Why Synthetic Diamond is an Incorrect Term for Laboratory Created Diamonds

Are lab grown diamonds synthetic?

While synthetic diamond is a commonly used term for a laboratory-grown diamond, Ada Diamonds contends that synthetic diamond is not a scientifically accurate term for lab created diamonds, as there is no synthesis required to grow a diamond in a laboratory. Diamonds are merely a form of carbon, not a complex molecule synthesized from multiple precursor elements.

Just as synthetic oxygen, synthetic gold, and synthetic carbon are scientifically inaccurate terms, synthetic diamond is a scientifically incorrect term.

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Why Synthesizing a Diamond is Not Possible

Synthesis is the execution of chemical reactions to form a more complex molecule from multiple chemical precursors

According to Merriam-Webster, the growth of diamonds in a laboratory is not synthetic, as a grown diamond is not a complex molecule, nor does it require multiple chemical precursors to create a diamond. From a scientific standpoint, growing a diamond is merely changing one form of carbon (graphite) into another form of carbon (diamond). 

Yet Synthesizing Sapphires & Rubies is Possible

Diamond is unique in that it is the only gemstone that is not made of complex molecules. Therefore, a lab grown diamond cannot be synthetic; however, a lab grown ruby, sapphire, or emerald, could be considered synthetic as it is synthesized in a laboratory from multiple chemical precursors.

Gemstone &
Chemical Formula
Number of
Atoms per
1 N/A
2 5
4 29
3 7
5 13
4 46

Shared with written permission from Compound Interest. Click on the Image for a larger view.


Alternative Facts & Alternative Definitions

De Beers argument as to why laboratory-grown diamonds should be called synthetic diamonds is that: 
'Synthetic' is from the Greek ‘Sunthetikos’ meaning ‘expert in putting together’ and is applied to ‘a substance or material made artificially by chemical reaction’

 By De Beers' definition, any mined diamond that is cut and polished into a gemstone by an 'expert in putting together' gemstones is a synthetic diamond, and any mined diamond that is cut with a laser becomes a 'material made artificially by a chemical reaction' and must be considered a synthetic diamond.

Applying this logic to metals used in fine jewelry, it should be 'synthetic gold jewelry' or 'synthetic platinum jewelry', as the metals are 'made artificially by chemical reaction' by an 'expert in putting together' precious metal alloys for jewelry production.

Utilizing De Beers definition of synthetic, only uncut mined diamonds and unprocessed gold can be considered non-synthetic.

The Fall of the Term 'Synthetic' & the Rise of 'Lab Diamonds'

As clearly evident from Google Search Trends, there has been a shift from 'Synthetic' to 'Lab' Diamonds over the last decade.