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Your Take: Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

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Diamond Engagement RingIs there still a stigma against “synthetic,” or man-made, diamonds?

Nearly a year ago I wrote about an ethically-sensitive fiance-to-be’s dilemma: should he buy a larger synthethic diamond engagement ring or go with a smaller but “real” diamond engagement ring? The experts naturally advised him to be honest but the question remains whether there still is a stigma over having a man-made diamond versus a Mother Earth-made diamond.

I think the movie Blood Diamond awakened many to the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds but I don’t think it has or can overcome the years of powerful marketing and “tradition.” (Many still drive SUVs, fail to recycle, and do other Earth-unfriendly things in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth) I bought a Mother Earth-made diamond (I was aware of the atrocities surrounding the mining of diamonds in certain areas of the world; for me, I wasn’t aware of man-made diamonds and so I never made a choice) for my man-made lovely wife to be, but given a choice I’m not sure what I’d do.

However ultimately (and sadly), it’s all about comparisons. When people with engagement rings get together, both men and women, the question of size, color, clarity, and cut always comes up. People say they aren’t comparing, but they are. Ladies want to know who has the biggest, sparkliest, etc. and men want to know who bought it. So which is better, a larger synthetic or a smaller natural? The ones with the larger synthetic can sleep knowing they have the larger one, the ones with the smaller natural can sleep knowing they have a real stone. (of course the real bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter, you can’t eat, live in, or drive a diamond)

What’s your take on diamond engagement rings, be it naturally occurring or man-made? Natural is best? Synthetic is best? Everyone is crazy about these sparkly stones and we should be focusing on other things? And when you get a chance, check out this Smithsonian article about how synthetic diamonds are now as good as real ones.

(And what’s up with diamonds anyway? If I was a woman, I’d prefer another gemstone with a little more color, life, vibrancy, character, I don’t know… but then again my opportunity to be different, my wedding ring, is a solid gold band so what do I know)

(Photo by fensterbme)

{ 22 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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22 Responses to “Your Take: Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings”

  1. I think it’s a matter of personal preference. As for the whole conflict-diamonds issue, most diamond sellers (at least the larger ones) by now ensure they don’t carry conflict diamonds. If it’s an issue to you, ask your jeweler – if they’re any good, they should be able to answer that question.

    (BTW: Go with a jeweler. Don’t go with a mall store. I’m biased, since my wife is a jewelry designer, but if you want something truly unique, don’t buy where there are hundreds of rings of the same type)

    As for why not more color in your wedding band: Keep in mind that you wear it for the rest of your life, and colored stones won’t go with every outfit. There’s your explanation 🙂

    Also, if you want a bigger stone, but don’t want to go synthetic, Moissanite might be another option.

  2. Cap says:

    Agree w/ Robert that it’s just preference. I figure you should just get whatever you know the partner would like (or wouldn’t mind). It gets a bit tricky though, I think when you go with synthetic… I mean, how many different brands, labs are there? (Not that diamond buying itself isn’t tricky).

    Diamond ring as a wedding “tradition” (born from marketing) really does make me ponder at times too. It’s so institutionalized that if you even suggest an alternative, people may think you’re just being cheap. But regardless, it is a symbol these days to commitment, romance, etc.; and I suppose its well worth the value associated with them.

  3. mobody says:

    When I got engaged I chose to have a 3 carat synthetic diamond and it looks fabulous. It was not really cheap as far as rings go. I could have gotten a half carat real diamond ring for the same price. But the bigger ring made the statement that I wanted. Also, there were the diamond issues, and not just with “blood diamonds”, but in the way Debeers creates this false demand on the market really bothers me as well. Whats funny is that I really don’t wear much in the way of jewelry but I really like this ring a lot.

  4. Mike says:

    When I bought my wife her engagement ring, I looked into synthetics. Since they are real diamonds I really had no objections to them and figured that going for more bang for the buck was a wiser financial decision (jewelry is a horrible investment).

    Unfortunately at the time (~4 years ago), the only synthetics I could source were fancy colored diamonds. Even though they were substantially less expensive than a comparative natural fancy colored diamond, they were still way more expensive than a normal, colorless, natural diamond–which is what I ended up purchasing.

    Were I to do it again and they were within my budget, I’d have no problem purchasing a synthetic.

  5. Miranda says:

    I don’t like diamonds. I don’t find them attractive. I like emeralds, rubies, dark colored sapphires, etc. At any rate, my husband had a unique band ring (I hate the big rocks that stick up) designed for me with a small, very high quality (non blood) diamond in the center (because he felt we had to have a diamond) and an emerald on either side. I love my ring because it is different — designed just for me by an independent artisan — and because the diamond isn’t all that prominent.

    I feel it’s too bad that we base our worth so often on how our “rock” compares with others’. And I’m even prey to it, because I feel good about how my ring is the opposite of every other ring I encounter.

  6. Darren says:

    I guess it really depends on the girl. The reason that I am buying a .55 carat diamond is because my girlfriend loves diamonds! I’ve told her that I am going to propose to her with a Ring Pop and she says that she will still marry me. The reason that I am getting that size is because it fits well with the ring that she wants. The reason I am getting yellow gold instead of white is because she hates rhodium plating.

    The point is to make the girl happy, because if it was up to a guy then he would just buy her a 12-gauge and call it even. Honestly, if a guy had a choice, would he spend $2000+ on a tiny rock or a motorcycle?

    I do think that there is a stigma against Synthetic vs Man Made. I would feel slightly cheap if I got a man made instead of a synthetic ring. Doesn’t really have the same appeal I guess, maybe it’s because I always hear, “Are those real?!” whenever people see diamonds. If they aren’t blood diamonds then why get a fake one? They aren’t cheaper that I can see.

  7. David Wynn says:

    Personally, I’ve always been suspicious of “tradition” that requires a purchase from a global monopoly.

    I think the most important thing is to talk to your future-spouse and see what they think. I talked with mine about it, and we decided that synthetic was fine, and not what people would be looking for in a comparison.

    Besides, it’s still a “real” diamond. It’s just not pulled out of the ground.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Diamond engagement rings only became the “traditional” engagement symbol as a result of an extensive marketing campaign by De Beers in the 1940s. The standard that an engagement ring should cost 2-3 months salary is also a consequence of this marketing campaign. People attach meaning to diamond engagement rings directly as a result of this campaign, and not because diamonds are inherently meaningful or symbolic. Diamonds aren’t even valuable by virtue of rarity, if you account for massive stockpiles around the world, new sources which are being found, and man made diamonds.

    Perhaps we should break with “tradition” and think of more meaningful symbols of love. I personally wouldn’t wear a symbol of conflict and a result of the influence of good marketing as a symbol of my forthcoming marriage.

  9. cami says:

    I would just as soon be happy without a diamond ring. Though if I were to get one I would prefer a small, conflict-free one of the real variety. However, this is not something that I really need to concern myself with at this point in my life. I would hope that if someone offered me a diamond ring (i.e. propose), he would know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t knowingly wear a blood stone.

  10. FW says:

    I think it’s all personal preference, and when you’re looking at rings you should have a pretty good idea of what your fiance likes or take her shopping with you.

    My engagement ring is a synthetic sapphire on a platinum band, which I love but don’t wear because it doesn’t sit well with my silver wedding band. Someday I’ll either have it sized up for a different finger or have it melted into a pendant.

  11. jen says:

    I have a real diamond and I love it, but I told my husband in the future to buy the fake ones–they are beautiful! I know you can get some diamonds that aren’t ‘blood diamonds’, but why chance it? I will keep the one I have now,but no more for me in the future.

  12. Rachel says:

    I think the whole engagement ring thing is overrated. If somebody is so worried about the size of their ring they might be getting married for the wrong reasons. I don’t need a ring to show my commitment to my husband.

  13. Robin says:

    as a chemist, the view that the “original”, flush with impurities, is more valuable than the pure synthetic seems to only be yet another of society’s hold on traditions that will only wash away with time (and the end of the a source of natural diamonds.) After all, it was only a sleek marketing ploy to establish the clear diamonds as the wedding band standard (I myself will insist on a little more flare.)

    There is one merit to the “natural”s, though; their individual florescence “thumbprint” which is just damn cool. The smithsonian article is here –

  14. the “tradition” to waste money on a diamond engagement ring is an invention of the diamond industry. I suppose the only rationale for throwing a ridiculous sum of money down the drain is the demonstrate that you are willing to thow money away in the pursuit of a marital relationship. An investment in an index fund would be more meaningful.

  15. Alan Z. says:

    My girlfriend and I talked about this actually. She really prefers synthetic diamonds more than a real one.

    Lets get real for a second here…places like nexus diamond offer GIA certified synthetic diamonds. The same ppl that rate the REAL diamonds. Also, unless your a certified diamond expert with expensive machines, you really can’t tell the difference between a real and synthetic diamond. The process to make these synthetics is the same as a natural diamond just much faster (therefore the minor flaws)

    My girlfriend didn’t want to take the chance in getting a blood diamond and would rather have a larger diamond for much cheaper too. She was more interested in a beautiful ring design than the size of the rock.

    Personally i love synthetics…people are too superficial these days…think what you can do with the money you save…its just a ring with a rock on it that people have hyped up as a tradition throughout history. The insane amount of money ppl spend on rings can easily go towards funding your future life together and not put yourself in further debt.

  16. Cake says:

    Why not vintage? I only have a band – I think the engagement ring is a silly, gaudy game.

    I got a platinum band with 12 inset diamonds from the late 50’s very reasonably. It was great, someone else had enjoyed it, and my husband has a white gold artdeco band from the 30’s. They’re both gorgeous, they were reasonable, and the design sensibility is more timeless. And at this point for these rings, the big issues: conflict, regulated mining, cyanide from gold slag, etc, no longer apply. There’s still the gorgeous art deco mine-cut diamond, platinum and sapphire ring at slightly more than a carat for 2K that got away… One day, I’ll find it. And yes, it was pretttier than any ‘new’ diamonds.

  17. Emilia says:

    I personally prefer synthetic diamonds. They are much more inexpensive, beautiful, and most importantly, guarenteed blood free. I would rather get the synthetic diamond in the size that I want, then compromise for a smaller “real” diamond. Also, the money saved on a snthetic can be put towards your future together. Nexus labs has some beautiful rings, for a fraction of the price!

  18. mm says:

    where can u buy a synthetic ring?

  19. Pamela says:

    I know that it’s a choice between whether you want a synthetic or natural diamond. There’s something to be said for not marrying for the money and not needing a giant diamond engagement ring. At the same time, there’s the tradition – I think the idea is that if your husband dies, you can live for several months by selling your ring. While that no longer applies today, at least it shows sacrifice, thoughtfulness, and caring.

    And you don’t actually have to spend a lot of money to get a real diamond. Some of the loose diamond sites will sell diamonds for dirt cheap – even cheaper than blue nile and way cheaper than local jewelers.

    The other issue is traveling. If you happen to find yourself in a really terrible situation while traveling – I know it sounds far-fetched but it’s added security – you might be able to buy your way out of it with a real diamond.

  20. Tara says:

    When my Fiance and I began talking about getting married, I encouraged him to look in to buying a synthetic diamond. We both had dreams of something nice, but it happened to be out of our budget if we were looking at a diamond mined from the ground. I dont understand spending that type of money anyway. I would rather put a down payment on a house!!!

    He finally looked in to when he saw an ad in Popular science. He bought me a beautiful 3 stone 2 1/2 total carat diamond ring for around $350. I work in a place where I interact with a LOT of wives of doctors and lawyers who are dripping in mined diamonds, and I ALWAYS get wonderful comments on my ring. They cant tell the difference and I have no interest in letting them know that theirs cost 20 times what mine did.

    My ring is beautiful, no one can tell the difference.

  21. missm says:

    I was all for saving my boyfriend now of 12 years money for our 10th aniversary. We bought a “sitera” diamond. this is supposed to be better than a real diamond becasue of price and warranty. Well we are comming up on our 12 yr aniversary and I won’t wear my ring. the stone is sctrached. It was so noticibly fake from the minute it arrived. way too brillent!!! I never got wow what a beautiful 1 carat diamond ring all I ever heard was “wow nice cubic” I would drop it in coffe every morning just to darken it so it would at least look a little real. I have a real ruby and cubic zirconia ring and the stones in that look better than mine. Now mind you we still paid 895.00 for this ring. I can’t find the original company to use my warranty. I’m screwed. Next time I would buy a piece of glass or cubic before theses so called man made diamonds. I feel so bad for wasting my boyfriends money.

  22. Steph says:

    My boyfriend & I are both chemists, and we work with synthetic materials every day. I am not apposed to a synthetic ring one bit. I do, however, know that he intends on getting me a ring where the main stone is NOT a diamond. Diamonds are not very rare and aren’t deserving the the “precious stone” label they have been given.

    As for all of this tradition surrounding weddings, we can thank Queen Victoria and her followers for that. She started the white wedding dress trend, the engagement ring trend and the bazillion-teared wedding cake trend. Although she didn’t push for these to become trends, she was very popular and trendy, which leads to everyone wanting to be just like her.

    I wish I could get away with a small wedding, but the little girl inside of me wants so much more! We will stick as best we can to our budget and consider our parents’ financial help as a bonus if they offer any, but I also want to share this day with all of our family and friends. The one good thing about living 1200 miles from home is that 99.9% of my 200+ member family will most likely not come, which makes for a MUCH cheaper affair without having to slash the guest list and offend a large number of people.

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