What is the difference between lab created diamonds and white sapphire? Read on to find the answers.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover:
- Comparing synthetic white sapphire and diamond
- The differences in appearance between lab diamonds and sapphire
- Comparing the prices of lab sapphire and mined diamond
- And other topics
When someone mentions sapphire, you most likely think of a pretty blue shiny gemstone. Perhaps you may have heard of sapphire being mentioned a lot in September. After all it is the birthstone for the ninth month.
In most cases, blue sapphires are advertised as being closer in value to diamonds. However, this is not the case.
Diamonds are classier than sapphires.
Let’s dig deeper into the origin of both blue sapphire and diamond, and the process they undergo before landing in your jewelry case.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond Gems: Their Origins
Carefully polished mineral corundum is what is commercially referred to as “sapphire”. The mineral comes in a range of colors.
However, you will never hear about “red sapphire”. What could be called “red sapphire” is instead known as ruby. On the other hand, colorless corundum is called white sapphire.
Lab Grown White Sapphire
Rubies and sapphires were among the first gemstones to be artificially made in the lab. Since pure white sapphire is rarely found naturally, it’s likely that more than 90% of the brilliant white sapphire available on online jewelry stores are created in the lab by professional gemologists.
Sapphires can be created in two ways: melting and solution
Creating Sapphire Through Melting
The melting process was the first to be used and is inexpensive. In this method, flame fusion is done.
The main mineral in corundum is aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide, which is in powder form, is melted using a flame. The melted powder then forms a boule (a teardrop shape). When other minerals are added to the melted aluminum oxide, they result into different colors of sapphire.
Creating Sapphire Through Solution
The solution process of sapphire creation is known as hydrothermal synthesis. The process emulates the natural or physical way that sapphire forms.
Here is an overview of the process:
A minute seed of naturally-obtained sapphire is put in a chamber placed under high temperature and extreme pressure, similar to that in the earth. While under these conditions, the crystal seed creates other sapphire crystals as the mineral solutions starts to rise.
This process is the same as that used to create lab diamonds.
Diamonds occur naturally and are mined from the ground. However, there are also diamonds that are created in the lab.
Both of these are real diamonds.
About 100 miles deep into the ground, you will find graphite. Graphite is the mineral form of carbon, and carbon is used to make diamonds.
Inside the ground, immense pressure and temperature force the molecular structure of graphite to change. The process takes place over billions of years and, in turn, diamond is formed.
We don’t really know if this is what exactly happens. However, geologists and scientists assure us that is it. Furthermore, there is no machinery that can allow us drill that far into the ground.
The fairy tale of Snow White can be a good place to start if you have little information about diamonds. You will see large sparkly diamonds being gotten from the dwarves’ mines. This is, however, a little misinforming.
When extracted from the earth’s crust, natural diamonds look rough and not shiny. Wondering how they got there? Well, diamond crystals are formed deep into the earth’s mantle and are pushed into the crust by use of volcanic pipes known as kimberlite pipes.
During a volcanic eruption, a substance is forced from the depths of the earth onto the surface. Many years ago, this force was very powerful than it is today. When the force is full, the diamond shoots up through the kimberlite pipes and settles on the crust. This diamond comes very hot from the mantle. However, when the heat cools down, the diamond becomes rough.
Lab Created Diamond Vs White Sapphire: Their Appearance
For a person that has no in-depth experience with jewelry, natural diamond and artificial white sapphire are typically the same thing. To the average person, both of these stones are colorless and shiny. This is why most people buying white sapphire simulated as diamond.
Although the two gemstones may appear the same, there is a great difference in their brilliance. A diamond refracts light to give a subtle rainbow spectrum with white light in it. With cubic zirconia, you will see rainbow light that overpowers the diamond sparkle.
On the other hand, white sapphire gives off a dull silver color.
The difference between the brilliance of diamonds and white sapphire lies in the refractive index. The refractive index of diamond is higher, and this makes it disperse a beautiful light.
Watch the video below for a side-by-side appearance of both diamond and white sapphire.
A high refractive index results in a deep rainbow light. It also gives you an opportunity to assess how good the gemstone is at showing brilliance even through daily use.
White sapphires have a refractive index of 1.77 and while diamond’s is 2.42. From the differences between the two, it is clear that white sapphire will need more maintenance than diamond to stay brilliant.
Mined diamonds that have no flaws, inclusions or blemishes (whether seen with naked eyes or magnification) are rare to find. And if found are sold very expensively. Inclusions are crystals that are normally found in diamonds with low clarity grades.
Blemish-free diamonds are rare to find, especially in high carat weights.
Diamonds with low clarities, like SI and I, look unattractive and have a lower brilliance.
The clarity grading process for colored gemstones or sapphire is very different from that of diamonds. The best white sapphire is one that appears clean through the naked eye. However, some sapphire stone have inclusions too.
Compared to the inclusions in diamonds with low clarity, white sapphire inclusions look cloudier.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond Gems: Retail Price
Naturally occurring sapphires retail at high prices. However, their artificial counterparts are quite affordable even if you want large stones.
The price of a white sapphire engagement ring is determined based on the metal in which it is set. You will find more white sapphire rings set in sterling silver since it looks more fashionable than precious.
This princess cut white sapphire solitaire engagement ring from Zales.com is a good one. It is 5mm, a little close to 1 carat diamond.
The ring is set in an affordable 10K white gold retailing at $299.
Large white sapphires are very popular and their pricing technique is not really based on size. This is why I prefer white sapphire to real diamond. If you want a big diamond piece, it will be more expensive than a big white sapphire.
Natural diamonds are as much as we can mine from the earth. On the other hand, lab created white sapphires can always be artificially made when need arises. This is the main reason why diamonds are more expensive than white sapphires.
Another reason for the pricing difference is that the quality of diamonds is determined differently. White sapphires are largely considered and fall within the family of colorless gemstones. In general, colorless gemstones have varying grades, unlike diamonds.
Diamonds follow the 4Cs system of grading. This system was developed by GIA and follows strict guidelines for assessing the quality of diamonds. Using this technique, the quality of diamond is divided into 4Cs: Clarity, Carat weight, Cut and Color.
By using carat weight, the price of diamond can be increased or decreased. Other qualities such as color and clarity also need to be on the high side for larger diamond pieces.
14K, 18K, 24K or platinum settings are usually reserved for diamonds and, in some instances, moissanite rings. Rarely will you find such settings in lab grown white sapphires.
Platinum rings are usually tough, strong and heavy. Moreover, they do not need to be rhodium-plated like white gold rings.
Lab Created Diamond Vs White Sapphire: Their Worth
Natural mined diamonds and lab grown white sapphire are different in their worth.
You already know the major reasons why lab created white sapphire is far cheaper than natural diamonds. Several of those reasons are related to the value of the stone.
So, what does value mean to you?
Maybe it is what the gemstone may be worth in future or probably the value is sentimental.
Whatever the case, consider buying a diamond and not lab created white sapphire. The value of diamond depreciates. It may not cost as much as you bought it when you try to resell. However much their worth decreases, diamonds are still more valuable than white sapphires. Diamonds have zero resale value since they are unique.
There are strong emotions and sentiments attached to events such as weddings and engagements. This is probably the reason people hold on to engagement rings and wedding bands for as long as they can. They take care of such jewelry as if their life depends on it.
If a jewelry is made of lab created white sapphire, you need to regularly clean it so that it stays in shape. However, even with all the maintenance, the gemstone will still cloud, leaving the stone looking dull permanently. On the other hand, if you but a diamond ring and take good care of it, it will last for generations.
If you buy white sapphire simply because it looks like diamond, you may need to replace it after some time. This means you will have lost the sentimental value of the stone, thus the need to replace.
Lab Created White Sapphire vs Diamond Gems: Other Factors
There are various reasons why some people to prefer cubic zirconia to lab created diamond or vice versa. Here are some of the reasons.
Natural diamonds are mined underground. Some diamonds are mined from places where conflict is the new normal.
With lab created white sapphire, you can rest assured that it originated from the lab and not from a place where blood is shed for the gemstones.
Prior to the Kimberley Process being introduced, jewelers were not really able to trace the origin of diamonds.
You, most likely, have watched the movie “Blood Diamonds” or at least heard about them.
This is exactly what happens in African countries like DRC, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and CAR. In these countries, diamonds are mined solely to fund war and criminal activities facilitated by people in government. A lot of blood is shed and there are many casualties and fatalities as a result of this.
This situation was so disturbing that players in the jewelry industry congregated in Kimberley, South Africa do develop a system of ensuring blood free diamonds are distributed in their countries. This meeting gave birth to the Kimberley Process.
The process has since been used to ensure that the diamonds sold commercially are not connected with blood being shed or atrocities committed in diamond-rich regions.
However, even with the Kimberly Process in place, there are still opponents of how the whole process is done. For example, Brilliant Earth, an online jewelry store seems to think that the Kimberley Process is not reliable enough. For this reason they have a “Beyond Conflict Free” program where they go a step further to find out the source and history of the diamonds in their collection.
The guidelines found in the Kimberley Process do not cover white sapphire, or any other colored gemstone for that matter. Since we know that the lab grown sapphires are just that – lab grown -, we are sure they are conflict free.
Another sure way of knowing you are buying conflict free diamonds is to buy synthetic diamonds. As much as lab diamonds are grown in the lab, just like lab sapphires, they are very much similar to mined diamonds. Only skilled jewelers can tell the difference between the two. Moreover, lab diamonds can be more than half the price of natural diamonds.
If you fear ending up with blood diamonds, you do not necessarily have to buy white sapphire. Instead, go for lab diamonds. You will get the same benefits as you would have mined diamonds. Moreover, you will spend less.
We all want to adorn our beautiful jewelry daily. But how possible would that be if the piece you have is not durable?
How often you will be able to wear a jewelry will be determined by the durability of the gemstone. With a durable wedding or engagement ring, you can wear it every day.
According to the Mohs scale of hardness, diamond is the hardest mineral on earth. Diamonds rate at 10 in hardness. Corundum (sapphire and ruby) follow at a close 9. Topaz, Quartz and Orthoclase follow each other respectively on the scale.
Contrary to what many people believe, the hardness of a mineral is measured by how hard or easy it is for it to be scratched. Therefore, hardness does not mean that the diamond or sapphire cannot be broken or chipped. Both of these gemstones can be shattered, chipped or cracked.
Most people think that high quality jewelry is one which lasts a lifetime. However, diamond and sapphire are natural materials which are bound to chip if hit with enormous pressure. The same also applies to gold and silver.
It is not common for gemstones to chip but they still can. However, thanks to the different settings offered by jewelers, you can protect the gemstone from chipping. For example, the diamond shape you pick can also determine how long the stone will last before cracking.
Among the best ring settings for stone protection are flush, bezel and tension. The low setting of these settings means that the diamond is not likely to knock around.
Diamonds put on high setting risk being caught in fabrics or sticking out. High settings also leave the prong snagging and you may end up losing the center stone as the prong wears down.
Tension settings do not offer the same protection for all diamond shapes. For example, diamond cuts that have elongated pavilions with pointed culets are vulnerable. On the same note, cushion, princess and round shaped diamonds expose the culet, which means they risk being chipped.
Asscher and Emerald shapes do not chip easily as they do not have the same characteristics. However, they are hard to find.
Lab Created Diamond Vs White Sapphire: Conclusion
If there is anything that you have learned from this article, it should be that there are different factors that determine the best gemstone for you. Price is just one of the many factors.
In terms of cost, synthetic sapphire used as a center gemstone will save you money. However, that is just it; cheap and nothing more. The sapphire is scratch resistant, but not as much as diamond is.
Diamonds may not hold the same sentimental value at the time of attempted resale, but at least they do have great monetary value. From the online store you buy, you can trade-up or resell your diamond jewelry.
For example, James Allen allows you to trade-up a diamond you bought from them for another. However, this will only be possible if the new jewelry you want is double the price of the jewelry you want to trade. This means when you trade in your diamond, you get 50% more expensive gemstone.
There are many other added advantages of white sapphires. Some stores like Kay give customers lifetime warranty on sapphire jewelry covering stone loss. This warranty will cover the stone only if you have it inspected in Kay stores every half a year. In case you lose the stone, it will be replaced.
With time, white sapphire becomes dull and appears milky white if it is not regularly maintained. Now that you know this, is the low price worth the value?
Diamonds do not suffer such depreciation. They are resistant to many harsh conditions, apart from extreme temperatures.
Read between the lines yet?
Our recommendation is you should buy diamonds: whether created in the lab or natural, and not white sapphire.
Here is why: Diamonds come in a wide selection and are found in almost all the online stores. Furthermore, diamonds are durable and can withstand our daily routines without losing their brilliance and sparkle.
Now, diamonds can be a little expensive for many people to afford. If you still want diamond jewelry but cannot because the cost is too high, go for a moissanite jewelry as an alternative.