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Your Take: Synthetic Diamond Engagement Rings

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This is the start to a new series called Your Take where I throw out a question for all of you folks to sound off on and share some thoughts that have already been shared on the subject. No, I’m not being lazy, I just think there’s a collective wisdom out there that should be leveraged for some serious learning…

This week I wrote a post about synthetic diamond engagement rings that has gotten an above average number of comments and I’d really like to highlight a few that were made and then give everyone a chance to comment some more about the idea of synthetic diamonds. The original article was actually a question posed to ethicists at a personal finance site about whether to divulge to your fiancee that the diamond you gave her was actually man-made (or CZ or whatever).

Patrick said:

I wouldn’t have any problem buying a synthetic diamond, as it is still a diamond. But I would also be honest with my fiance about the situation and tell her that for the same money, I could buy her a nicer stone. Or give her the option of having a smaller ‘real diamond.’ Many women are understanding and care more about the fact they are getting an engagement ring than what the stone rating is – as long as it looks nice! ;)



That said, I would stay away from CZ unless that is all you can afford. Then, your fiance just has to understand the situation. If she doesn’t, then it might be time to reconsider buying any ring.

Cindy said:

It is not what it costs – it is what it is about – love – quality would not be important to me – quantity (love) would be! I am in fact shopping right now for a ring as I am planning a wedding and there is no way we are spending what I have spend in my previous marriage on a ring. As I said it is what it is about – where it came from is – from the heart!

A lot of the commenters were men and so if there are any women out there (I hope that there are), I’m sure everyone would love to hear the recipient’s side. Be honest! It’s the internet and you can be anonymous if you want to be!

{ 23 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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

  1. My wife loves her “Russian” diamond earings. Noboby can tell.

  2. mapgirl says:

    Hey Jim,

    I wrote about lab diamonds a while ago. Sadly, my friends did not get engaged.

    Wired Magazine had a great article about how they are made a few years ago. I suggest everyone read it for a better understanding of their quality. Lab diamonds due to their process are EXTREMELY PURE, much purer than mined diamonds.

    I am troubled that your commenters focus on the human ethical issue versus the environmental one. Both diamonds are terribly polluting, but in different ways. I would suggest wearing neither, but that would be unrealistic. I, personally, would pick either a second hand gem or a lab diamond, since a commercial lab producing diamonds would have to have a commercial disposal process for their effluent streams, which have more abatement process control than strip mining a mountain.

    I’m nowhere near thinking about this subject for myself, but I am concerned for my friend who once told me that she’d rather get a diamond engagement ring from her boyfriend than put a down payment on an apartment in Manhattan. Honestly, I told her she needed a shrink to sort out her issues about love and money. I got engaged once with a very small sapphire and turned down another diamond ring. It’s not the bling. It’s the love. And it could be symbolized by a pint of ice cream and walk on the beach, not some fancy ring.

    Sorry for the long comment, but having watched marriages form and dissolve, and knowing that money is important, I am not sure that an engagement ring is vital to happiness in a marriage but trust, commitment and communication. (Sorry to get preachy on you since you have pending nuptials!)

    Of course, in no way do I think the guy in the CNN Money Ethics article you mention in the earlier post should pass off the fake as the real thing. NO FREAKIN’ WAY. A bald faced lie is a terrible way to build a foundation of trust.

  3. mapgirl says:

    Oh. And another thing. Large stones look crappy on my fingers. Nothing larger than .75 carats looks good. Everything else screams ostentation and I’d probably break it/scratch it while fixing my motorcycle.

  4. If the love is real then make the diamond real. Now ponder this: Why would you buy synthetic in the first place? To get a larger stone with greater clarity? Does that speak highly to your values or your commitment? Why not start with a smaller, high-quality “real” diamond? Just like your marriage, your engagement ring (and stone) should reflect who you are. The ring can evolve and grow… You can always add more, smaller, “real” stones around the original engagement stone as your marriage grows…

    Or, if it reflects your relationship, why do you even need a diamond? You may consider a completely different stone or just use a wedding band with some meaningful words inscribed on it…

  5. k says:

    I am a woman whose boyfriend is far more obsessed with the rock than she is. I wish he would just get me a moissanite (or lab-made sapphire, or nothing at all) but he feels like he should get me a diamond. We’re not engaged yet, we’re just in the preliminary talks, so no word on how this will all shake out eventually.

    That said, even though I don’t especially value diamonds, I would be really upset, and even a little angry, if he gave me a stone he claimed was a diamond but that was really a different stone. I don’t like to be deceived, and I don’t think it would show very much respect for me or for our relationship to treat me like such a delicate flower that I could not handle the truth. It would make me question his integrity in future money matters, since he obviously cares more about how I perceive him than about interacting honestly and kindly. How do I know I can trust him if he said he paid our credit card bill but instead let the balance slide? That he really is withholding money for his 401(k) rather than blowing it on toys? I would feel like I needed to verify everything he told me about spending, billpaying, saving, etc., which is such an unpleasant and unhealthy dynamic. And that’s just the financial fallout.

    No, one should never lie to one’s partner about this. Or really, about much of anything.

  6. Beth says:

    I’m not engaged, but I would hope if it comes to that point, the gentleman in question would know me well enough that I’m not looking for big and fancy. I don’t really care about what the “diamond” is, as long as it’s small and of good quality.

  7. Tina says:

    My boyfriend and I discussed rings at the start of our relationship, actually … he’s a planner like that, wanting to know what I’d like before we got too involved and asking would be telling. ;)

    Anyway, I told him I wanted a clear stone (I don’t have any special preference for colored ones … and I want one that clearly declares to my society “I am married,” if that’s what I end up doing) … but I’d be perfectly happy with a fake diamond. He was surprised at that, but it’s true.

    And then we got into the “I’d like a ring that doesn’t contribute to the killing of people,” which is a much more difficult goal to achieve.

    Anyway, yes, I’d rather have a pretty ring with a tiny stone (lab-made or not) and a good financial start on our future than some big bling-bling.

    Tiny bling. Not big, budget-busting bling.

    I also agree with K … it would be hurtful to be lied to about what your ring was made of … it’s a symbol of your commitment … you don’t want a symbol of a deceitful commitment. If your potential spouse isn’t understanding about the budget you have to work with, maybe that’s a good sign that you shouldn’t get married after all.

  8. Tina says:

    PS: I found an Internet ring site (mentioned on Lifehacker) that could sell me a small, high-quality real diamond ring for $600. Not sure about the environmental implications there (probably not great), but it’s a good example of how cheaply such things can be done.

    I’d be happy to receive something like that.

  9. MJ says:

    I have a real diamond, and love it! But I am also a very educated shopper from cost per carat, as well as the cost of gold.

    Buy what you can afford and try to have it compliment who she is. Sapphires, Emarld & Rubies are now becoming mainstream as engagement rings, which also means a significant difference in price.

    If you decide on a real diamond, go to a wholesale jeweler! I promise this will be the smartest thing you do. There is a jewelry show I highly recommend which hits many US cities, and you can see hundreds of jewlers and learn what you need to know; see their site http://www.intergem.net/

    And, here’s the best trick: a .98 carat diamond will cost a lot less than a full 1.00 carat…look for a .96-.99 round brilliant diamond; have the jeweler put it on a “cathedral setting” — the height of the diamond tricks the eye into seeing the diamond as MUCH BIGGER.

  10. Tim says:

    MJ, there is no such thing as a “wholesale jeweler.” any shop that tells you they are, is flat out lying and uses “wholesale” as a sales gimmick.

    there is a wold of difference between synthetic diamonds and lab diamonds. then you have enhanced diamonds and coated synthetic diamonds. i guess the issue at hand isn’t whether to choose between a synth, lab, enhanced, or natural diamond, but the reason you are buying one over the other. if you are buying synth, lab, or enhanced to pass it off as a natural stone but for far less but larger stone, then i say that tells something about you.

    buy what makes you happy, not what is going to make other people say wow or make other people feel impressed. if you buy into the whole engagement ring thing, then the ring is about you, not about other people.

    if you are buying a synth, lab, enhanced, buy it because of other reasons versus wanting to pass it off as a natural diamond. this usually follows that you are trying to impress other people rather than yourself, b/c in the end you know the origins of your stone.

    i like the idea of natural diamonds so that is what i would buy if i was buying a diamond.

  11. Well, since you asked for a female perspective:

    First off, don’t lie. I assume the reason someone would consider lying is that they can’t afford to buy the diamond in question. Why start off marriage with a lie about finances? Money is a big part of marriage and eventually the woman is going to figure out that the man doesn’t have as much money as he pretends he does … and then the relationship will get ugly.

    As for the diamond itself, well, I’d want a real diamond unless money was really, really tight so the diamond would be really, really small (the kind where people joke about where the diamond is), in which case I’d want a fake diamond of about one-half carat – big enough to be seen and avoid the bad jokes. And after years of saving money and accumulating lots of wealth, I’d want a gorgeous real diamond (not too showy though!) for an anniversary present.

  12. female perspective says:

    I would feel deceived if a guy tried to pass off a synthetic diamond as a natural stone without telling me. What else would he deceive me about? Personally I want the real deal, but I can see the value in making an informed joint decsion to buy a synthetic diamond.

    The function of a ring is not to express your love, it’s a symbol telling other people that you are married. If you choose a tatoo over a ring (a la Pam and Tommy) that tells you something about the couple, if you choose a nontraditional stone that tells you something as well.

  13. Hypothesis says:

    I would understand the need for full disclosure if a synthetic diamond were somehow inferior to a natural stone, but that is not the case. The synthetic is just as pure, just as beautiful, just as durable, and even more perfect. Are these not the traits of which the diamond is intended to remind us? The only thing that the synthetics do not have that the natural stones do is cost, and that (NOT lack of symbolism) is the actual problem.

    Imagine, for case of argument, that synthetics actually cost more than a natural stone – that you actually had to pay for the more-perfect stone. Any woman who received a synthetic diamond would happily flaunt the additional expense that shows “how much her husband loves her.”

    The much-discussed symbolism of a diamond is not the in the properties of a diamond itself. Instead, the diamond is a symbol of how much the man is willing to sacrifice for the woman. While this is still a (sort of) romantic idea, it pokes holes in many of the arguments above.

  14. Diamonds: The biggest marketing scam in the modern world. If I get a diamond for my engagement ring, it will be because it came from a family heirloom ring.

  15. k says:

    Hypothesis, yours is flawed. The reason I would be upset at receiving a synthetic diamond passed off as real is not because I see synthetics as being inferior to naturally formed stones. I actually don’t see them as being inferior, and in a lot of ways I think they are superior (see Stephanie’s comment that they are the biggest marketing scam in the world.) I would be upset because I was lied to. I would be even more upset to receive a “real” diamond that my boyfriend had passed off as a CZ/moissanite/etc. because then I’d be worried about the human rights abuses and lack on environmental controls in the stone’s mining and processing.

    The bottom line is that I just don’t believe it is OK to lie about it, regardless of what form the lie takes.

  16. guinness416 says:

    There was something very sad to me about that whole question that I can’t quite put my finger on, although I’m probably reading too much in. I’m just picturing the guy in turmoil over what “is expected”, his notion that the little woman wouldn’t work with him, the suggestion in the question (he’s building the house, he’s buying the ring) that she has no say in the finances, the apparent lack of communication. Like many of your other commenters the lie would be the issue for me, absolutely.

    For goodness sake there are any number of nice non-diamond rings or other pieces of jewellery available if money is tight. I wish people wouldn’t think the fairy story is a necessity; I know one can-do couple who had a small, funky wedding with dollar store plastic rings and they have a wonderful marriage several years on – and got some nice expensive rings a few years later when they could afford them. I’m a woman who doesn’t have an engagement ring (we got married on something of a whim) and am very happily married nonetheless!

  17. Trixie says:

    My boyfriend and I have already had this discussion, and he understands that I do not under any circumstances want a real diamond. The diamond industry and their marketing are a scam and a sham and I want no part of the nonsense. I would proudly wear a man-made diamond or other colored stone.

    What I want is a ring that is well made in a style that I like that I can wear for many years. I may or may not change the ring as time goes on. Regardless, it will always signify my life-long commitment. What I do not care about is the “perceived” value or rarity of the stone or stones in it.

    My mother has diamond jewelry that she will someday pass on to me, and I will cherish it because it will have sentimental value. But as hard as I have tried to ascertain the quality of the diamonds in any of these pieces, I cannot. Nor can I tell you with any layman’s description how I can tell they are real as opposed to not real.

    So why would I want to spend a fortune on real diamonds when I don’t see the value? For me, the ring will indicate my relationship status, and will be a style that reflects my own style, but it will not be an “investment” in itself. The love we have that we will share forever is all that matters to me.

    I guess it should come as no surprise that I also do not want a wedding – I just don’t see how spending tons of money and stressing out will make our union any better than it already is.

  18. EAC says:

    It’s interesting how several posters assume that a fake diamond will never be identified. There are several times that the truth will out. First, if the proud recipient takes it to be appraised for insurance purposes. Second, if the fake diamond jewelry is taken to a jeweler for repair. The jeweler will blow the whistle pretty quickly, so that they aren’t accused of swapping real stones for fake ones. And third, if the ring’s recipient has a friend who’s a jewelry buff like myself – something that happens nowadays with the popularity of bling. They might not be able to pin it as a moissanite versus a CZ, but a few good questions will make things awkward, and there’s always, “That looks fabulous! You should have it appraised and insured!” coming back around.

    I’m another woman who agrees that I’d rather have a partner tell me the truth, that a large diamond ring isn’t in the budget, than to have a fake diamond given to me. I would happily accept a low-budget alternative ring (a garnet, a family piece, an antique), or even forego a ring and treasure the honesty. And I used to work for a jeweler, and toyed idly with becoming GIA certified as a gemologist, so if a diamond was given to me, I’d definitely dash off to have it appraised.

  19. Kyle says:

    A couple of quick things,

    Firstly, mapgirl suggests the Wired article on the subject. Much of the information in the article is either suspect or just downright absurd, such as their suggestion that a CVD diamond can be made for $5/carat. It suffers from poor journalism and one should look elsewhere for information on the subject.

    Secondly, there is almost no pollution created by CVD diamond growth. The cooling water can be recycled, and the process primary “waste” is a small stream of hydrogen. That, too, could be recycled if so decided. A manufacturing plant growing CVD diamond could use fewer chemicals than your average janitorial service.

    The only significant consumption in CVD diamond growth is hydrogen and power. Trying to figure how much power would be used is tricky. It would be a tiny fraction of the power used in a strip mining operation, but would likely result in fewer (but larger) gems.

  20. Kathy says:

    I got a synthetic ring for my engagement. I found out that it was not a “real” diamond. I was really upset and it started out engagement and marriage off on the wrong foot. He should have been honest and up front. I would have thought it was a good idea. It’s not “ok” to lie about it and if you try to pass it off she will find out… when going to get the ring cleaned, re-sized, appraised or whatever- it will happen. Buying a synthetic ring is a GREAT idea, great way to save and have a wonderful ring- but more importantly you must express your love with honesty.

  21. Stefanina says:

    The thing I love about diamonds is the refraction or the “sparkle”. Since a lab made stone is equal to a natural stone in that regard, I’d be happy with a lab stone, as long as the price is reflective of the stone’s origin.
    I would of course, want to know that an engagement ring stone is lab made, so it would not be a surprise the first time I went to have the ring cleaned or the prongs tightened (I am admittedly very hard on rings)

  22. T. L. says:

    I am a stickler for rocks and diamonds are my thing so there is no question in my mind that this would be very important to me as a piece of my collection of jewels. That said, I find pawn shops to be a great option for diamonds that are affordable. I have often said that if I had to do it again, I would research pawn options and have the stone reset. I wanted an upgrade and went with Costco because it worked well with my budget. Love Costco.

  23. Janie Lane says:

    My guy proposed to me with a cheque… all folded up into a little paper ring…and told me to get whatever I wanted. I know it doesn’t sound super romantic, but it worked for us. I took the money and bought myself a small plain ring, got him some expensive gadgets he wanted and put the rest in the bank for us.

    In my ring shopping though I did a lot of research because I did consider a cultured diamond. What peeves me is companies using the name diamond (as in “lab created diamond” and “man made diamond”) when they are no such thing. If you sell a CZ, or a coated CZ or a “crystalline structure coated in diamonds” YOU ARE NOT SELLING A DIAMOND, so quit using the word. DNL is one of the worst companies putting out crap information about what they sell, but they’re not the only one.

    Companies like Apollo and Gemesis actually create a crystalline form of CARBON, which is a diamond. Diamond = Carbon, and anything that isn’t just C will not have the same optical and hardness properties of a diamond.

    If it’s shiny and pretty and you like it, buy it. Who cares what it is… but companies should be honest and stop trying to confuse sythentics with simulants.

    Oh, and real man-made diamonds (ie. crystalline carbon) made via the HPHT method are by no means flawless. Just like mined diamonds they have inclusions and imperfections.


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