low pressure. Microwave energy is used to heat the gases and generate a plasma. When the temperatures climb over several thousand degrees, the gas molecules break apart and carbon atoms bond to the seeds, growing them one layer at a time.
This method mimics the conditions under which diamonds naturally form. Large mechanical presses are used to apply extreme pressure and high temperature to carbon in the presence of a diamond seed. The seeds act as a template for a lattice of carbon to grow layer by layer over the course of a few days.
In nature, it takes millions of years for diamonds to form. In a lab, we can grow a one carat stone in about two weeks.
watch our video on how lab-grown diamonds are made
One of the great advantages of lab-grown diamonds is that they can be made in an array of colors that are very rare when found in nature. This is achieved by making changes in the gas mix added to the CVD reactor combined with treatments to these stones applied at the end of the synthesis process. The process sounds simple, but it has taken our scientists thousands of hours to refine the process and create the perfect Lightbox shades of light pink and blue every time.
While they may look similar, diamond simulants (like cubic zirconia) are chemically not diamonds at all. They’re completely different gems and materials. On the other hand, lab-grown diamonds are chemically the same as natural diamonds, but their creation process is sped up by science.
Diamond simulants and lab-created diamonds often get mixed up, but they’re completely different. A diamond simulant is not a diamond at all, because the chemical properties are completely different. They can be made out of anything from glass to cubic zirconia. While they may look similar at first, diamond simulants aren’t as hard and don’t have the same optical properties as diamonds, so they’ll show signs of wear and won’t be as sparkly.
Moissanite is a completely different gem, that tends to be less expensive than a diamond. It started out as a naturally occurring mineral, but natural supply wasn’t enough to make even the smallest pieces of jewelry. Scientists then found a way to replicate it in a lab to make it commercially available. While it might look like diamond it’s a much lower grade on color and hardness.
Cubic zirconia was created to be a less expensive alternative to diamonds. It’s chemically completely different, not as hard and lacks the same sparkle. It’s also not considered a gemstone because it can’t be found in nature. It’s made from powdered zirconium and zirconium dioxide, melted together and formed into a stone.
Lab-grown diamonds can be graded in the same way as natural diamonds, by assessing the four C’s of diamond quality: Cut, Color, Carat, Clarity. The GIA and IGI both offer dedicated reports using the same grading process as natural diamonds, whilst also specifying their origin as lab-grown. At Lightbox we do not individually certify each stone as we believe it's unnecessary. We see one of the major benefits of lab-grown diamonds to be the ability to consistently create high quality stones, therefore we guarantee all our stones reach our quality standards without the added cost of a third party certification. You are of course welcome to have your Lightbox stone graded post-purchase for your own peace of mind.