I've already written about how fun and unique colored stone engagement rings can be. But for some, there's still nothing quite like the sparkle and tradition of a diamond.
So what to do when you love the brilliance of a diamond, but are just not loving the questionable journey a diamond makes from the mine to your finger? Or your need for bling is bigger than your wallet? Luckily, alternative engagement rings don't have to actually look alternative. It's time to head to the lab!
Science is amazing — there are some truly brilliant gems coming out of the lab these days. Chances are no one would ever know that the sparkling lab rock on your hand is not really a mined diamond, unless you want to tell them. I have three favorite diamond alternatives — synthetic diamonds, new high-end diamond simulants and moissanite.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that the formal, regulated diamond mining industry is actively working to keep mining conditions safe, to ensure stones are conflict-free by creating the Kimberley Process Certification System and continually developing practices to reduce the amount of environmental stress caused by mining. You can learn more about these initiatives at DiamondFacts.org.
Synthetic (Man-Made) Diamonds
Let's start with the obvious: the synthetic diamond. These are exactly what they sound like: DIAMONDS! They look like a diamond, they last forever and consist of 100% carbon on the molecular level. The only difference is that they are not mined from the earth, so they are automatically free of ethical and environmental mining implications.
Natural Diamonds are formed in primeval carbon-rock structures at least 93 miles underground and brought to the surface through volcanic activity — they are the world's hardest substance. Grown diamonds are created in a laboratory environment that simulates this process and at a faster pace. The lab grown diamonds are really amazing in their raw state (shown below).
In fact, synthetic diamonds can contain the same variations found in natural diamonds. Even an expert jeweler's test will show that it's a diamond. While these are more expensive than the other two diamond alternatives, keep in mind they are actual diamonds. So if a real diamond is what you want, synthetic diamonds are the best of both worlds.
There is currently debate over the confusing term "synthetic" used for these diamonds (shown above in the rough). So don't be surprised if you see them referred to as "laboratory-grown" in the future to help clarify their real diamond status.
Diamond simulants are probably closer to what you imagine when you hear "lab diamond," but gone are the days of settling for a foggy, yellowing cubic zirconia.
There are labs producing simulants that are changing the game of imitation diamonds. Some high quality simulants are physically and optically identical to a diamond, but on the molecular level they are very different. They can consist of as many as 10 different elements vs. a true diamond's one element of carbon.
These beauties won't be confused for a real diamond when tested by a jeweler, but to the naked eye they might actually look better than the real thing. In fact, since they're created using a carefully selected scientific cocktail, some are internally flawless and completely colorless. And for a fraction of the cost of both mined and synthetics, a quality simulant can be a great choice for both looks and budget. Plus, they often come with a lifetime guarantee.
Finally, my new favorite diamond alternative is Moissanite. These stones have fire you have to see to believe. Think disco ball for your hand! These gems are not for the timid though — they outshine any diamond with their rainbow brilliance. I'll be the first to admit that its sparkle might be too much for some, but I certainly love it!
In addition to the sparkle, I also love the almost romantic story behind this gem. Yes, it's made in the same sterile lab environment as the others, but it mimics very rare silicon carbide crystals originally discovered inside meteorite fragments in 1893 by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Henri Moissan (shown below attempting to replicate the crystals in his lab).
You really can't go wrong with any of these diamond alternatives. I'd love to help you find the perfect diamond alternative for your dream ring.