This is a really hot topic in the jewellery industry at the moment, and something I get asked about a lot. It’s a complex issue so I’ve wanted to delve into it for quite a while.

So first of all what’s the difference?

The difference between traditional mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds is exactly that. A natural diamond is created over billions of years deep in the earth and relies on volcanic eruptions to bring it close enough to the surface to be mined. A lab-grown diamond is grown in a laboratory using machines which replicate these highly pressurised conditions. Something very important to note is that while they are created in different ways, they are otherwise identical. They have the same chemical and physical properties, and lab grown diamonds are categorised as diamonds by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US. Even diamond experts need specialist equipment to distinguish between the two. Because they are identical, lab diamonds also have the same properties as natural diamonds such as their hardness and brilliance, and therefore are generally preferable to synthetic stones that mimic diamonds.


This is a big positive for lab diamonds. Because they are not rare like natural diamonds and have a shorter supply chain, they are significantly less expensive than a mined diamond of the same carat cut and clarity. So they can make your dream engagement ring or other jewellery much more accessible, or allow you to use your budget towards a larger stone or higher karat gold for your piece for example (you can read about the different gold karats here).

Retaining value

Because of the scarcity of natural diamonds, they will retain or even increase their value over time. However because lab diamonds are not scarce and rely on technology to be made (and tech usually gets less expensive over time), there is every chance that they could get less expensive over time and therefore are much less likely to retain their value. However it is rare enough that people buy diamonds purely as an investment. And I would say rarer still that they ever cash in on this investment. In general, heirloom jewellery is sentimental and will more likely get passed from generation to generation, sometimes getting remodelled along the way.

Sustainability and ethics

This is where it gets complicated. There have been huge sustainability claims made around lab grown diamonds, especially by larger companies. But like many things in the world of sustainability, this is a more nuanced issue than you may think.

Most of us are aware that there have long been both ethical and sustainability issues around diamond mining. I’ve read reports that each carat of diamond mined has an average carbon footprint of 108.5kg of C02 (equivalent to driving a car for about 400km as far as I can figure out). But it also causes the extraction of around 1000 tonnes of earth and uses huge amounts of energy and water. Diamond mining of course also brings ethical concerns around working conditions etc.

Lab diamond manufacturing on the other hand doesn’t rely on the mining process, making them less resource-intensive. However it is very energy intensive, using a huge amount of power in the production process, along with harmful gases such as methane.

In the US the FTC has gone as far as to challenge large jewellery brands making claims around sustainability of lab diamonds.

A 2021 study concluded that while lab grown diamonds were less resource intensive and certainly more water friendly, they couldn’t say that they were less energy intensive than natural diamonds as their energy consumption varied widely depending on production method.

Also, in 2019 a Trucost report found that on average, green house gas emissions are three times greater than mined diamonds. Although we do have to bear in mind that this report was commissioned by the (natural) diamond producers association.

Producers of natural diamonds argue that their industry provides much needed employment in developing countries. I am always a little wary of this as a sustainability argument however, as any large scale industry could argue this (think fast fashion for example), and employment in itself isn’t necessarily a sustainable or ethical practice. Although the Kimberley process has gone some way in attempting to address the trading of conflict diamonds over the last 20 years, it has not tackled the issue of workers rights.

On the whole, although reports vary widely it is hard to imagine that lab diamonds have a greater environmental impact than mined diamonds, but it’s important to know that lab diamonds are not necessarily the sustainable ideal that they can be marketed as.

So which should I choose?

Honestly I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this. It really depends what’s important to you. If you want that diamond sparkle and durability but want to keep costs down and an eye on sustainability, then lab grown diamonds can be a great option. If you’ve always been fascinated by how natural diamonds are formed by the forces of the earth and have dreamed of owning a natural diamond, then a responsibly sourced mined diamond is probably the stone for you.  The most important thing is to go to a goldsmith whose values align with yours, who will listen to what you want and give you good advice, will use trustworthy suppliers, and is environmentally conscious in their own production methods.

I offer both natural and lab diamonds and am always happy to talk you through the various options and cost different options for custom orders. I believe that information is power, and that sustainability is as much about making informed decisions as anything else.




Reports cited :

Energies (2021):

Trucost (2019):