Today, we have many options when it comes to buying diamonds. There was a time when natural diamonds were the only choice, but thanks to new technology, there are now plenty of alternative options. There are pros and cons to both natural and synthetic gems; it’s all about finding the perfect gemstone for you. As you might expect, we have an affinity towards natural gemstones here at AC Silver. After all, most of our antique and vintage pieces are set with natural examples. Even so, we’re eager to explore the difference between these two options!

Join us as we find out the main differences between natural and synthetic gemstones and learn more about the benefits of both options.

diamond drop earrings

What are natural diamonds?

Natural diamonds are formed from carbon and can be created over a period of one to three billion years. They are considered to be the hardest substance on earth and each dazzling gemstone is one of a kind. They are formed under extremely high pressure and temperature at least 85 miles beneath the earth’s mantle. After their formation, diamonds travel to the earth’s surface via molten rock where they are mined.

What are synthetic diamonds?

Synthetic diamonds are known by many different names, including lab-grown diamonds and engineered diamonds. From these names, you can probably guess where they are created – in a laboratory. Much like natural diamonds, these gems are formed in high temperatures under extreme pressure (known as the HPHT technique). Because of this, their chemical makeup and crystal structure are pretty much the same as you would find in a natural diamond. The key difference is where each gem is created.

A newer technique used to create synthetic diamonds is known as ‘Chemical Vapour Deposition’ (CVD). This entails carbonated gas being pumped into a vacuum chamber which causes a diamond seed to crystallise as a synthetic diamond. This technique is becoming more popular as it uses a lower temperature and less intense pressure is needed.

Other types of synthetic diamonds

The term ‘synthetic’ can also be applied to other gemstones that can be used as diamond alternatives. These include cubic zirconia, white sapphire, moissanite, zircon, rutile, spinel, and synthetic garnet.

How to tell the difference between natural diamonds and synthetic diamonds

As lab-grown diamonds and natural diamond have the same chemical makeup and crystal structure, the two different types can look exactly the same. This makes it impossible to distinguish between the two. Specialist techniques and equipment are needed to tell the difference. Some instruments can detect the very slight differences in the crystal growth which can determine whether they’re lab-grown or natural.

Pros and cons

There are pros and cons of both natural and synthetic diamonds. One of the main appealing factors about lab-grown diamonds is the lower price tag. As these diamonds have been created by scientists in a lab, there is a much shorter supply chain which reduces the price tag. However, this price difference is only dramatic when comparing lab-grown diamonds to newly mined natural diamonds. Antique or vintage natural diamonds, on the other hand, tend to carry a lower price tag and are more sustainable.

Natural diamonds are believed to be more of a sound investment, as their value will usually increase over time. We can trace the trading price of natural diamonds over many years, which we cannot do for synthetic diamonds. Because of this, it’s hard to know how the value of synthetic diamonds might fluctuate.

In addition, many people prefer natural diamonds set in antique jewellery because of the history and unique character the gemstones carry with them. These diamonds have a magic, historic quality that simply can’t be replicated in a lab.

If antique and vintage diamonds are the right gemstones for you, browse our full selection of diamond jewellery today and find something truly special!

Written by

Delilah Kealy-Roberts

Delilah joined the AC Silver team as a Sales & Digital Assistant in 2017 after completing her degree in English Literature at Leeds University. Delilah possesses a passion for jewellery and antiquities combined with an interest in blogging and social media.