Man-made diamonds, also known as synthetic diamonds, are created through an artificial process in a laboratory as opposed to being formed naturally in the earth. Synthetic diamonds are also referred to as lab-grown, created, cultivated or cultured diamonds.
Let’s find out whether buying man-made diamonds is a good idea and see how you should evaluate synthetics when shopping.
Are Man-Made Diamonds Different from Natural Diamonds?
Although a lot of people think of fake diamonds when they hear the word “synthetic”, lab-created diamonds are actually identical to natural ones in terms of chemical structure.
Man-made diamonds are no different from mined stones in terms of appearance or physical properties, so if you buy a synthetic diamond, nobody would be able to distinguish it from a natural one.
Don’t confuse synthetic diamonds with diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia – unlike created diamonds, simulants are not made of the same material as natural diamonds are.
Prices of Synthetic Diamonds
Price is one of the main attractions of lab-created diamonds. Because synthetic stones are man-made, they are also cheaper than natural diamonds, which are rare and hard to mine.
So, how much can you save by buying a lab-grown diamond? Depending on the quality of the stone, you can expect to pay at least 10-15% less for a created diamond than for a natural one with similar characteristics.
Evaluating the Clarity of Man-Made Diamonds
One of the major advantages of synthetic diamonds is that they are nearly flawless and don’t have as many inclusions as you would find in naturally formed stones.
It’s not that man-made diamonds don’t have flaws or impurities at all, but these imperfections are minimized through strict control over the production process.
You should evaluate the clarity of a man-made diamond as you would assess that of a mined diamond: The synthetic stone should be eye clean, i.e., no flaws should be visible with the naked eye.
When you look at a synthetic diamond, it is unlikely that you will see the kind of prominent inclusions that you would spot in a low-clarity natural stone.
Evaluating the Color of Synthetic Diamonds
Evaluating the color of man-made diamonds is no different from judging the color of mined stones: The more colorless a diamond, the better.
If you are looking for a stone to set in a white metal, for example, look for diamonds that are perfectly white, without any visible tints. Generally, it is easier to produce high-quality color in synthetic diamonds than to find naturally colorless diamonds.
Man-made diamonds are available in a variety of colors other than white, and in general, synthetics are a great option if you are looking for fancy-colored diamonds, which are rare to find in their natural state.
Evaluating the Cut of Man-Made Diamonds
As with color and clarity, evaluating the cut of a man-made diamond is no different from assessing that of a natural diamond. And the more proportional the cut, the better the brilliance and sparkle of the stone will be.
The rule of thumb when judging cut is to look for symmetry: If the stone is cut round, it should not be too deep or too shallow when seen from the side.
The facets of the stone should be well aligned and proportional. The girdle (the edge of the stone) should not be too thick (as it would make the stone disproportional) or too thin (as it could easily break).
Carat Weight and Synthetic Diamonds
One issue with synthetic diamonds is that there is a limited selection of sizes for top-quality stones due to technological limitations.
For example, most high-quality man-made diamonds won’t come in carat weights greater than 0.5 carats, and you will rarely find a good stone that exceeds 1.5 carats.
If you are looking for a colored stone, however, you will have more choice: You may be able to find a diamond that is up to 3 carats in weight.
Certification of Man-Made Diamonds
When evaluating the quality characteristics of a synthetic diamond, it is good to have a certificate that lists the grades of the stone’s color, clarity and cut.
The Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) grades man-made diamonds and issues certificates that explicitly state that the stone evaluated is synthetic.
If you are shopping for lab-grown diamonds, it is a good idea to ask for such a document so you can establish that the advertised characteristics of the stone are indeed true.