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A Complete Guide to Lab-Grown Diamonds

What you need to know about lab-created diamond price, color, clarity and certification

By Mike Fried,

Bottom Line Recommendation

The lab-created diamond market seems to be having the rug pulled out from under them. If you purchased a lab-created diamond just one year ago, you would see the same diamond on sale for a fraction of the price you paid then. This has created a unique opportunity as well as some risks that we will discuss below.

If you are on a budget and are not as concerned about the timelessness of a natural diamond, you can get a beautiful lab-created diamond at an excellent price.  We recommend James Allen for lab-created diamonds. Take a look at this stunning 1.70ct diamond from James Allen for an incredible price. There is no way you can get a natural diamond similar to this for anywhere close to the same price. Another retailer worth checking out is Blue Nile. Here is a beautiful elongated 2ct cushion cut from their collection.

If you are concerned that the ring you purchase today may be in store displays for a fraction of their current price, then buying a lab-created diamond may not be the best choice for you.

Learn More About Lab-Created Diamonds

  1. Pricing for Lab-Created Diamonds
  2. Certification
  3. Color
  4. Clarity
  5. Best Places to buy Lab Created Diamonds

    Here are some lab-grown diamonds from James Allen:

What are Lab-Created Diamonds?

Lab-created diamonds (which have also been referred to as lab-grown diamonds, synthetic diamonds, artificial diamonds, cultivated diamonds or cultured diamonds) are man made diamonds that mirror natural diamonds. Because they actually consist of carbon atoms structures, lab-grown diamonds display the same chemical and optical characteristics of a natural diamond crystal produced by the geological processes of Mother Nature.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

Synthetic diamond prices are generally lower than natural diamonds, and the price of lab-created diamonds continues to drop (as much as 30% in a year). This is due to lab-grown diamonds not having any resale value and that the demand for lab-grown diamonds continues to decrease. 

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Take a look at this stunning 2.71ct lab-created diamond from James Allen. There is no questioning its beauty. But when looking at lab made diamond prices and value, there’s more to consider than what initially meets the eye.

How Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Made?

Lab-created diamonds are made by replicating the processes that result in the creation of natural diamonds.

Natural diamonds grow through intense heat and pressure which, over millions of years, transforms carbon atoms into beautiful and captivating gemstones we know as diamonds.

Lab-created diamonds grow the same way, only through a man-made process that takes several weeks, not millions of years.

Man-made diamonds begin with a tiny piece of diamond, known as a diamond seed. This seed is placed sealed inside a special chamber designed to mimic conditions within the Earth’s crust. 

The seed, coated in pure carbon, will eventually transform into a synthetic diamond, chemically identical to a natural diamond.

Forming a lab grown diamond

There are two different methods used for lab-created diamonds; High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).

HPHT places intense heat (around 1,500 degrees Celsius, or 2,700 Fahrenheit) and pressure (1.5 million pounds per square inch) on the diamond seed and the carbon atoms coating it. On the other hand, CVD uses less heat and pressure, instead introducing a mixture of chemical gases that break down and harden into crystallized carbon atoms.

With both methods, the result is the same; a man-made diamond, created from scratch in a matter of weeks.

Read more details about how diamonds are made and how to choose the right one in our detailed guide here.

Diamond Pro Declaration

While we think diamonds are beautiful and a great choice when you’re looking to make a high-end jewelry purchase, we don’t buy into the marketing that De Beers has rammed down our throats for a century, convincing people that you must buy a diamond when you get engaged. The founder of this site even wrote an article for Huffington Post to that effect.

Our goal is not to convince people that they should buy a diamond.

We are here to help people who are buying diamonds to get the best bang for their buck. We find the right balance of quality to get the biggest diamond you can within your budget and help you avoid any rocks or shoals along the way.

 Lab-Created Diamond cushion diamond
Beautiful Example of Lab-Created Diamond

Are Lab-Created Diamonds Real

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I agree that synthetic diamonds look exactly like natural diamonds (so long as we’re referring to lab-grown diamonds, not diamond simulants or cubic zirconia). I’m not going to get into the technical details of how they make diamonds because that is not the issue. Lab-Created diamonds are diamonds. Perhaps CNN summed this up best when they said “Man-made diamonds look the same as naturally occurring ones. The only noticeable difference is the price tag.”

Take a look at this diamond from James Allen. What do you think of it? Does it look like a diamond? Yes it does, because it is one.

This article focuses strictly on the questions of value of lab-created diamonds. If you’re interested in the ethical issues related to diamond buying, see this comprehensive article.

Lab-Created Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds

Lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds differ primarily in how they’re made but also other qualities like price, resale value, rarity and desirability. Here, we give a breakdown of lab-created diamonds vs. natural diamonds:

Lab-Created DiamondsNatural Diamonds
Lab-grown in a matter of weeksFormed under the earth’s crust over billions of years
Constructed of carbon atoms structuresConstructed of carbon atoms structures 
Lower price with no resale valueHigher price with resale value at 50%+
Available in a range of shapes and carat weightAvailable in a range of shapes and carat weight
Somewhat desirable for engagement ringsVery desirable for engagement rings

How to Tell the Difference Between Lab-Created Diamonds and Natural Diamonds

You can’t tell the difference between lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds without specialized equipment, even if you’re a professional gemologist. The best way to tell the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is to look at the grading report.

If a professional gemologist is determining if a diamond is mined or lab-grown, they use magnification to look at the nature of the inclusions. The inclusions in a natural diamond appear slightly different than in a lab-created diamond. There are sometimes also differences in how the diamond reflects light compared with a synthetic diamond. 

In general, though, when looking at a lab-created diamond next to a natural diamond, you can’t distinguish the two.

Think You’re A Diamond Pro?

Both of these are beautiful 1.01ct H VS2 Excellent cut diamonds
One is lab created and costs $1,250
One is mined and costs $4,940
Can you tell which is which?
Choose the diamond you like better and see if you are a pro!

Are Lab-Created Diamonds Worth Anything?

This is the million dollar question that is not so easy to answer. In short, they are cheaper but they are worse bang for your buck. As we explain in this article, you shouldn’t view your diamond as an investment.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t ignore the value entirely. Let’s say an average natural diamond retains roughly 50% of its value after purchase. Eventually the value of the diamond will rise (historically, diamond prices rise consistently), so if you ever try to sell it, you should be getting at least half (or possibly much more) of the original purchase price.

I will give you an example. This is an absolutely stunning 1.21ct diamond from James Allen that we managed to find. It’s an incredible value at the price of $5,220. We asked some companies that purchase diamonds from consumers how much they’d offer for it. They loved the diamond and were willing to pay $2,820 for it. That is 54% of the original price. If diamond prices rise (as they historically do), the value will only increase.

Lab created diamond value

No matter the synthetic diamond price, lab-grown diamonds have no resale value. Take a look at this 1.21ct diamond from James Allen. There’s no doubt that it’s a nice-looking diamond. Yet no jeweler will buy it back. If you try to sell lab-grown diamonds on eBay, you’ll get pennies on the dollar for it. So, from a value perspective, you would need to be buying man-made diamonds at a massive discount to justify giving up the value retention of natural diamonds. 

On the one hand, you can look at it that an earth-mined diamond will lose 50% of its value more or less immediately after purchase but a lab-created diamond will lose all of its value. But on the other hand, a lab-created diamond will start off being at least 50% cheaper than a comparable natural diamond.

This is one of those difficult calls that everyone needs to make for themselves.

Lab-Created Diamonds vs. Natural Diamonds Price

We’re always working on our articles and making sure that the information and advice is up-to-date. It doesn’t help our readers when our assessments are off because of vagaries in the market, or changes in business practices. This article—specifically content about lab-grown diamond prices—was the fastest edit I’ve had to make, by far. The changes in the lab-created market in 2017-2018 have been stunning, and alarming.

Less than one year ago, we compared lab diamond prices from the major online retailers, Diamond Foundry, MiaDonna, and Brilliant Earth, to natural diamonds sold on James Allen. 

lab diamond vs natural diamond price

If you want to skip the details below, here is an example of two diamonds we compared. One is a GIA certified diamond from James Allen, the other an IGI certified diamond from Brilliant Earth. As we explain in our IGI article, they are a much more “generous” laboratory, so we adjusted the grades accordingly.

Brilliant Earth offered a 0.70 I VS1 IGI certified round diamond (stone no longer available) for $1,870. James Allen had a 0.70 J VS1 GIA certified round diamond for $1,590. You should take a look at both diamonds to see the quality for yourself.

So for identical diamonds, the lab diamond’s price was 25% more than the natural diamond. At the time we compared 12 diamonds from numerous lab-created diamond retailers. The average came out to about 23%

Just one year later, the difference is staggering.

At the beginning of 2017, you can see from the example above (we did 10 such comparisons at the time and this one was about average) that lab diamond prices were actually higher than natural diamond counterparts. At the end of 2017, we have a very different landscape. Lab-grown diamond prices had dropped precipitously while prices for natural diamonds have increased slightly. The change is dramatic.

For ease of comparison, let’s take a look at comparable diamonds to the ones we used above from James Allen and Brilliant Earth. With the lab-grown diamond, you can now find an identical diamond for only $1,350. If you look at the natural diamonds from James Allen, an identical diamond is now a bit more expensive, coming in at $1,890.

The natural diamond performed as expected. Diamond prices have historically risen at a steady rate. This is why you shouldn’t completely discount the “investment value” of a diamond.

As expected as the natural price was, the lab diamond’s price was alarming. In just one year, the price dropped 30%. The worst part about it is that there’s no reason for the prices not to drop even further. How would it make you feel purchasing something special, which you felt carried value, and seeing it in a store for a fraction of the price you paid a year later?

lab created diamond james allen
Example of 0.70ct E/VS2 Lab Diamond

This is not a one-off comparison. We analyzed many diamonds and the trend is the same. For example, a one carat I VS diamond cost $4,100 in 2017 and now is down to $2,850 (a 35% drop).

We even saw a fascinating phenomenon that highlighted the alarming nature of the synthetic diamond price change. When looking at diamonds on Diamond Foundry (made famous by their movie-star investor), we noticed that the price of larger diamonds dropped at a faster rate in comparison to others. This shows that the major roadblock in pricing is merely the manufacturing (which will continue to fall), and that there’s no inherent value in the product.

In all, the price for lab-created diamonds have halved in the last two years according to a report published by Bain & Company.

Déjà vu

The market for lab-created diamonds is eerily similar to what happened when lab-created emeralds burst on the scene in the early 90s. At the time, emeralds were (and still are) one of the rarest precious gems on the market. Innovations in technology allowed manufacturers to replicate a natural emerald and create a virtual copy. I recently had the chance to sit down with a former CEO of one of the largest lab-created emerald wholesalers (the CEO wishes to remain unnamed).

People were excited and started to jump on the bandwagon. Lab-created emeralds started popping up in jewelry pieces in reputable jewelers all across the United States. But it did not stop there.

“As with any technology, as the demand increases the competition floods in. The prices for lab-created emeralds plummeted below any level we could have imagined. One day we were selling lab-created emeralds for hundreds of dollars a carat. The next day the price was in the $40 per carat range” recalls the former CEO.

Soon thereafter, people were buying “emerald” jewelry in Service Merchandise (and old school catalog discount retailer similar to Sears) for $79 or $99. They were popular for about a year or two, then faded away. You can still buy them, but they are about as far from popular as can be.

Fair Comparison?

Is it fair to compare lab-grown diamonds to emeralds? Yes and no. From a technical standpoint, it’s hard to imagine that lab-grown diamond prices won’t continue to plummet. There is no cap on supply and economies of scale (along with innovation) will continue to force the price down.

Will they fade away in popularity? That’s a trickier question. Emeralds are beautiful, no doubt about it. But the diamond market has positioned itself as a must-have purchase when getting engaged (hats off to DeBeers for incredible marketing the last 80 years).

Should You Buy a Lab-Created Diamond?

Well, what about someone in the market for an engagement ring today? You can definitely save some money by going with a diamond ring like this from James Allen in comparison to a natural diamond.  But you must be OK with the strong possibility you’ll be seeing something similar in the future going for much less money.

“A lab diamond doesn’t say I love you any less than a mined diamond says I love you.” Beryl Raff, Former CEO of Helzberg Diamonds as reported in JCK Online.

There can be other reasons for going with a lab-created diamond (I have had readers contact me that were engineers wanting a ring, earrings or a pendant and were in love with the fact that it was created instead of natural), but you should recognize that lab-created diamonds will lose most of their value.

Take a look at these beautiful rings. If you replace the diamond with one of James Allen’s lab-created diamonds, you will save a nice chunk of cash.

Best Lab-Created Diamonds: The Diamond Pro Recommendation

For the best value and highest quality lab diamonds, we recommend James Allen as the best place to make your purchase (see the best places to buy lab-created diamonds here.)

As outlined in our glowing review of James Allen as an online diamond retailer, the customer experience they offer is second to none when buying a diamond or diamond jewelry online. Their pricing is also as competitive as any retailer, which extends to their lab-created diamond collection.

Few reputable online merchants have the range of lab-created diamonds that James Allen does. It’s vitally important to ensure you stick to a trusted seller when buying a lab diamond, and not settle for an unverified retailer due to the lack of selection at other stores. With lab diamonds, it’s easy to be ripped off by a store that may claim your diamond carries more value than it’s worth. At James Allen, however, you can be sure you’re paying a fair price for your lab diamond.

Blue Nile is another company that does a great job selling lab-created diamonds. Their diamond inventory is large and you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. See for yourself.

Here are some handpicked lab diamonds we found for you on James Allen to get inspired by:

1) 1.01ct G/VS2 Lab-created Round Cut Diamond

1ct Round Lab-created diamond

2) 0.90ct E/VS2 Lab-created Princess cut Diamond

0.90ct Princess cut Lab-created diamond

3) 1.03ct F/VS2 Lab-created Cushion cut Diamond

1ct lab-created cushion cut diamond

4) 1.01ct H/VVS2 Lab-created Emerald cut Diamond

1ct lab-created emerald cut diamond

5) 0.72ct F/VS1 Lab-created Radiant cut Diamond

0.72ct lab-created radiant cut diamond

6) 0.60ct E/VS1 Lab-created Oval cut Diamond

0.60ct lab-created oval cut diamond

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Millennials buying lab-grown diamonds?

More younger generations are opting for synthetic, lab-grown diamonds over naturally mined diamonds. Growth in the lab diamond market is outpacing that of natural diamonds, partly due to cost, as well as the perception that they are more sustainable and ethical than mined diamonds.

Is it OK to buy a lab-grown diamond for an engagement ring?

Lab diamonds are absolutely fine to purchase for engagement rings, as long as you’re aware of the downsides. They’re chemically identical to natural diamonds, and thus don’t have any difference in beauty or durability. Just understand that the diamond you buy will be worth less, and you will not be able to recoup much (if any) of the purchase price if you ever resell it.

Why are lab grown diamonds just as expensive?

Lab grown diamonds are quite a bit less expensive than natural diamonds. However, they are still not “cheap”, per se. Lab diamonds require specialized equipment to produce, as well as skilled personnel to cut and polish them. This factors into the purchase price, along with their inherent value as a beautiful and durable gemstone.

Why do people not buy lab-grown diamonds?

Some people don’t want to buy a lab diamond due to their decreased rarity compared to natural diamonds. There’s a significance to each natural diamond being a one-of-a-kind gem, created over billions of years. This means natural diamonds retain far more of their monetary value over time, along with sentimental value. As long as people continue to value this, natural diamonds are likely to remain the more popular choice.


We’re not telling you that you should buy into De Beers marketing BS. You certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to buy a diamond. But if you are, you need to be aware of the value issues. I would not be keen on investing such a hefty sum of money on a product if it’s likely that I’ll be seeing the identical product sold for a fraction of what I paid for it in the near future. But if all you care about is getting the most sparkle for your money, you’ll get more “WOW” for your dollar with a lab-created diamond.

Here are more lab-grown topics to browse:

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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