Diamonds are a major investment. While much less expensive than the earth mined variety, lab diamonds are a big financial commitment too. As you weigh your options, you may wonder just how likely these lab generated gems are to break or chip overtime.
So, are lab diamonds unbreakable? Lab Diamonds aren’t fragile, but any diamond, including lab diamonds, have potential to chip or break. They have inclusions and planes that can make them less strong from certain angles than they are from others. A solid hit from a hammer, for example, might be enough to chip or fracture the gem.
My personal experience and research into the durability of diamond will should help you to better understand when, how, and why diamonds break. You’ll also learn how to better protect your diamond from this kind of damage.
Durability Has Multiple Components
One of the strong appeals of a diamond is that it’s considered a ‘Forever Stone.’ Meaning, that it’s durable enough to stand up to daily wear and be passed to future generations as an heirloom. Even though beautiful rings can be made with Cubic Zirconia, for example, they can’t claim to be forever rings. They’ll likely last for years before the stone needs to be replaced, but not indefinitely.
A forever stone can serve as an engagement ring or wedding ring for multiple generations. With each successive generation, the sentimental value increases. The ring becomes part of a legacy of love. It’s a great way to maintain a sense of connection to ancestors. Diamonds are known to incredibly hard, but are they equally tough? Here are some aspects of durability that you should be familiar with.
Toughness: This really comes down to impact resistance. Some materials are flexible enough to give when force is applied, others are ridged and won’t move. They stubbornly withstand pressure until they no longer can and then break. Very hard items are typically very brittle.
A great example is the metal Tungsten-Carbide. It’s an incredibly hard metal. It’s difficult to scratch, because few things are harder than it is. In fact, there’s no harder metal used for rings, but it’s hardness also makes it brittle. If you drop a Tungsten Carbide ring on the sidewalk (or a tile floor) it will often fracture from the impact of the fall.
Hardness: Scratch resistance is the main benefit of harness. Diamonds are the hardest natural material known to man. A hard gem needs less pampering in order to remain scratch free. Scratches can make a gem look old and tired fast, so hardness is important.
Consistency: This has to do with stability of the stone. You need to know that the color of your ring won’t fade or change with time. You also want to be sure that your ring won’t get cloudy with time. Consistency of color and clarity is an important aspect of durability.
For a ring to stand the test of time and become a family heirloom, it needs to be resistant to scratching, staining, color change, breaking, and chipping.
The Durability of Lab Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds are ‘forever’ stones, they’re perfectly capable of standing up to the exposure and abuse of daily wearing.
Hardness: Lab diamonds are as hard as gems come. Mohs Scale of Hardness is a relative scale that compares the hardness of various materials. The hardest materials on the scale receive a grade, or rating, of 10, the softest earn a rating of 1. Lab created diamonds earn a rating of 10. There’s no stone on earth that is more resistant to scratching than lab diamonds.
Toughness: Hardness is the diamond’s primary claim to fame. Hardness is what diamonds are exceptional for. Toughness is an area where diamonds are more mediocre performers. They’re only rated ‘fair to good’ in this area. That essentially means they’re average to above average. Again, the extreme hardness makes diamonds brittle. A strike from a hammer could be enough to chip or break the gem.
The good news, is that you’re unlikely to strike your diamond with a hammer. If you bump into something at the office, your diamond is extremely unlikely to chip or break. It would typically take a drop onto a hard surface or a really hard, and direct, blow to inflict serious damage.
There are general stone characteristics that apply to lab grown diamonds, all diamonds have individual characteristics too. The toughness of a particular stone has a lot to do with inclusions and other natural weak points in the stone. Jewelers, or laboratories like GIA and IGI can make you aware of any weak points that they observe in your particular diamond.
When we talk about hardness, we reference the Mohs Scale. In discussing the toughness of a lab grown diamond, we measure and report them in terms of pascal (a unit of pressure) units. A megapascal (or MPa) equals one million pascal. The general ‘toughness’ of diamond is believed to be roughly 2 MPa. There are one thousand MPa in a GPa (Gigapascal). We don’t know the precise tensile strength of diamond. Individual strength has to do with the weak points that are unique to each stone, but researchers have found that in general the tensile strength of diamonds could be as high as 225 GPa.
On a personal note, my wife has had her diamond ring for 20 years now. It’s survived the bumps and scrapes that you would expect through all those years and six children. She doesn’t protect and coddle the ring much at all. When she drys clothes, it’s always on high. She doesn’t want clothes that need special pampering.
She treats her ring similarly. She’s not intentionally rough with it, but the ring has to live her everyday life without getting babied much along the way. Still, after two decades, when it’s cleaned, it looks as good as the day it was purchased. It’s a forever ring that hopefully get passed down to future generations.
Consistency: Man-Made diamonds have absolutely consistent and stable coloring. Your lab diamond won’t yellow or change as the years roll by. It also shouldn’t get permanently cloudy. As your ring collects dirt and natural oils over time, your diamond may lose a little of it’s sparkle until it’s cleaned again. You may not even notice how dirty your diamond has becomes, because diamonds are such sparkly stones. Once cleaned, your diamond should sparkle with all of its original fire and brilliance.
Would You Be Safer Investing in an Earth Mined Diamond Instead?
You may be wondering if there would be advantages to buying an earth-grown diamond instead. There are absolutely no advantages to the mined diamond in terms of the natural characteristics. Mined diamonds aren’t harder, tougher, more consistent, or more beautiful. They definitely are a lot more expensive though. That’s really the only thing you gain—the pleasure of paying more for the diamond that they pulled from the ground. Unfortunately though, since they’re visually indistinguishable, no one will be able to tell that it’s a mined diamond anyway.
How Can Lab Grown Diamonds Break?
Your hobbies are probably the biggest threat to your diamond. If you have an active hobby that could cause your hand to strike rocks or other hard objects occasionally, you’ll want to take off your ring before participating each time. Drops or hard blows while doing yard work or playing are the most common likely threats to you diamond.
My wife and I spent several hours in the ocean today. The waves were relentless. Every wave carried sand and shell fragments to shore. There were some pretty powerful waves. Several large shells hit my ankle really hard at one point. If those shells struck a diamond ring, maybe the impact could have caused chipping damage. You obviously wouldn’t want to wear your diamond ring into the ocean for a number of reasons, but again, you have to think about the potential risks of your activities and take precautions.
How to Protect Your Ring Damage
The first step is prevention, make sure that you buy a ring that is less likely to chip. Since diamonds can be brittle, it’s really important to make sure that you purchase a diamond with an excellent cut. If a cutlet isn’t cut to proper dimensions, or the girdle area isn’t thick enough, the diamond will be more prone to chipping. Cut is the most important of the 4 C’s of diamond value. A symmetrical, well proportioned, cut will help your ring to have maximum sparkle and maximum durability. Because well-cut gems won’t have particularly thin and vulnerable edges, your diamond will be less likely to chip.
Again, take off your ring before engaging in physical activity at the gym, with hobbies, or in the yard. If you don’t like being without a ring during those activities, you can look into buying an inexpensive wedding band or simulated diamond ring. Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia, White Sapphire, and White Topaz are all options that you might want to consider.
To protect your ring from the dirt and oil build-up that can dull the look of your ring, at least until cleaned, avoid applying hand lotion while wearing your ring. Also, take off your ring to wash your hands or applying hand sanitizer. You also shouldn’t wear your ring while using chemicals to clean your home. All of these precautions will help you keep your rings looking its best.
Finally, it’s a good idea to consider Insuring your ring. You can do that by calling your insurance agent and asking about options. Ring insurance is just a rider to your existing homeowner’s or renter’s policy. It shouldn’t cost much, but will give you a lot of peace of mind.
My sister had her diamond ring fracture years ago. Fortunately, she had the ring insured, so her insurance company paid them for it. It would have been very difficult for them to be able to replace at the time if they didn’t have insurance on it. She likely would have had to wait years before getting a new one. Luckily, because of her coverage, she got a check to cover the value fo that ring, and was able to get a new stone for it.
Will Lab Made Diamonds Pass Diamond Tester Machines?
There are various types of diamond testing machines. Lab made diamonds will sometimes give an inconclusive reading on the lower quality machines that many jewelers have. Jewelers often send those gems to big laboratories like GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and IGI (International Gemological Institute) operate for testing on more capable machines. Those more advanced machines will be able to distinguish earth grown diamonds form man-made diamonds every time.
Are Lab Created Diamonds Worth Anything When Resold?
Jewelry sized diamonds aren’t great investments. They typically don’t appreciate much, and certainly not very quickly. You’ll likely only be able to recover about 30% to 50% of your original purchase price is you resell your diamond right away. Lab Created diamonds are still fairly new to many people, so it may be a bit harder to find an educated buyer for your man made gem. Still, you spend a lot less purchasing your lab created diamond, and ultimately have less money at risk.
What is the Difference in Lab Diamonds vs Real Diamonds Cost?
Lab diamonds are ‘real diamonds’ too. They have all the same chemical, physical, and optical properties. Though they’re visually identical to diamonds mined from the earth, they typically come at roughly a 40% discount. The savings can sometimes be even larger, depending on the brands you’re shopping.