Have you ever thought about buying a diamond ring, pendant or earrings, but felt overwhelmed by the multitude of choices, ranging from very expensive to very cheap? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

With the advancements in technology, the rise of sustainable alternatives, and fierce market competition, distinguishing between different types of diamonds has become increasingly difficult. In today’s diamond market, the distinction between what’s considered “real” and “fake” has evolved with the introduction of lab diamonds. Lab grown diamonds challenge traditional classifications as they are neither “real” or “fake” in the conventional sense, instead, they represent a new category altogether, in which they embody legitimacy while simultaneously redefining the boundaries of natural diamond authenticity.

Therefore, it is important to understand the differences in order to navigate the market of diamonds with confidence. Here are several methods that you can use, both at home and with professional assistance:

Note: these tests will not determine the difference between a natural or lab diamond.

At home: (Loose stones only)

  • Water test: fill your glass with water and drop your stone in it. Natural and lab grown diamonds will sink to the bottom due to high density while diamond simulants may float or stay suspended, depending on their material composition (those made with cubic zirconia might float).

Free Water Glass photo and picture

  • Fog test: breathe on your stone to create a layer of fog. It will immediately dissipate from natural and lab grown diamonds due to their excellent heat conductivity, while the fog may linger for a few seconds or longer for diamond simulants due to lower heat conductivity.

  • Spot test. This test is based on the refractive properties of a diamond, meaning how much it bends light. Diamonds have a higher refractive index compared to most simulants, which allows them to bend light to a greater degree. To test this, place a white piece of paper on a flat surface and draw a small dot with a pen. Next, lay the stone onto the dot with the flat side down. Through the pointed end of the stone, look down onto the paper. If you see a circular reflection inside the stone, then it is NOT a diamond. If you cannot see the dot or any reflection, then it is likely to be a diamond. This test however will not differentiate between a natural or a lab diamond. 

The following tests are destructive and can cause serious damage to your stones, especially if they are synthetic or simulants, so extreme caution is advised!
  • Scratch test: Lightly scratch the surface of a mirror or glass with your diamond. (Be cautious not to scratch forcefully to avoid damaging the stone or the surface). Natural and lab grown diamonds can both scratch surfaces without being damaged while imitation /simulant diamonds may not scratch them and might get damaged themselves. (Note: some simulants i.e. moissanite can also scratch glass).

How to spot a fake diamond | Cape Town Diamond Museum

  • Heat test: Heat your diamond with a lighter for a few seconds (around half a minute) and then drop it straight into cold water. Natural and lab grown diamonds will not shatter when exposed to extreme temperature changes due to their ability to disperse heat quickly. While simulants may crack or break due to lower heat dispersion capacity.

For professionals:

  • Conductivity Test: Natural diamonds and lab grown diamonds are known to be good electricity conductors, compared to simulant diamonds. Diamond testers can quickly differentiate between diamonds and their many simulants based on conductivity. However, be cautious, as conductivity testers cannot distinguish between natural and lab-grown diamonds, and many cannot differentiate between moissanite and diamonds. Therefore, ensure you consult a reputable professional that uses the correct testing equipment.

  • Inclusions: professionals often use magnifying glass known as loupe to examine gemstones. Natural diamonds typically show inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes which help determine the stones as natural. A loupe by itself will not be able to differentiate between a natural or lab diamond.  Diamond simulants on the other hand, often appear too perfect and lack any natural inclusions. With just the use of a loupe, a qualified gemmologist will also quickly be able to distinguish between a moissanite and diamond without the use of any expensive testing equipment.  

Free Crop jeweler with loupe and gemstones Stock Photo

  • Sharpness of facets: Compared to diamonds, many replica stones, such as Cubic Zirconia, often feature facets with rounded edges. Diamonds however maintain sharpness in their facets. Additionally, simulants like Cubic Zirconia tend to wear down more rapidly, therefore they are likely to have surface abrasions and scratches. These details can be easily and quickly identified by a qualified gemmologist with the use of a jeweller’s loupe. 

  • Certification check: Natural and lab created diamonds come with a grading report from reputable laboratories like GIA (Gemmological Institute of America) or the IGI (International Gemmological Institute). These reports provide detailed information about the diamond’s characteristics, often confirming the natural diamonds’ authenticity and identifying lab-grown diamonds accordingly. Genuine diamonds often bear a laser-inscribed certification number on the girdle of the stone. Reputable jewellers are usually willing to display this number using specialised equipment. In addition, certification reports can be verified by accessing the respective laboratory websites and using the report check feature with the certificate number provided.

Diamond Certification Royalty-Free Images, Stock Photos & Pictures |  Shutterstock

By using a combination of these tests, you can start distinguishing between natural diamonds and diamond simulants. Lab grown diamonds, however, need additional tests with specialised equipment to determine their origin. For conclusive results, consulting with a professional jeweller or gemmologist is highly recommended as customers can be misled into purchasing simulants or lower quality stones, including natural diamonds that have been artificially treated to improve their appearance. At Gem-imas, we provide highly personalised services tailored to each individual’s needs, whether you're interested in purchasing diamonds or getting yours appraised, book a consultation with us, and our expert certified gemmologist will assist you every step of the way!