Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones: What's the Differences

Written by H YG


Posted on June 09 2024

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

Gemstones have captured human hearts for centuries with their beauty, rarity, and mystique. In today's jewelry market, consumers are presented with a choice between natural gemstones and lab-grown gemstones. Therefore, it's necessary to learn about their differences to help make wise purchasing decisions. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the distinctions between natural and lab-grown gemstones, from their origins to ethical and environmental impacts, to help readers better select their next piece of jewelry.

Origin and Formation

One of the most fundamental differences between natural and lab-grown gemstones is their origin and formation process.

Natural gemstones form deep within the earth's crust over incredibly long periods-think millions of years! During this time, they endure intense heat, pressure, and a complex dance of chemical elements. These natural processes give each gemstone its unique personality, with variations in color, clarity, and the presence of inclusions, which are like nature's fingerprints.

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

In contrast, lab-grown gemstones are crafted in carefully controlled lab environments designed to mimic nature's conditions. Using cutting-edge technologies, scientists replicate the heat, pressure, and chemical mixtures necessary for gemstone growth. One such method is known as the High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) process. While the end result of these lab-grown methods is a gemstone that is virtually indistinguishable from its natural counterpart, there is one significant difference: time. The process of creating a lab-grown gemstone is much faster than the millions of years it takes for a natural gemstone to form. In a matter of weeks or months, scientists can produce a lab-grown diamond or sapphire that possesses the same beauty and durability as a natural stone.


To the untrained eye, natural and lab-grown gemstones can appear strikingly similar. In reality, it's also difficult for experienced jewelers to distinguish between these two without the aid of specialized equipment. The reason lies in that the lab-grown gemstones are designed to mimic natural stones' optical properties, including their brilliance, fire, and scintillation.

However, there is one key difference between natural and lab-grown stones that can sometimes be observed upon closer inspection: inclusions. Inclusions are tiny imperfections, such as crystals, feathers, or clouds, that are often found within natural gemstones. These "birthmarks" are caused by the unique geological conditions under which the stone formed, and they can be greatly different in size, shape, and appearance.

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

Lab-grown gemstones, by contrast, tend to have fewer inclusions than natural ones. Because they are created in a controlled laboratory environment, there is less opportunity for impurities or irregularities to form within the stone, which results in a more uniform and consistent appearance that some buyers may prefer.

Quality and Durability

4Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat weight) was raised by GIA (Gemological Institute of Amrica), is an effective way to evaluate gemstones' beauty and value. These critieria apply equally to both natural and lab-grown gemstones.

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

However, it's important to remember that "quality" can be a moving target, both for natural and lab-grown stones. The specific conditions under which a natural gemstone developed over millennia, or the precise methods used to grow a stone in a lab, can lead to variations in quality. As with any gemstone purchase, it is essential to work with a reputable jeweler who can provide accurate information about the quality and characteristics of the stone you are considering.


The cost of a lab-grown gemstone is typically 40-50% less than that of a natural stone of similar size and quality. This price difference is primarily due to the shorter production time and the reduced costs associated with mining and transportation.

Firstly, lab-grown gemstones have a much shorter production time than natural stones. While it can take millions of years for a natural gemstone to form deep within the earth, a lab-grown stone can be created in a matter of weeks or months. This faster turnaround time means that labs can produce a larger quantity of stones more quickly, which helps to keep costs down. In addition, the process of mining natural gemstones is incredibly labor-intensive and expensive. It requires specialized equipment, skilled workers, and often involves navigating complex geopolitical and environmental challenges. All of these factors contribute to the higher cost of natural stones. Lab-grown gemstones, on the other hand, are created in a controlled laboratory setting using advanced technological processes. While this still requires significant expertise and resources, it is generally less costly than traditional mining methods.

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

Also, transportation is another area where lab-grown stones have a cost advantage. Natural gemstones often have to be shipped from remote mining locations to cutting and polishing facilities, and then on to wholesalers and retailers around the world. This adds to the overall cost of the stone. Lab-grown gemstones, by contrast, can be produced much closer to their final destination, reducing transportation costs.

Market Value

There are many factors that will influence the market value of natural and lab-grown gemstones, such as rarity, demand, and perception.

The market value of natural and lab-grown gemstones is influenced by a few key factors, including rarity, demand, and how people perceive them. Natural gemstones, especially those that are top-quality and large in size, are seen as rare treasures. This rarity, coupled with the long time it takes for them to form naturally, makes them highly sought-after and valuable. As a result, they often come with higher price tags and are considered prestigious investments.

Lab-grown gemstones, while not inherently rare, have gained popularity in recent years as a more affordable and ethically sourced alternative. However, when it comes to investing, traditional logic suggests caution with lab-grown gemstones. Unlike natural stones, which have the potential to appreciate over time due to their finite nature, lab-grown stones are plentiful. As technology advances and production becomes even more efficient, we may see even more of these stones enter the market, potentially keeping their prices from skyrocketing like those of natural gems.

Ethical and Environmental Impacts

The ethical and environmental impacts also present differences between natural and lab-grown gemstones. The mining of natural gemstones is usually associated with various social and ecological concerns, such as unsafe working conditions, low wages, and environmental damage. In some cases, the profits from gemstone mining have been used to fund armed conflicts, leading to the disturbing term "blood diamonds."

Natural vs. Lab-Grown Gemstones

However, lab-grown gemstones production is more ethical and eco-friendly. As they are created in controlled lab environments, evidently they avoid the negative impacts associated with mining, such as habitat destruction and carbon emissions. Consumers who attach importance to ethical and sustainable practices can consider to buy lab-grown gemstones to enjoy the beauty and brilliance, without contributing to the negative consequences of mining.

Go for Exploring the Gemstone World

Natural and lab-grown gemstones vary in lots of aspects, and each has its own merits and drawbacks. Understanding their differences above can help you make an informed and wise choice. Whether you choose natural or lab-created gemstones, with these knowledge equipped you'll be more confident to explore the fascinating world of gemstones!