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Natural Vs.
Lab-Grown
Diamonds &
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Alternatives

A diamond is the world’s most enduring symbol of love. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone anniversary or making an everyday moment sparkle, there are now more ways than ever to find the diamond that tells your unique story. Today, lab-grown diamonds and diamond alternatives are growing in popularity as more affordable options to natural diamonds.


Learn more about how lab-grown diamonds compare to natural diamonds and explore some of the most popular diamond alternatives, so you can find the diamond option that’s right for you.

What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds: Core Differences Between Natural vs. Lab-Grown

Lab-grown diamonds (also referred to as engineered, man-made, or lab-created diamonds) possess the same optical, chemical, and physical properties as a natural diamond. Natural vs. lab-grown diamonds are virtually indistinguishable to the untrained eye. What sets them apart, however, are their origin and the time they took to form.

Natural diamonds are formed over billions of years deep below the earth’s surface, under extreme pressure and high temperature. They rise and become accessible by volcanic eruption.

SHOP NATURAL DIAMONDS

Lab-grown diamonds are produced in a lab within weeks or months, using specialized technology that mimics the extreme heat and pressure of a natural diamond’s growing environment.

SHOP LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS

Comparing Natural vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

Find out how natural diamonds vs. lab-grown diamonds compare, so you can decide which option is right for you.

KAY Diamond Comparison Natural Diamonds Lab-Grown Diamonds
Is it a Diamond? Yes Yes
Primary Chemical Composition Carbon Carbon
Source The Earth A Laboratory
Time to Create 1 to 3 Billion Years Several Weeks to Months
Supply/Rarity Finite and Rare Unknown at this Time
Independently Certified Yes* Yes*
100% Conflict-Free Yes Yes
KAY Responsible Sourcing Commitment Yes Yes
Industry Sourcing Standards Established Yes In Development
Included in the Lifetime Diamond Commitment Yes Yes
Eligible for Trade-In Yes Yes
Price Comparison (of comparable quality and size) $$$ $$
*Select styles & carat weights

Shop KAY with Confidence

Whether natural or lab-created, all of our diamonds are 100% conflict-free. Each is transformed by our experts, who map, cut, and polish the diamond from its rough form to bring to life the precious stone’s unique sparkle, fire, and brilliance.

Exploring Diamond Alternatives

While diamond alternatives (also known as diamond simulants) are made to look like the real deal, they have very different chemical and physical properties. As their name implies, simulant diamonds merely imitate the appearance of a diamond, and generally do not possess the same level of brilliance or durability as natural or lab-created diamonds. However, diamond alternatives are an excellent budget-friendly option.

White Sapphire Vs. Diamonds

White sapphire is available in natural and lab-grown varieties. Natural white sapphires are typically more expensive than lab-grown stones, but they can look milkier and have visible inclusions.  Lab-grown white sapphires  are clearer and more affordable than their natural counterparts. White sapphires are very durable, but they are not nearly as brilliant, fiery, or sparkly as a diamond.

EXPLORE LAB-GROWN WHITE SAPPHIRES

Cubic Zirconia (CZ) Vs. Diamonds

Cubic zirconia is probably the most commonly known diamond alternative. CZ is often found in children’s and costume jewelry, but it is sometimes used in placeholder and lower quality engagement rings. It is an artificially produced version of the element zircon. Colorless CZ is common, but its brilliance is easily diminished when it gets dirty. It weighs almost twice as much as a diamond, and, like moissanite, has a lot of fire. It is often cut with larger facets to make the fire less noticeable, but those large facets can also make it look more artificial. CZ has good hardness, but it scratches more easily than a diamond.

EXPLORE CUBIC ZIRCONIA

Moissanite Vs. Diamonds

Moissanite is a silicon carbide crystal that’s made in a lab. It is extremely hard, but still more likely to scratch than a diamond. It has a lot of fire—a rainbow effect seen when light hits the stone—but moissanite lacks the brilliance and sparkle of a diamond. This rainbow effect can also make it look more artificial. Many moissanites are colorless, but it is more susceptible to color changes from heat. The color likely won’t hold up as well as a diamond over time. KAY does not offer moissanite products at this time.

Frequently Asked Questions

From how they’re made to quality and value, get answers to your most frequently asked questions about lab-grown diamonds here.

Lab-grown diamonds are produced in a lab using specialized technology. The process starts with a diamond seed—a small sliver of carbon crystals. The diamond seed is placed in a chamber of extreme heat and pressure to mimic a natural diamond’s growing environment. The carbon coating helps the diamond crystalize and grow to a larger rough diamond crystal. The technology creates a diamond with the same optical, chemical, and physical properties as natural diamonds, produced in weeks or months what takes nature millennia. 

Lab-grown is just one way to describe a diamond that is not created by the earth. Lab-created, man-made, engineered, and cultured diamonds are all different terms for a lab-grown diamond.

A natural diamond has historically maintained its value. However, since lab-grown diamonds are relatively new, it is unknown if they will retain their long-term value. 

A diamond may mistakenly be identified as a moissanite when using some diamond testers due to their similarity in thermal conductivity. Professionals can easily distinguish between the two gems due to their differing refractive properties, with moissanites being double refractive and diamond being single refractive.

Because lab-grown diamonds have the same optical, chemical, and physical characteristics as natural diamonds, they cannot be distinguished even with a professional loupe under 10x magnification. That’s why KAY lab-grown diamonds 1/5 carat and larger are laser-inscribed with “lab-grown” or "lab -created" on the girdle. 

Yes, a lab-grown diamond is a real diamond. It has the same optical, chemical, and physical properties as a diamond that is grown naturally under the earth’s surface. A lab-grown diamond is appraised using the same 4Cs (cut, color, clarity, carat) and can deliver the same fire, scintillation and sparkle as a natural diamond.

Lab-grown diamonds can be cleaned with a mixture of warm water and gentle soap or Kay’s fine jewelry cleaner. Frequency of cleaning depends on the type of jewelry and how often it is worn. For example, an engagement ring worn every day should be cleaned more often than a necklace only worn once in a while. When you’re not wearing your lab-grown diamond jewelry, store it in a dry place away from sunlight, air and humidity.  

Yes, lab-grown diamonds are responsibly sourced and conflict-free. They are also considered sustainable as they don’t rely on the earth’s natural resources to help them form.
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