Understanding and Identifying Natural Diamonds vs Synthetic Diamonds

To the naked eye, synthetic and natural diamonds can seem almost identical, however there are marked differences between the two.

This blog offers a quick consumer's guide to understanding the difference between Natural vs Synthetic Diamonds.


Naturally formed diamonds are precious, rare and millions of years old. Synthetic diamonds also known as laboratory-grown diamonds are man-made in laboratories across the world and the manufacturing process certainly takes less than a million years, often only taking a few weeks.

What is a Natural Diamond?

A natural diamond is any diamond which has formed naturally over billions of years, deep within the earth due to the extreme heat and pressure exerted on carbon atoms. Of the diamonds formed, only a small percentage will be of high enough purity to be considered good enough for use in jewellery, making them precious and rare.

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What is a Synthetic Diamond?

A synthetic diamond, laboratory-created or laboratory-grown diamond is a man-made diamond. Their chemical, physical and optical properties are almost identical because they are created from the same thing - a lattice of carbon atoms. The production takes place in a laboratory or factory which replicates the natural forces which cause natural diamond formation, only much faster!

Is a Simulated Diamond the same as a Synthetic Diamond?

No, a simulant diamond, is most definitely not a diamond at all. It can be of natural or manmade origin; it may have optical similarities but has a different chemical structure and different physical properties. Two examples of diamond simulants are Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite.

Are Lab Created Diamonds Real?

The definition of ‘real’ can be misleading. To some people a real diamond is one which is formed naturally. To other people, a real diamond is a gemstone which has the chemical and physical properties of diamond, whether that be natural or synthetic. Gold Arts and any other good jeweller would be very clear on the diamond’s origin (natural or synthetic) rather than use an ambiguous sales term.

Diamond testing equipment

How can I tell the difference between a Natural and Laboratory-Grown Diamond?

High quality diamonds of any origin can transform light into sparkling brilliance and colourful fire. It is very difficult to tell the difference between a natural and synthetic diamond with the naked eye, because chemically they are virtually identical so exhibit the same physical properties.

It takes a lot of skill and experience for gemmologists and jewellers to be able to tell the difference, and often needs either advanced testing techniques with specialist equipment or to be sent to a gemmological laboratory to be tested. Often the manufacturing process can leave marks or even alter the colour variations within the stone. Traces of nitrogen in natural diamonds can be an identifying factor and the use of specialist testing equipment can accurately decipher if a stone is natural or synthetic.

Could I be sold a synthetic diamond without knowing?

Some people have raised the concern that laboratory-grown diamonds will become mixed amongst mined natural diamonds and possibly wrongfully sold as natural diamonds. Technology to detect natural vs laboratory-grown diamonds is used to mitigate against this, alongside the skilled eye of expert gemmologists.

Gold Arts has invested in modern screening technology and the education of staff, as well as building strong relationships with reliable and trustworthy diamond dealers. Most of our diamonds are of natural origin, however we fully embrace consumer choice so if you would like to purchase a synthetic diamond in one of our designs, we would be happy to offer you up-to-date advice and competitive quotes.

The creation of something that is completely unique to you is an affordable reality at Gold Arts. You can discuss your ideas and be part of the design making process, selecting your choice of metal and choosing from a handpicked selection of gemstones.

Find out more about our in house design service and goldsmith's workshop where we design and create unique jewellery for you.

Are Synthetic Diamonds Environmentally Friendly?

Both natural and synthetic diamonds have pros and cons with varying environmental factors to consider. Synthetic diamonds are produced in laboratories and therefore are not affecting large areas of land which damages ecosystems. However, laboratory-grown diamond factories do require huge amounts of energy, so the production method is not eco-friendly due to the high carbon dioxide emissions.

Protagonists for both natural and synthetic diamonds agree that more environmentally friendly production methods are a must for the future of the diamond industry. Developments are being made in both camps, with technological advances reducing carbon emissions from factories and smaller scale mining with greater respect for rural landscapes and communities are being discussed.

Are Synthetic Diamonds Good Value?

Synthetic diamonds are generally less expensive than natural diamonds, and newer production methods and greater consumer demand are making Laboratory-Grown diamonds a more financially viable industry. At the time of writing, excellent quality larger synthetic diamonds are much less expensive than their natural equivalent, however they do not hold their value in the resale market.

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Which are better Synthetic or Natural Diamonds?

This is a personal choice about what feels right to you, and Gold Arts is always happy to give you up-to-date information and offer choice. Charlotte who works at Gold Arts has just completed an advanced training course specifically on Identifying Laboratory-Grown Diamonds and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can visit her in our Brighton Store.  

For many people, natural diamonds are a more special purchase and better investment due to their complete uniqueness and historical connection to the earth itself. Whilst to many there is no notable visual difference between natural diamonds and good synthetic diamonds it is often said that if viewed side by side, your eyes will be drawn to a natural diamond versus a synthetic one.

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