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What is a Lab Grown Diamond & Are They More Ethical Than Mined Diamonds?

    lab grown diamonds heading

    Lab grown diamonds can certainly offer a like for like alternative to mined diamonds.

    Whether it’s excavated out of the ground or created in a lab, a lab grown and mined diamond are both still 100% diamonds.

    With a lab grown diamond, the major benefit is that it comes without the habitat loss and environmental damage of conventional mining. Not to mention the association with human rights abuses and civil wars.

    Does this sound a little true good to be true? Keep on reading to find out all about lab grown diamonds.

    This is not a sponsored post, but I have to thank Lily Arkwright for helping me with the finer details of this blog post. Lily Arkwright are a premium online jewellers specialising in the highest quality, ethically produced jewellery.

    Why are natural diamonds unethical?

    Believe it or not, diamonds haven’t always been associated with rings, and particularly engagement rings.

    It’s thought that engagement rings first came about in Ancient Rome before given official meaning by Pope Nicholas I in 850. Diamonds were used sporadically on rings by the elite of the world, but it wasn’t until the 1940s when De Beers mining company launched an ad campaign to pique the interest of unassuming consumers.

    So, why are natural diamonds unethical then?

    It’s the process of physical diamond mining where the negative impacts come about.

    Large diamond mines look a little bit like moon craters. To create a working mine, the local habitat has to be cleared back to the bare ground. Trees, plants and vegetation are all removed, leaving the brown soil and earth exposed.

    Like most big industries, diamond mines cause natural habitat destruction, species loss, soil erosion and contaminate the local water sources.

    Because of the value now seen in diamonds, they have been used to fund wars, insurgencies and human rights crackdowns. This has been seen in many diamond-rich countries, such as Sierra Leone, Angola, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

    jwaneng diamond mine in botswana
    Jwaneng diamond mine in Botswana

    What is the difference between lab grown and natural diamonds?

    You may be surprised to find out that lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds are exactly the same.

    If you looked at both types of diamonds side by side and under a microscope, they would appear to be identical.

    Lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds share the same:

    • Chemical composition
    • Optical properties
    • Hardness

    The only difference is in the origins and were they are created – lab diamonds are grown in a laboratory and no mining is required. 

    How are lab grown diamonds made?

    How is it possible for lab grown diamonds to be the same as natural diamonds?

    Well, it all comes down to chemistry.

    Diamonds are more or less formed from pure carbon whose atoms have crystallised under high heat and pressure. This can happen in nature or in the lab.

    Using advanced technology, specialised laboratories can create High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) environments to form the characteristic crystal lattice structure of diamonds. For this reason, lab grown diamonds ‘grow’ in the same way that their natural counterparts do.

    With this, lab grown diamonds perform and exhibit the same brilliance and sparkle as a mined diamond.

    Every lab diamond set by Lily Arkwright, for example, is fully certified and accompanied by an industry standard GIA, IGI or GCAL grading report, including the cut, colour, clarity and carat weight specifications.

    ethical engagement ring lab Diamond 18k yellow gold

    Are lab grown diamonds more ethical?

    Lab grown diamonds start to come into their own when we discuss ethics.  

    Choosing a diamond grown in the lab is a very sustainable option. One of the main reasons for its growing popularity is that lab grown diamonds make for fantastic ethical engagement rings.

    Unlike traditionally mined diamonds, lab grown jewellery has a significantly smaller carbon footprint and none of the negative ethical implications that are caught up with mined diamonds and the process of getting them out of the ground.

    When purchasing a lab grown diamond, traceability and transparency are also major ethical benefits when compared to mined diamonds. This is because there is a real issue when it comes to knowing exactly where a mined diamond has originated from when traditional mining practices are involved.

    This is true for other lab grown gemstones, such as the gems grown for moissanite engagement rings. I actually bought an ethical engagement ring from an independent seller on Etsy UK and it’s been great.

    I think it’s fair to conclude that lab grown diamonds are much more ethical than natural diamonds.

    What are the benefits of lab grown diamonds?

    Alongside the more ethical side as discussed above, cost and affordability are other big benefits to lab grown diamonds.

    Lab grown diamonds can be around 30% less than the natural mined variety – and when you are talking about significant sums of money, 30% can be quite the saving!

    So, with increased sustainability, the exact same chemical composition as mined diamonds, a reduced carbon footprint and cheaper price, there are plenty of benefits to lab grown diamonds. Perfect if you want to buy an ethical ring.

    lab grown diamond lily arkwright 600

    Are lab grown diamonds the same as cubic zirconia?

    Sometimes people can get confused between the different lab grown gemstones.

    In this instance, no, diamonds and cubic zirconia are two entirely different gems. And in turn cubic zirconia is different from other ethical and lab grown gemstones such as moissanite.

    For all these stones, the chemical and physical compositions are different. 

    Hopefully that gives you a clearer indication of what exactly lab grown diamonds are and how they compared to mined diamonds.

    Lab grown diamonds are much more ethical than mined diamonds but offer all the benefits, plus more.

    The big question that remains really is, why would you by a mined diamond when you get can a lab grown diamond that offers the same quality at a cheaper price and with greater sustainability?

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