Are Lab Created Diamonds Ethical?

Are Lab Created Diamonds Ethical?

I’m often asked about the ethics of diamonds, both lab grown and earth grown. I’ve done a lot of research and given it a great deal of thought. Here’s how I see it.

Are lab created diamonds ethical? Man-made diamonds are absolutely ethical. They have a smaller environmental impact than earth-mined diamonds. They are also ‘conflict’ free, so you can be sure that they aren’t ‘Blood Diamonds.’ Unlike most environmental upgrades, Lab Created Diamonds actually cost a lot less than mined diamonds too.

In order to really understand the ethical landscape of Lab Created Diamonds, you need to understand the issues surrounding mined diamonds.

Ethical Issues with Diamonds

Diamonds have a certain mystery to them. It’s almost magical how black coal can be transformed into the hardest natural materials on earth. Once cut and polished well, light refraction makes it dance with white and colored sparkles. Intense heat and pressure caused the diamond to form deep below the earth’s surface for at least several million years. Hard to imagine!

There’s another aspect of how diamonds get to us that can also be hard to imagine. The human and environmental toll that takes place once volcanic activity transports diamonds from deep below the earth’s crust to the surface. Miners are sent to excavate the Kimberlite veins that contain the diamonds. Mining impacts on the areas mined in several different ways.

Exploitation of People

There’s a very real human toll to diamond mining. At the very least, it’s backbreaking and very dangerous work. Mine walls can collapse, trapping or crushing workers. While excavating earth and picking out rock, minors can often be exposed to harmful elements that they aren’t protected from. One of these harmful materials that minors frequently come in contact with is asbestos. With proper training and equipment the effects of asbestos exposure could be minimized.

Without proper education and equipment, inhalation of asbestos fibers will likely mean serious health issues and significant suffering. Asbestos causes lung cancer among other things. Even when other minors contract serious illness and can’t work, coworkers may feel that they have no choice, but to keep mining so they can provide for their families. Minors are certainly looked at by some operations as disposable.

Lab Created Diamonds are a More Ethical Option
Even though mining is so dirty and physically demanding, it doesn’t pay much. Miners work to take care of the most basic needs of their families. Food and extremely basic shelter, is all that most can hope for. Their existence and future isn’t at all similar to what many in the Western world are accustomed to. When they constantly live hand-to-mouth. Saving enough to improve their standard of living or plan for some sort of independent retirement just isn’t possible.

One income often isn’t enough to provide food and cover school fees in many of Africa’s diamond regions. Many young children that want to learn, and hope for a the better future that education can provide, divide their time between working in the diamond mines and going to school. If they don’t work in the mines, their family won’t be able to afford books and fees. Many others reluctantly drop out of school because all of their time and income is required just to put food on the table. This is especially true if their father is a sick miner that can no longer work, or there are many children to feed and care for in the home.

Diamonds are an 80 billion dollar a year industry. The Jewelry stores that sell diamonds are lavish and beautiful. Major mining companies and distribution channels seem to realize significant profits each year. Why is it that so little of the money stays with the people that perform such hard labor to extract the diamonds from the ground. They live in squalor—especially when compared to most others along the supply chain. Why can’t more fo the profit form each diamond be left in the hands of African miners to help them lift themselves out of their constant to just survive?

Not all diamond miners are paid for their labor. Some are coerced in slave labor with threats of violence or death. Militant groups can take over diamond mines and then bring in slave labor to harvest the gems for them. Anyone that can’t work, won’t work, or that isn’t productive enough may become a gruesome example for the others—to keep them fearful. Slaves have often had their hands or arms chopped off by their captors as punishment for not working hard enough, or not being productive enough.  

Diamonds mined under slave labor and coercion are typically referred to as ‘Blood Diamonds’ or ‘Conflict Diamonds.’ Rape, torture, mutilation, and murder have all been used as tools of the trade to gain cooperation and maintain control through fear.

In 2006 Hollywood produced a movie for the big screen that brought renewed focus and a lot of new awareness to the issue of Conflict Diamonds. The film was called Blood Diamond, and featured Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role. After gaining awareness of the issue, there are many that refuse to buy earth mined diamonds, opting instead for various alternative stones that are conflict free.

In reality, not all diamonds have roots in human slavery. It’s the vast minority of all diamonds that come to market each year, but the difficult thing, is that the Blood Diamonds that do make it into our supply Chain can show up anywhere. They can be in the display case of the jeweler at the mall, a high-end retailer, or a boutique on main st. There’s not way to know the true history of most of the diamonds that you purchase.

If you were to ask your local jeweler if their diamonds are conflict free, they would likely assure you that they all are. The simple reality though, is that it’s very difficult to track diamonds with absolute certainty. The same militant groups that produce blood diamonds smuggle them across borders, intermixing them into the supplies from other nations and mines in order to side-step international mandates aimed at stopping them from entering the market.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), better known as the ‘Kimberley Process,’ is an international mandate made by the United Nations (U.N.) in 2003 that many people had high hopes for initially. In the years since, even the U.N. has had to admit the flaws and failings of the Kimberley Process to stop the flow of blood diamonds into the international market place. Partners like Global Impact and Witness have revoked their support of the resolution, citing the failure of the program to keep Conflict Diamonds out of the diamond supply.

In fact, instead of keeping Blood Diamonds out of the international diamond market, Kimberley only forced the criminals to take a little different route to market. Drug cartels and other organized crime groups launder money to make it appear legitimate. The producers of Blood Diamonds do something similar to make their gems seem like they come from legitimate ‘Conflict Free’ sources. That’s the only way they can get it into the countries that are the biggest diamond consumers.

So when your jeweler tells you that all of their diamonds are 100% conflict free. They’re probably wrong, but they aren’t lying. That’s what they’ve been told. It might event appear that way based on the brands that they represent, but conflict diamonds really can show up almost anywhere

If you still aren’t convinced, think about this. Lab Created Diamonds look just like earth mined diamonds, so much so, that jewelers are sometimes selling consumers man-made diamonds that they thought were earth-mined diamonds. They purchase a shipment of earth-grown diamonds, but tests reveal that some portion of them are man-made. Obviously, they aren’t happy when they paid earth-grown prices for a man-made product.

If you went into the jeweler before they got test results confirming the nature of their diamonds, they would swear to you that all of their inventory consists of earth mined gems. What if there was a testing machine that could detect Blood Diamonds—do you think jewelers would be similarly surprised to find that they’re carrying those too?

How can laws stop criminals that have no respect for the law? Look at the ongoing war on drugs. Outlawing trafficking and possession of certain drugs hasn’t kept them out of the United States or other nations. In reality, the only way to be certain that you aren’t buying a conflict diamond, is to buy your gem from a Canadian mine (if you can be sure of the source), or to buy a lab-grown diamond.

Exploitation of the Environment

Mining is always disruptive to the environment. Diamond mining displaces massive amounts of earth to unearth each gem. In fact, it’s estimated, that roughly 1,750 tons of earth have to be excavated for every diamond that weighs 1 carat or more. That’s significant, because the marketplace is demanding larger-and-larger diamonds.

Eighty years ago, the average diamond engagement ring weighed in at .3 carats. Today, the average is 1.25 carats. That trend, combined with the fact that so many more diamonds are being purchased today, means that the environmental impact of diamond mining is scaling to keep pace with growing demand. That demand, of course, is the product of industry marketing efforts bearing fruit as they take hold in culture.

There are various mining techniques that are used. But the most common and fruitful for large-scale production, is Open Pit mining. That’s a really fitting name, because they literally just dig a huge cone shaped hole that follows lines of diamond rich Kimberlite. The pits can sometimes go over a kilometer into the earth.

Lab Created Diamonds are More Ethical Than Open Pit Mining

Impacts of Open Pit mining can include:

  • Exhaust and power use
  • High water use
  • Water runoff
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Destruction of Habitat
  • Disruption of migration routes
  • Exposure to toxic contaminants
  • Increase of Mosquito population
  • Growth of Mosquito borne illness
  • Damming or Rerouting of rivers or streams

Vegetation roots bind soil and help hold it in place. As vegetation gets killed off in the mining areas as a result of traffic, toxic runoff, or excavation, soil erosion becomes more common. As earth is excavated, elements and minerals that are toxic to humans can be unearthed and left in mounds above ground. Rains can then cause toxic runoff over plants and into nearby waterways. These runoffs have been blamed for the death of area livestock and wildlife.

When water sources are polluted in arid climates, something especially precious is lost. Those waterways are a critical resource for drinking water, laundry, and bathing. Pollution can impact the health of local residents, and force them to travel much further to collect water each day.

As new mines are identified and targeted, new roads are built. Those roads can bring a continual flow of people into areas that are pretty remote and isolated. All the activity from vehicles, people, and machinery can spook wildlife and cause the to drastically change ingrained migration routes and other historic patterns of behavior.

Caribou in Canada have historically migrated across a land that is now occupied by an Open Pit diamond mine. Instead of traveling near the humans that now infest the area, the Caribou have rerouted, traveling about 5,000 miles out of their way to reach their destination. Changes like those aren’t without consequence to the animals that are affected.

The life, migration, and reproduction cycles of fish can also be severely impacted as rivers are dammed or rerouted. Farmers are also victims when waterways are polluted, dammed, or moved. The farms they’ve worked their entire lives (sometimes for generations) turn into unfarmable dust bowls without water to irrigate with.

Mining companies in certain parts of the world aren’t heavily regulated. Even when there are environmentally friendly laws on the books, they aren’t enforced. Because of this, Open pit mines are commonly left as they are, a scar on the land—just a pit for rainwater to collect in, and mosquitoes to breed and multiply in.

With so much stagnant water available as a habitat, mosquitoes thrive. They carry Malaria, Dengue Fever, and other serious illnesses that can sometimes even turn deadly. Mosquito borne illnesses often skyrockets once old Open Pit mines are abandoned.

Nearly all agree that current diamond mining practices in much of the world need to change, because of environmental and human abuses. They favor regulation as a tool for correction. Regulation comes at a cost and only works where there isn’t corruption. If cheating or intimidation is allowed the system breaks. If smuggling happens, as it currently does with conflict diamonds from militant groups, again regulatory efforts fail. Only a small portion of mines currently file regular environmental impact reports. How do you change this so they provide accurate, consistent, and timely information?

Ethical Issues with Lab Created Diamonds

Man-made diamonds do have an impact on the environment, but the the environmental toll is smaller than it is when diamonds are mined from the earth. It would be incredibly difficult to obtain a diamond without any impact on the environment at all, but diminishing the impact is a worth goal, and it’s possible.

Exploitation of People

You can be certain that lab created diamonds are not blood diamonds. No slave labor, or violence, was used to bring the gem to you. People that make a living in the traditional diamond industry sometimes contend that workers in some cultured diamond manufacturing facilities may not be paid much for their work. That they’re being exploited too.

The argument is valid—to an extent. Man made diamonds are manufactured all over the world. Wages are different in each area, because cost of living and competition for workers is also different in each of those areas. The key difference, is that employees in any man made diamond facility are free to leave for a different job at any time. They aren’t being forced to work without pay under threat of violence. Again, those aren’t the conditions for most mined diamonds that come to market, but it is for some portion—and even that amount, is far too many.

If you have made a decision not to purchase earth-grown diamonds because you don’t want to unknowingly buy a conflict diamond, lab diamonds are an ethical choice that will allow you to buy the gem you love without the possible human abuse implications that you fear.  

Lab grown diamonds allow peace of mind and element of certainty regarding the origins of your diamonds that earth produced diamonds typically can’t provide.

Exploitation of the Environment

Growing lab diamonds requires power and water. So, there’s a clear environmental impact, but again the amount of power and water used, per carat of diamond produced is smaller than mining can provide. In fact, a study was done comparing the environmental impact of a specific diamond mine in Canada and the environmental impact of a particular synthetic diamond manufacturer from the United States. Environmental impact reports have to be submitted by law in both areas.

They found that if every diamond produced by the Canadian mine had been manufactured instead in a lab, there would have been enormous savings in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, they estimate that the savings would have been equivalent to about 483 million miles of auto emissions annually.

What about land excavation? An existing building can be used for manufacturing facilities. Even if a new building is constructed, it’s likely to be located somewhere in the city, not in rural locations that are prime animal habitat. On the other hand, in many regions of the world, open pit diamond mines are dug wherever diamonds are—regardless of the habitat implications. Because of where diamond manufacturing labs are typically located, direct disturbance of animal health, habitat, or migration patterns is extremely unlikely.

Even when ground is broken for brand new manufacturing facilities, those buildings are likely to be located near population centers. The digging stops once a hole sufficient for the foundation has been excavated. In open pit mines, the digging only stops once they feel the mining company feels they’ve extracted as many diamonds as it’s economically feasible to harvest from the earth in that location. Again, the hole can sometimes end up more a kilometer deep.

Here’s Where it Gets Tricky

The decision to go with the man-made diamond that has less environmental impact seems easy and obvious, especially because it’s just a durable, equally beautiful, and far less expensive. Here’s where the ethics become more tricky for some.

The people in many diamond rich parts of Africa are desperately poor. They live subsistence lives of continual hand-to-mouth survival. The wealthy people, and organizations, that profit from the diamond trade remind us that any move away from buying earth mined-diamonds could be catastrophic for the impoverished diamond miners that bring them to us.

Michael Kowelski, the CEO of Tiffany’s, told The Guardian that though diamond mining has had a “long and sad association with human rights and environmental abuses,” In some regions, “mining is the only viable engine for social and economic growth.” In light of that, he isn’t sure that not buying earth-mined diamonds is the moral high-ground.

If sometimes feels like these impoverished miners are being used as human shields by the industry that keeps them alive, but also impoverished. How much easier would it be to make the decision to stop the environmental damage that diamond mines are inflicting if the welfare of the miners weren’t a counterpoint? It’s convenient for the industry to keep miners poor. It helps them deflect arguments that are very difficult to address and answer for otherwise.

The statement by Michael Kowelski is fairly typical of all those that profit from the industry. Their view can’t be discounted. It’s valid to an extent, but they have a conflict of interest. They benefit financially from the mining processes that damage the environment and keep miners working long hard days in unsafe conditions for meager pay.

hat’s going to happen when the area’s diamond resources are depleted, and we’ve taken all we can from the land? That day is bound to come eventually. When it does, the people will have no choice but to find new trades or move. They’ll move to find work in other areas, or they’ll move because their area they call home is too damaged to safely sustain life. Is it better for the people or the planet to wait until that point?

Your spending makes a statement. It’s at the leading edge of change. Mining an earth-grown diamond comes at a substantial cost to the environment, and perhaps in the form of human suffering too. On the other hand, when you buy a lab diamond, you can know that it didn’t have the same kind of environmental or human impact. The trade-off, is that it not buying the natural diamond may take away from the ability of miners to earn a living to some extent.

Is it ethical to turn a blind eye to the human and environmental exploitations—even to support miners under such a broken system? Currently, miners seem to get table scraps, just enough to keep them alive, while rich the international corporations that employ them harvest incredible profits. Is that ethical?

So, are lab created diamonds ethical? Yes, of course, but ethics aren’t always easy, and sometimes come with consequences. Earth mined diamonds aren’t likely to go away, but diamond mining’s future scarring on lives and landscapes can be diminished if enough people use their wallets to make their voices heard.

Related Questions:

Are Lab Created Diamond Rings Cheap to Buy?

‘Cheap’ is a relative term, but they certainly are affordable by comparison. Lab Cultured diamonds are typically at least 30 to 50% less expensive than comparable earth grown diamonds. Nothing is sacrificed in exchange for the savings. The Lab stone is made entirely of Carbon, has the same scratch resistance of mined diamonds, and is visually indistinguishable.

What Are the Other Benefits of Lab Grown Diamond?

Because lab diamonds are cheaper, you put less money at risk when you buy them. If the diamond should get lost, stolen, or broken, your financial loss is lower. Diamonds are also often difficult to resell. You’ll commonly lose 50% to 70% if you resell right away. Spending less upfront can lower your downside risk. All of these benefits come without sacrificing on beauty or durability.

What are some Ethical Diamond Alternatives?

Moissanite is probably the non-diamond simulant that’s most like diamond in terms of appearance and durability. Moissanite is entirely lab created. It was first discovered at the impact site of meteorites, and is still primarily found at meteorite impact sites. It’s extremely rare in nature. Once produced in laboratories, we get a hard stone that’s durable for jewelry applications. While not 100% identical, it does look very similar to diamond. Other simulant options could include White Sapphire, White Topaz, or Cubic Zirconia.

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Are Lab Created Diamonds Better for the Environment?

Man Made Diamond Pros and Cons. Big Win or a Huge Waste?

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Why Are Synthetic Diamonds Yellow?

Why Are Synthetic Diamonds Yellow?

Diamonds, even synthetic diamonds, with a yellow hue are common. I’ll tell you why it happens and how shade impacts value.

Why are synthetic diamonds yellow? Synthetic diamonds sometimes take on a yellow hue as they form because of the presence, and arrangement, of Nitrogen atoms in the diamond. The impact on hue can involve various shades of yellow or brown. There are treatment methods that can be used to make slightly tinted diamonds more colorless.

With that basic understanding in place, let’s dive deeper into the ‘whys’, the ‘hows’, and just what it all means.

The Impact of Color

Diamonds that aren’t colorless, typically have some yellow or brown tint to them. Of course diamonds can also naturally be found in dark yellows, oranges, blue, red, and other colors, with some of shades being far more rare and valuable than others.

Fancy colors aside, and with all other factors being equal, The most desirable (and expensive) diamonds are colorless. Colorless diamonds sell at a premium because they’re rare. Most diamonds have at least a slight hint of color to them. Consumers still purchase diamonds that have slight yellow hues because the coloring isn’t incredibly noticeable when paired with the right ring metal and setting (more on that later). Buyers are also willing to accept trade offs in many cases. They’d be happy to take a diamond that’s slightly more yellow, if that means they can now afford a larger diamond for example.

The Cause of Color

Completely colorless diamonds are comprised of pure Carbon. Diamonds that aren’t colorless are comprised on Carbon and some other impurities. Nitrogen is the most common impurity in diamonds. It’s not only the presence of Nitrogen that impacts color, it’s also the arrangement of Nitrogen atoms. The diamond industry has noticed convenient ways to group diamonds based on the presence and arrangement of nitrogen.

There are two major classifications of diamonds. They’re referred to simply as ‘Type I’ and ‘Type II’ (type 1 and type 2). Nitrogen is a common impurity in Type I diamonds. Nitrogen is not a common impurity in type 2 diamonds. Each of those types is further broken down into two additional sub-types.

Type IaA, includes diamonds that have pairs of Nitrogen atoms that are neatly arranged together. Evenly paired nitrogen atoms don’t add color to a diamond, so these stones are typically colorless, or near colorless.  Type IaB diamonds contain Nitrogen atoms that are isolated (not paired) when they’re arranged in large, evenly numbered, groups of nitrogen atoms, they cause a yellow or brown tint to the gem. About 98% of all diamonds currently fall under Type Ia, being a mix of both type IaA and IaB.

Type IIa, includes diamonds that contain no nitrogen impurities whatsoever. These diamonds are typically very colorless. Type IIb includes colored diamonds that contain non-nitrogen impurities. Boron, for example, is an impurity that gives some type II diamonds a beautiful blue coloring. Diamonds that are orange, red, and other colors also also generally type IIb

When Nitrogen atoms are scattered through the gem in more isolated areas without grouping, or pairing, it creates a stronger yellow or brown coloring in the gem. These diamonds are classified as type Ib. Diamonds manufactured through the HPHT (high-pressure high-temperature) process are most commonly type Ib. While earth mined diamonds can occasionally also be type Ib, it’s fairly rare. HPHT is a manufacturing process that uses machines to simulate the intense pressure and heat that helps mined diamonds to grow in the earth. Amazingly, the laboratory can grow a diamond in 6 to 10 weeks, where the process normally takes millions of years for the earth to create naturally.

CVD (chemical vapor deposition) is a newer technology for creating diamonds. CVD isn’t as widely used as HPHT yet. CVD diamonds typically belong to type IIa. These diamonds are far more likely to come out completely colorless than HPHT diamonds are. Because CVD diamonds require far less electricity to make, they’re typically also less expensive to purchase.

Tests can be run using ultraviolet light and Infrared light to distinguish between type I and type II diamonds.

Grading and Communicating Color

All diamonds come in a range of color options. You can find both lab-grown and earth-grown diamonds in a spectrum of color ranging from colorless to nearly colorless with slight tones of yellow or brown, or deeper tones of those colors. A commonly used color grading scale exists to help gem professionals and consumers communicate clearly regarding the portion of value that color impacts.

The scale assigns a letter grade, ranging from D to Z, to a particular diamond based on the amount of color that it may exhibit. A completely colorless diamond receives a ‘D’ rating (the most valuable grade). A diamond that’s severely impacted by color, could be rated at ‘Z’ (the grade reserved for the diamonds exhibiting the worst color qualities).

Color GradeGeneral Color Qualities
D, E, FColorless
G, H, I, JNear Colorless
K, l, MFaint Color
N, O, P, Q, RVery Light Coloring
S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, ZLight Coloring

Again, this same color scale is used for earth mined diamonds and lab created diamonds. Both families of diamonds are available in all color ranges, with the most colorless selling at a premium.

The Impact of Color on Value

A standardized system for grading and communicating diamond value was developed by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) in 1953. The system was adopted and promoted by De Beers. The rest of the industry soon followed suit.

Diamond quality is influenced most by the gem’s characteristics in four main areas. These are commonly referred to as the 4 C’s.

  • Cut
  • Color
  • Clarity
  • Carats (size)

None of the 4 C’s is unimportant. Carat weight is a driver of value, but it’s more about preference than quality. The other three are all important. Without a quality cut, your rings won’t sparkle properly, regardless of how colorless and clear it might be. If it’s extremely colorless and has a great cut, inclusions can still sabotage the ring by blocking and diverting light that would otherwise be entering the ring and then reflecting back out as sparkle.

A quality diamond requires balance across each category. You might decide to make a small sacrifice in one area of the 4 C’s, if it means you can get even more in another area that’s important to you. For example, you could decide to accept a stone that has some very minimal coloring because it might mean that you can then afford to get a larger total carat weight. If color is most important for you. You could make the opposite decision, and opt for a smaller diamond that’s completely colorless.

It’s great that multiple shades are available, so you can find the combination of characteristics that fits your style preferences and budgetary realty best. I all diamonds were colorless, you’d love a valuable component of flexibility.

In reality, the visually perceived difference between a D and an E shade, is minuscule. It wouldn’t be picked up or noticed by others—then why pay for it. The same is likely true in moving from a D to and F or G. This same thing is true when it comes to clarity. You may decide that some simple and non-obstructive inclusions are very welcomed, to bring your overall ring costs down.

Does GIA Grade Synthetic Diamonds?

GIA grades diamonds, both man-made and earth-grown, to provide information and assurance regarding key characteristics of a particular diamond. While they grade synthetic diamonds on the same D through Z scale, they don’t offer as much descriptive detail in reports for synthetic diamonds.

They don’t grade synthetic diamonds the exact same way they grade earth-produced diamonds, instead the report provides a color grade and a more general overall color and clarity description. primarily because they don’t see the same extent of quality variance in above-ground diamonds as they do with below-ground diamonds. With a greater degree of consistency, they seem to feel that the additional components and descriptions really aren’t needed at this time.

GIA is an incredibly well thought of and influential laboratory, but they aren’t the only large and reputable laboratory that can issue grading reports. IGI (International Gemological Institute) is an example of another leading lab that issues full grading reports on lab-created diamonds. Their reporting content for lab diamonds is the exact same as it is for earth-mined diamonds.

Treatments to Make Diamonds More Appealing

Both earth-grown and lab-created diamonds can be ‘treated’ to improve their color by making them more colorless—and therefore more valuable. Treatment could allow an diamond with an I grading to improve in clarity to a D, for example. The treatment can be done using the HPHT process.

Sometimes careful analysis and testing by a trained professional can detect that a treatment has taken place, but very frequently, no physical clues are left behind. It’s when treatments are done at low enough temperature, that evidence of the treatment is essentially non-existent.

Diamonds that are at the far end of the scale (like a W, X, Y, or Z), might be color treated to either mask or enhance it’s natural coloration through a process like CVD or HPHT.  The treatment increases vibrancy, adding richness, and making them a fancy color instead of trying to make them colorless. Fancy colored diamonds can also command a premium.

The Impact of Treatments on Value

Untreated diamonds have the greatest value because untreated diamonds with great color quality are more rare. A colorless treated diamond with a grade of D is much less valuable than a ‘D’ rated diamond that’s untreated. Since some treatments can’t be detected, you often have to rely on the integrity of the company that you buy from. You’re also relying at the same time on the integrity of their suppliers. For this reason it’s important that you only buy from sellers with an excellent history and reputation in the business. It’s also a great idea to avoid buying any kind of diamond jewelry from online auctions sites that connect buyers and sellers. There’s a huge opportunity for fraud in that space.

Most brides should welcome treated stones—not avoid them. What you’re after is a beautiful diamond that sparkles like crazy and lasts a lifetime. You aren’t purchasing your ring as a financial investment. Diamond rings are terrible investments.

Knowing, that, you should use the system to your advantage. You’ll get the most diamond for your money, if you buy a man-made diamond ring, and get one that has been color treated. Again, that just means that it once had more color than it now has. Its appearance now is that you should care about, because the treatment process is permanent. The color will never change with time.

If you can get a colorless diamond that’s been treated for even less than a near colorless diamond that’s untreated—Why not go for it? Who will know (or care) anyway? The vast majority of the people you know, know very little about diamonds. They’re unlikely to know that your diamonds is man-made unless you tell them. They’re even less likely to know that your diamond has been made more clear through a treatment process—In fact, it would literally be impossible for someone to know by simple observation.

If that’s the case, and it is, then why wouldn’t a bride opt for the less expensive color treated ring over the more expensive non-color treated ring if both receive the same color grade in the end, and have similar quality in all other areas?

Yellow Can Sometimes Cost More

When Nitrogen atoms are arranged properly, an intense yellow can sometimes result. These diamonds are beautiful. Naturally fancy colored diamonds are rare. In fact, only 1 carat for every 10,000 carats unearthed is naturally a fancy colored diamond. Among all those found though, yellow diamonds are most common, but there are many variations of yellow diamonds available.

Many ‘yellow’ diamonds are blends of colors like yellow and brown, yellow and green, or others. The pure yellow diamonds are the variety that sell at the greatest premiums. While blended colors often produce beautiful diamonds in their own right, they’re less rare that a diamond of pure and consistent color, and are therefore less valuable in general. These are often referred to as Canary Yellow diamonds.

Fancy colors aren’t graded, by laboratories, like GIA, on a D-Z scale. Instead, fancy colored diamonds are graded based on their intensity and consistency. In other words, they’ve graded on their quality of color.

Why Synthetic Diamonds Are Often Yellow

As you would expect, a fancy yellow diamond is going to cost more than a typical, more colorless, variety. As the intensity of the color climbs, so does the price. The most intense yellow diamonds are likely going to run at lead twice the price of beautiful yellow diamonds that are less intense.

How Your Band Affects Color Perception

The type of metal that you choose for your ring could influence the look of your diamond. Light colored metals like white gold or platinum pair really well with colorless diamonds. The colorless nature of the diamond is accentuated and displayed well against that band.

If you put a diamond with a yellow hue against a light metal like white gold or platinum, it can make the yellow tone more obvious. It’s better to pair a diamond slightly yellowed diamond with yellow gold. The color of the gold complements the diamond well and makes its color less obvious.

Related Questions

Why Are Diamonds So Expensive?

Earth-mined diamonds are expensive because they take a lot of labor to obtain (roughly 1,750 tons of earth have to be excavated for every diamond larger than 1 carat that’s found), but they’re SO expensive because their supply is carefully controlled to keep prices artificially high. If the price of diamond weren’t high, it would cease to be a status symbol. It wouldn’t be as sought after by some. Realizing this, the supply has to be regulated so supply never outpaces demand.   

Do Diamond Rings Appreciate in Value?

Diamonds put in jewelry aren’t the kind of investment grade diamonds that typically appreciate in value. A diamond ring certainly shouldn’t be viewed as an investment. Think about it. If you’re happily married, when would you ever want to part with the ring? If you split up and want to sell the ring, you’re likely to find that you can’t even recover what you put into it. If you resell your ring shortly after purchasing, you’re likely to only recoup 30% to 50% of what you spent.

This is one reason that buying a frugal ring makes sense. Get a beautiful and durable ring, but the less you spend, the less you have parked on a finger and at risk of loss. There are many other investment vehicles that are better places to park extra money for future growth.

Are Lab Created Diamond Rings Cheap to Buy?

Lab created diamonds are typically 30% to %50 less expensive than earth mined diamonds. Those savings are considerable when you realize that you aren’t really sacrificing anything for the savings. Both diamonds are made entirely of Carbon. Both are equally beautiful and durable. If your budget can’t quite fit a man-made diamond, you may want to look into Moissanite. It’s a the simulant that’s most like diamond, and much less expensive.

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Are Lab Created Diamonds Better for the Environment?

Are Lab Created Diamonds Better for the Environment?

Earth grown diamonds and lab grown diamonds share the same look and properties, but their origins, and environmental impact, are quite different.  

Are lab created diamonds better for the environment? Lab Created diamonds are more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds. Manufacturing requires power, water, and a facility, but mining continues to scar new land, impacting the people and animals in the area for many years.  Choosing lab-grown helps to minimize environmental impact, not eliminate it.

Let’s get into a little more detail on some of the important distinctions between earth-mined and lab-created, when it comes to environmental responsibility.

Lab Created Diamonds Aren’t Zero Impact

Lab-grown diamonds obviously do have an environmental impact, because they’re manufactured. They aren’t necessarily earth-friendly, but they are a more earth-friendly alternative than mining. Think about it, manufacturing processes require lots of electricity and water. Earth also has to be disturbed to construct a building and pave roads leading to the property.

Stanford Magazine printed the article of a graduate student who studied and compared Greenhouse Gas emissions from diamond mining and above ground diamond manufacturing facilities. To access the information that he needed, environmental impact reports where carefully studied and dissected. These reports are required places like the US and Canada, but there are many parts of the world where they aren’t filled out and submitted.

Chances are, that the reports that have to measure and disclose information like this, are probably as aware and conscientious as they come. Mines in places that don’t report would likely be much worse.

The Ekati mine in Canada was studied and compared with a lab grown diamond manufacture named Gemesis from Florida. Comparing reports, seemed to indicate that manufacturing the yearly volume of diamonds produced by the Ekati mine alone, instead of mining them, could reduce environmental impact by the equivalent of about 483 million miles of vehicle emissions.

To check out a high-quality source of beautiful lab-grown diamonds, click here.

Mining Impact on the Land

There are several common forms of diamond mining. Open Pit mining is a common form that causes large holes, or pits, to be dug in the earth. The pits often become permanent scars on the landscape and provide serious dangers to local residents. The activity and excavation displaces wildlife and destroys habitat.

Mining activities also can negatively affect the quality of the soil in the area. Deforestation and soil erosion are common aspects of the Open Pit aftermath. These impacts can make once fertile land difficult to farm, displacing the farmers that have sometimes worked the land for generations, and making it harder for the community to provide for its own food needs. Areas could be left completely deserted, in some cases, as residents are forced to go in search of land that can support the rebuilding of their lives.

The Kono District in Eastern Sierra Leone is a diamond-rich region where mining companies have dug thousands of mines, which have been scattered across the area. The resulting effects of deforestation and erosion have severely affected soil quality, destroying farmland and devastating wildlife. As a result of all the environmental consequences of reckless mining in the years leading up to 1991, a mass exodus began to take place. Over the course of the following 20 years, an estimated 4 million people fled the area as environmental refugees.

International demand for diamonds has been growing. India and China, in particular, are starting to purchase more diamonds. Both countries have populations of over a billion people. Both economies have also had a rapidly expanding middle-class, as a result of outsourcing from the West.

In China, there’s a growing trend for women to buy diamond rings for themselves instead of waiting for an engagement ring. These women see it as a statement of achievement and independence. Many Chinese men are also becoming interested in wearing diamonds.

About 150 million carats of diamonds are already being mined each year in order to meet demand.  That’s approximately 66,000 pounds (or 33 tons) in total! Once poor nations are getting richer and, with the help of masterful marketing, they’re acquiring a taste for diamonds. If current trends in India and China continue (and it looks like they will), the pace of exploration and land exploitation will have to accelerate, which of course means, that the environmental impact is going to be multiplied.

More consumers are now wanting diamonds, and they’re wanting larger stones. Just 100 years ago, diamonds weren’t as culturally ingrained. They weren’t an expected part of marriage at the time. When diamonds were given, they were relatively small, by today’s standards. The average wedding or engagement ring at that time was about one-third of a carat. Today, on average, they’re roughly 4 times that size.

On average, about 1,750 tons of earth have to be excavated for every 1-carat rough diamond that’s extracted from the earth. That’s a lot of land disruption!

This trend means that the environmental impact has been rapidly expanding for decades in order to keep up with general demand. Massive amounts of earth are being displaced to find the quantity and sizes that consumers are looking for.

Mining Impact on Waters and Wildlife

When diamonds are found in streams and rivers—or when water interferes with mining operations in any other way, those water sources are diverted. Streams can be dammed up or rerouted. That disturbance is enormous on both the wildlife that depends on the water and the farmers, who depend on irrigation for their crops.

When water sources get damned up, fish and other animal life in the area can see serious impacts. It may interrupt reproduction cycles and processes for fish or leave animals without a source of drinking water they depend on to sustain life. Without water, animals may die, or be forced to wander in search of new habitat. Runoff from mining operations can pollute water sources, killing animals or driving them in search of clean water in other areas.  

New diamond mines bring roads and workers. Roads destroy natural habitat. Animals are unintentionally struck and killed by cars and new air pollution, noise, and roadside waste are also introduced to areas. Each of those elements has an impact on animal life and can even alter migration routes and patterns. One particular study found that caribou actually diverted more than 6,000 miles off their normal migration routes to avoid diamond mines that sat in their normal path. That kind of disruption of natural travel patterns is more than an inconvenience. It can be devastating to herds. There’s no way to know just how many many other animals breeds have been similarly impacted by habitat destruction caused by diamond mining.

This is exactly what happened in Angola, a country in southwestern Africa. Rivers got diverted by mining operations that were careless regarding the needs of local residents and animals. The impact was absolutely devastating to the area.

Another risk to waterways, vegetation, and wildlife is the acidic runoff that can sometimes be introduced by mining operations. It has an immediate impact on fish, with an expanding ripple effect that goes much further.

Mining Impact on Local Disease

When diamond mines are abandoned, they’re often left as is—just a big pit that water often begins to collect in. Those new pools of stagnant water are ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Such perfect places to multiply, mosquito populations can climb quickly.

Abandoned Open Pit Diamond Mine. Lab Diamonds are Better for the Environment

Mosquitoes are more than an occasional annoying buzzing sound in your ear. In many parts of the world, they can carry, and spread, life-threatening diseases. Malaria is one of the common illnesses spread by Mosquito. It’s an intense illness that can kill if left untreated. It’s also an illness that’s recurring, meaning that once you contract Malaria, you’ll have recurring bouts of the illness throughout your life. Dengue Fever, Elephantiasis, and many other diseases are also Mosquito born.

Disease is also impacted by the type of rock that is removed from the mine. Many mines expose the miners to asbestos, which can cause cancer and other serious health issues. As asbestos is brought to the surface and left in piles to clear mine shafts, it can negatively affect the health people in the community. The Asbestos fibers can travel in the air like dust causing numerous lung conditions that can be painful or life-threatening.

Attempted Justification

Companies that produce and sell diamonds admit that there’s an unfortunate environmental impact, but they claim that those realities have to be weighed against the financial needs of the people that work in these mines, and depend on them to support their families.

In reality, many people do depend on diamond mining to support themselves and their families. They would be directly impacted if all mining were immediately banned. No one wants to see these workers suffer, but we also don’t want to see them exploited. The argument that these companies make is obviously self-serving. The miners scrape out a mere existence in most cases, while the massive companies that own the mines and distribution channels make many millions on the fruits of their labor. In other words, they claim, in a sense, that mining operations have to be kept up for the sake of the poor workers, and then pay them wages that keep them trapped in the backbreaking job while the corporation behind the mine gets richer and richer.

Slave owners in the United States, prior to abolition, sometimes argued for the continuation of slavery on the grounds that the poor slaves wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves. In essence, they were saying, that the practice should be continued for the good of the slaves. They too had a conflict of interest and stood to profit from the continuation of the slavery that argued was for the good of the slaves.

Slavery happens in our day too. While the majority of diamonds are certainly mined by people that are paid to mine them, there are militarized groups that take control of mines, using forced slave labor to harvest the diamonds that are then smuggled into the international diamond supply. These diamonds are known as blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. They represent the vast minority of diamonds in circulation, but they still circumvent the Kimberley Process (the well-intentioned international law aimed at stopping the flow of Conflict Diamonds into our jewelry trade) and end up at your local jewelry store (in the mall or on Main street). The store owner won’t know—you won’t know. They look identical to all the other diamonds.

As you can imagine, the kind of guerrilla organizations that confiscate diamond mines and fill them with slave labor, aren’t careful or concerned with environmental issues. They’ll do whatever brings diamonds to them fastest and requires the least amount of effort.

In addition to forced labor, there’s a wider and more common issue of economic slavery in mining. This happens when the miners really have no other choice. They aren’t paid enough to get ahead. It’s just enough to provide for the barest needs of sustaining life. Many young school-aged children also get trapped in this rut, fighting for survival, instead of getting a basic education.

Poor Diamond Miner Housing

Miners keep working hard day after back-breaking day—but never get ahead. As long as they’re only paid enough to scrape by, the companies that benefit from their labor will be able to use their economic desperation as an effective means of sidestepping some repercussions of environmental damage. It’s like keeping their miners poor and dependent makes them richer. That’s a broken system that ultimately exploits both the environment and the minors that work for these organizations.

Johnny Cash used to sing about the hard life of miners, trapped in a form of economic slavery. The lyrics to one of his well-known songs says, “You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” Sadly, many diamond miners around the world can probably really relate to these lyrics.

To find a quality lab grown diamond manufacturer, check out our most trusted suppliers.

In Summary

To be fair, some diamond mining organizations are probably more conscientious than others. Some are more careful with the environment, some will be more concerned for the safety and welfare of their employees, however, a massive problem still exists in both areas.

Mining doesn’t have to take a ‘slash and burn’ reckless approach in order to be effective, but precautions that protect the environment take more time and cut into profits. In order to see more environmentally friendly diamond mining practices, mining companies would have to be regulated and policed. That is happening in some countries, and the effort is helping, but many areas rich in diamonds are left without laws or enforcement. These are the areas that see the greatest environmental atrocities.

Even when greater care is taken, it would be incredibly difficult for the ongoing excavation effort to be less harmful to the environment, all things considered, than the process of creating man made diamonds in labs.

The Toyota Prius isn’t a zero-emissions car, but it’s a far cry better than driving an H2 Hummer. The same is true of the environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds. It doesn’t have zero impact on the environment, but it’s a far cry better than the heavy environmental toll that mining continues to take. It’s directly, and continually, impacting species of fish and wildlife, neighboring communities that often have really poor health care options, and a landscape that is left scarred and perhaps permanently changed in many ways.

Related Questions:

Can Diamonds Be Recycled?

Diamonds can be recycled, in the sense, that you can purchase a used diamond (or diamond ring) instead of buying a new one if you’d like. You can even have your used diamond re-cut and polished to give it a new look if you want to.

Ring sized diamonds are typically difficult to resell. After a failed proposal attempt, death, or divorce, for example, sellers are almost certain to take a financial loss on the gem. That means that you could help them by purchasing it, while at the same time, saving money. You could end up with a bigger/better ring for your money.

Is Gold Mining Bad for the Environment?

Gold mining is harmful to the environment, in fact, it’s generally much more harmful than diamond mining. In addition to displaced earth and habitat destruction, there are harmful chemicals and elements, like Mercury, that can be left as a toxic legacy of the ore that was extracted from the ground. There are movements to build awareness around this issue and promote Mercury-Free Gold.

How is the Impact of Diamond Mines Tracked and Reported?

Many countries have laws requiring mining companies to take environmental precautions and reclaim mined areas before leaving them, but not all areas enforce their laws. Diamond mining in Canada, for example, is heavily regulated. They’re required to file regular environmental impact reports outlining a variety of important metrics that shine a light on the environmental mindfulness of their operations.

Mining groups in parts of Africa can operate much more privately and recklessly without any kind of regulatory consequence. The inconsistent regulatory environments give careless mining organizations a significant competitive advantage that comes at the expense of the local environment. Only a fraction of all diamond mining companies currently participate in standards like ISO 14001.

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Finding Affordable Wedding Rings Under $500

Finding Affordable Wedding Rings Under $500

Finding a frugal wedding ring that’s still beautiful and durable is often a real challenge, but it can be done!

Is finding affordable wedding rings for under $500 possible? $500 is a reasonable wedding ring budget if you shop carefully. There are two main options: buy used, and potentially get a much more valuable ring at a modest cost, or shop for stone and metal combinations that ultimately give you the look and durability that you want, for the price that you need.

Again, there are two primary avenues for finding your perfect ring while nailing your ring budget at the same time. I’ll outline both below.

Cheap Places to Buy Expensive Rings

When you drive a new car off the lot at a dealership, it’s value instantly plummets. You can’t resell a used car for as much as a new car—you just can’t. If a buyer was willing to pay new car prices, they’d buy from the new car lot instead of spending the same amount of money to buy from you. This same reality plays out with diamond rings everyday.

Why would someone sell a diamond ring for way less than they originally paid (sometimes just days earlier)? There are a number of scenarios that create sellers anxious to offload a beautiful diamond ring for a loss. Sometimes the proposal didn’t go as planned. The other party said ‘no,’ or may have even originally said ‘yes,’ but later changed their mind. Breakups can originate with either party, but regardless, they result in a situation were a lovely ring isn’t going to be used, and therefore, needs to be resold.

If they take the ring to a pawn shop, they’re likely to get low-balled. They’ll probably get pennies on the dollar. Pawn shops attract bargain shoppers. They have to buy it for a low enough price to allow them to resell at bargain prices while still making a healthy margin.

Jewelers typically aren’t motivated to pay much either, simply because their suppliers usually offer attractive terms that allow them to secure inventory now, but pay later. Pulling cash out of the register to buy a diamond ring (that will only fit a certain segment of their shoppers) isn’t very attractive most of the time.

Unlike Pawn shops or jewelers, you aren’t planning to reselling the ring, and therefore, won’t need to build in a profit margin. You can afford to give the seller a little more money for their ring (helping them out), and still walk away with a fantastic value for your money. Rings might resell for only 50-70% of their original value, so you stand to get a great value. It’s only rough guideline, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to anticipate that you could buy a ring worth $1000 to $1,500 or so for $500 in cash.

You wouldn’t normally be able to buy a diamond ring from a traditional jeweler for $500, but you could potentially buy a diamond ring, used, off someone for $500. It’s going to be important to make SURE you know what you’re buying throughout this whole process. This isn’t a time to be trusting. If you’re told that a particular ring is diamond, find out what documentation they have on their ring. They might be able to produce a grading report and receipt. Ultimately, you could even take the ring to a local jeweler or gemologist for testing.

Used rings, featuring lab grown diamonds could be a really interesting option too if you can find them. Lab created diamonds are physically, chemically, and visually the same as earth created diamonds. They’re equally durable and equally beautiful—but they AREN’T equally expensive. Since Lab grown diamonds cost less at retail, they should cost less at resale too. You should be able to buy a better color, clarity, and size with your $500 budget.

So far, our focus has been on the gem, or stone, but another major contributor to the overall cost of a given ring is the metal band that the diamond is mounted to. If you purchase a used ring, you’re more likely to get a higher quality metal than you could otherwise afford on a $500 budget, paying retail prices.

Gold and Platinum are possible for a used ring in this price range, but you would certainly need to sacrifice quantity or quality, to some extent, if you were paying retail prices for a new ring. At retail, you might even have to go with a gold or platinum plated (or coated) ring in order to meet your budgetary constraints.

You can find used wedding rings by checking for local listings on sites like Craigslist or other local classified ad sites. Bulletin boards, and again,  local classified sites around college campuses have also been good sources for used rings. Pawnshops can also be the source of some good values at times.

The Most Important Features of Your Ring

You certainly have options for very pretty frugal rings with a $500 budget. You’ll be able to select from several different stone and metal combinations. They all have a unique set of characteristics. You can decide if it’s the appearance or durability of each component that’s most important, and choose materials based on those preferences.

Getting the ideal wedding ring, while still hitting your budget, requires a series of trade-offs. It’s not that your ring can ONLY be pretty but not durable…or only durable, but not pretty. The materials you choose will hopefully give you a good blend of benefits. You’ll need to sacrifice a little in one area to get more in another. That’s why it’s important to determine the features that are most important to you. You’ll also begin to notice the characteristics that are least important. That’s also really valuable information. Once you have some idea regarding what you want most in your ring, you can explore the following considerations that influence cost.

Sparkle:

Different types of stones gather and refract light in unique ways. Those differences affect the way various stones sparkle. Even when cut, color and clarity of each stone type is very similar, some are naturally going to sparkle far more than others.

The quantity of sparkle isn’t the only distinction. You also will notice different qualities in the sparkle of various types of gems. Some send more colorful light flashes back to your eye, others reflect more frequent flashes of brilliant white light, with very few colorful sparkles.When discussing sparkle, jewelers and gemologists refer to the colorful flashes as ‘fire’ and the flashes of white light as ‘brilliance.’ Some stone types are naturally more fiery than others.

Stone TypeHardness Rating (Mohs Scale)Stone ColorPrice Per Carat
White Topaz8Colorless$15
Moissanite9.5Colorless or slight hue$500
White Sapphire9Colorless$800
Cubic Zirconia8.5Colorless$15
Aquamarine8Blue-green$150
Tanzanite7Blue$250
Morganite8Peachy-pink$300
Garnet7.5Red$500
Sapphire9Many colors$600

Moissanite is probably the stone that most closely resembles diamond. In terms of sparkle, it does have more fire (colored sparkle) than diamond, but it’s still a really beautiful stone that many women find they actually like MORE than their diamonds.

Stone Durability:

How important is durability for the gem or stone you choose for your ring? If you know that your ring is just temporary, and that you’ll be replacing it with a more permanent ring within the next 12 months anyway, then durability probably isn’t super important. On the other hand, if you plan to wear the same ring your entire life, and maybe even pass it on to your children someday too, you’ll we’ll want to choose materials that can stand the test of time. You’ll want to make durability a priority.

Band Durability:

The metal that your stone is set on (or in), is another major contributor to the overall cost of the ring. Do you know what you want? What color do you want your ring to be? White or Yellow gold should be cheaper than Platinum. Silver is another option that’s far less expensive than both gold or Platinum. You can even buy a silver ring that’s coated in something like gold or Rhodium (which is a metal from the Platinum family, that looks very much like Platinum) if you’d like to bring cost down further, while still having a more expensive look to your ring.

Overall Ring Cost:

Is your $500 cost target pretty firm, or is there room to go a little higher if needed to find the right ring? Either answer is fine, you just need to know the elements that are most important. If you have a little price flexibility, it just means that you could have the option of paying a little more in order to get a few more of your other preferences. If the absolute top end of your budget is $500, then you’ll just give up a little on stone size, metal type, or some other factor, if needed, to make the price-point work.

What to Buy if You Want a Cheap Ring that Looks Expensive

If you’re buying a brand new wedding ring for less than $500, you’ll need to decide on the metal that’s the ideal balance between your desired look and your need for durability. You’ll also need to balance the cost of the metal you choose with the cost of the stone that you buy. If you want a larger and more expensive stone, you’ll need to choose a less expensive metal. If you want to splurge on a more expensive metal, you’ll need to choose a less expensive stone.

Here are some common metal options that you could consider for rings in the $500 price range. They’re arranged in the list that follows from least expensive to most expensive. If you decide to go with something like Platinum (the most expensive option), you may need to either get something like Silver (as a base metal) that’s Platinum plated (coated in layers of Platinum) or perhaps a very thin Platinum band, that’s going to be less expensive because less of the metal was required to make it. The thin band can also provide a really elegant look when paired with the right gem.

Metal TypeRelative Hardness ( Mohs Scale of Hardness)Hypoallergenic?
Stainless Steel5.5Yes
Sterling Silver2.5-3.0No
Titanium6.0Yes
White Gold2.5-3.0No
Yellow Gold2.5-3.0No
Platinum4.0-4.5Yes

Again cheaper metals plated in something like Rhodium can provide you with a high-end look, but a low-end price tag. While the price might be attractive, you need to understand that plating typically isn’t permanent because it can wear through over time. The thicker the coating, the longer it will last.

The plating on a quality ring could last 10 years or more before it needs to be reapplied. Once you’ve worn through the Rhodium or gold plating on you ring, you’d need to take it to a local jeweler to have plating reapplied. The total cost should be somewhere in the $50 to $200 range, depending on the metal used and how thick you ask them to apply the coating. The complexity of your ring design could also impact price a little, because it impacts their application method.

It would be nice not to have to worry about the hassle or expense of re-plating the ring down the road, but in reality, an investment of $200 (or less) after several years of solid use isn’t bad—especially when the new plating makes your ring look brand new again and sets you up for perhaps another 10 years .

Keeping it Simple

Many couples are going minimalistic with their rings. They keep things simple by just wearing metal bands without any kind of gem or stone adorning them. These simple rings can certainly have an elegance to them. In this case, simple leads to savings! Simple metal wedding bands are much less expensive, since you get to skip the cost of a gem altogether.

For couples that like to coordinate the look of their rings, it’s much easier to do when you’re both just wearing wedding bands. Bands also have the benefit of being low profile, so they don’t accidentally snag sweaters or scratch things. Wedding bands alone, aren’t right for everyone, but it’s at least an option that’s worth considering.

What you Probably Want to Avoid

If possible, avoid rings that have copper, brass, or some mystery alloy as their base, even if the exterior is plated in something else. My wife recently got a ring that looked and felt really nice. The ring was made of copper, but was plated with Rhodium (according to the seller).

Within about a month, most of the plating had worn away on both the interior and exterior of the ring. That left dark copper exposed and easily visible around most of the ring. It was essentially worthless and ready to throw away within a month. The plating may not have actually been Rhodium. If it was, it was an ultra-thin layer that was applied for the sake of initial impression—not durability.

Copper is one of those metals that turns your finger green…so not only does your ring start looking shabby when the plating wears through, but you finger starts to display the natural green tattooing effect of a cheap ring too.

That’s frustrating for any ring that you purchase, but especially a wedding ring that needs to be durable. By the same token, if something seems too cheap to believe, be careful, the manufacturer may have cut corners on quality. It’s worth paying a little more to buy from a known and trusted seller. Someone that has a reputation for quality and a return policy ideally.

I would suggest that you avoid buying a wedding ring on eBay. They have many good and honest sellers, but there’s also so much low quality, and fake, jewelry offered there. I’ve heard from several people that unknowingly purchased pieces of glass that were supposed to be Morganite through the site. It’s just too hard to know who you can trust, and what you’ll ultimately get. What makes the problem far harder, is that sellers often source their products from China. They trust the manufacturer’s claims about the product, which means they’re sometimes ignorantly selling fake stones.

If you get clarity on the features that are most important to you and shop in the right places, you’ll be able to get a ring that you LOVE, and a ring that lasts with your $500 budget. Best of all, you’ll avoid the ring debt that many couples fall into when they purchase rings that are way beyond the realm of what they can actually afford. A frugal ring is a really smart and caring way to start your married life. If you shop carefully, you’ll love your $500 ring just as much as you’d love a ring was ten times the price.

Related Questions:

How Can You Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Buying a Used Ring?

Verify the seller’s claims about their gem before buying. You could get the ring appraised or check the seller’s records. If they have a receipt and/or grading report, it would help a lot. You could also check with a local jeweler or gemologist to see if they could test the ring for you. That may cost something, but it’s probably worth doing, so you can be sure you know what you’re getting.

Should I Mention it if The Diamond I Buy is Man Made?

Man-made diamonds are real diamonds (just from a different source). I personally don’t feel like you need to mention that a man-made diamond is ‘man-made’ when you’re proposing. I also don’t feel like that fact needs to be intentionally hidden. It’s something you could talk about later. It’s really best if you’ve discussed ring preferences and budget realities prior to purchasing the ring.

Which Ring Metals Are Best for People with Sensitive Skin?

Avoid rings with lead, copper, or nickel. They’re metals that frequently cause reactions for people that have sensitive skin or known metal allergies. Gold (both yellow and white), is another metal that some people have allergic reactions to. In reality, it isn’t the gold they’re bodies react to, it’s the additives (impurities) that have been mixed into the gold. Nickel, for example, is a common additive to gold. Gold is a very soft metal by itself. Mixing in additives makes it more durable, and allows for popular colors like white and rose gold. Safer choices, would be Nickel-free Stainless Steel, Titanium, or Platinum. All three of those metals are considered to be hypoallergenic—meaning that they won’t cause skin reactions.

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Why Buy Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings?

Are CZ Engagement Rings Tacky

Are CZ Engagement Rings Tacky

As the saying goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ In order to know whether CZ is appropriate as an engagement ring, you’ll want to learn a little more about it.

So, are CZ engagement rings tacky? Cubic Zirconia, or CZ, isn’t tacky as an engagement ring. It’s not a diamond, but it is a hard stone that looks very similar. It can be a beautiful, functional, and inexpensive option. CZ is the most known, and most widely used, simulated diamond in the world. It’s been a popular simulant since the 1980’s

CZ can deliver so much value, at such a small cost, so why would some people view it as ‘tacky’? We’ll explore many of the common reasons below.

Imagine, that you post something on Facebook about the fact that you’re thinking of buying a Honda Civic as a commuter car because you need something that’s good on gas. Suddenly, a comment is posted, saying that Hondas are ‘tacky.’ They point out that Ferrari’s are faster…that they have thicker and more durable paint jobs…and that you’ll get a lot more compliments from people when you drive it. Seems silly doesn’t it?

You aren’t looking to spend what a Ferrari would cost—You don’t need a Ferrari. You certainly don’t expect the Civic to have all the same features and capabilities—but you like the car anyway. It does what you need it to do. It’s a great car based on the value it delivers and what you’ll have to spend to get it.

People make similarly ridiculous comparisons between diamonds and cubic Zirconia all the time! Diamond and CZ are not the same. They aren’t made of the same elements, and they don’t have the same properties—but they also don’t have the same price tag.

Cubic Zirconia is an incredible value when you consider its cost. Quality Cubic Zirconia is beautiful and sparkly. It can draw the praise and comments that every bride loves to hear about her ring.

here are many options for attractive engagement rings, but Cubic Zirconia really stands out for those that need, or want, something ultra-affordable, without giving up too much of the diamond look, to get it. CZ could be a great fit if you only have a $50-$300 available for your ring. It could also be a great fit if you only want to spend $300 or less, meaning that a lack of resources isn’t the only reason that people commonly choose CZ.

If you had the ability to spend $3,500 on an engagement ring, for example, you have several great options available. Here are just a few:

  • Buy a .6 carat mined diamond.
  • Buy a .6 carat lab grown diamond, and have $2,100 left over.
  • Buy a .6 carat CZ, and have $2,800 left over.

Each of those examples assumes that you want something like a gold band to set your stone on. You could bring your costs down a lot further by considering other metal types. While I tried to keep things simple by comparing stones of the same size, you could easily give a larger man-made diamond or CZ and still save a ton of money.

That’s one of the things that draws people to lab made stones. They realize that they can only afford a very small earth grown diamond, or they could get a full carat if they go with a lab grown diamond or CZ—and still have a bunch of money left over.

What could you do with your savings if you buy a CZ and have money left over?

  • Splurge on your Honeymoon.
  • Put a down payment on a house.
  • Get more reliable transportation.
  • Pay down your debt (credit cards or student loans)
  • Start a college fund for a future child
  • Add to, or start, retirement savings
  • Add to, or start, a ‘rainy-day’ fund (emergency savings)

Why CZ Feels Like it Could be Tacky to Some

There are several reasons that you may be wondering if CZ could be perceived as being inelegant, shoddy, or tacky. For starters, diamonds cost so much, but Cubic Zirconia costs so little. Diamonds have become a status symbol. Hollywood ‘A-Listers’ and rappers wear huge diamonds costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to demonstrate that they’ve ‘made it’. Society in general often uses gems like diamonds to signal status. One place that diamonds might be considered ‘tacky,’ is if you used them to create a false impression that you had more money or success than you actually have.

We’ve all seen someone we know with ‘diamond’ on their finger that’s big enough to be worthy of a museum display case. Knowing something about their financial status, we instantly assume that it’s a fake diamond. Way over doing it on size might be considered tacky to some. It’s like you’re trying project financial status that you don’t actually have.

Going back to the example that we started the article with, driving a Honda Civic isn’t tacky at all. Ripping the Honda emblem off your car, and replacing it with a Ferrari emblem is tacky—and a pretty funny. People wouldn’t take your Honda Civic seriously though if it had a Ferrari emblem on it—but was clearly a Honda.

To avoid a similar issue, try not to over do it with the size of the stone on your ring. Even thought you could easily afford to by a 6 carat CZ stone, go with the .5 carat, or maybe the 1 carat. If you’re looking for something that most people will assume is diamond, then it’s best to stay at 1 carat or smaller for most people.

The other approach you could take, is not to care what others think of your ring. If you love the way CZ’s sparkle, and you want a big one, then by all means, get a big one! You can openly tell people it’s a Cubic Zirconia, or not. The important thing, is that you’re happy and comfortable with what you’re wearing.

Another major cause of for the impression that some people have about CZ rings being somewhat tacky, is influence from marketers and our peers. Put yourself in the mind of diamond industry marketers for a moment. If there’s a stone that cost just 1% of your product, but fills a very similar need, how do you compete. That’s an ENORMOUS cost difference to overcome in the mind of your would-be customer. One genius move, is to make potential buyers feel like the option that’s 99% less expensive is socially frowned upon and way uncool.

That sentiment is the result of just one television commercial or print ad, it’s the culmination of many decades of conditioning through many different channels.

For Surprise Proposals, Buying a CZ Ring is a Smart Move!

Let’s assume that you’ve decided that you’re going to buy a diamond engagement ring. You have the money, and you’re willing to part with it. If you’re planning to surprise your partner with ring, it would be really smart move to propose with a beautiful CZ ring, and then shop for the diamond together, after they say ‘yes’. Why? Because diamonds are expensive, most jewelers don’t want to take them back, and you may pick a very different ring style for your spouse-to-be, than they would select for themselves.

Let me illustrate with two real life examples. I surprised my girlfriend (now my wife) nearly twenty years ago, with a diamond ring that I had picked out on my own. The element of surprise made the proposal really fun for both of us I think. Fortunately, she liked the ring style I selected. Even still—I’m not sure she would have chosen the same ring if we had gone shopping together.

My wife’s brother got engaged about two weeks after we did. He also bought a diamond ring on his own, so he could surprise his girlfriend with the proposal. She loved him, and said ‘yes,’ but hated the ring. They’ve now been married for almost twenty years too. She still hates the styling of that ring.

If he had picked out out a beautiful CZ ring for $100 or less to propose with, they could have had a really nice proposal experience, and then shopped for a ‘forever ring’ together in the days that followed. Ultimately, they could have spent the same amount on a diamond ring, but found something she loved to look at in the decades that followed.

It’s even possible that they’ll love the CZ, and the idea of saving a bunch of money that can be applied elsewhere. They may decide to stick with that, buy a CZ with slightly different styling, or jump up to something that’s only a little more expensive, like Moissanite. In any case, you’ve minimized risk by starting with a CZ ring.

Girl admiring her new CZ Engagement Ring

One thing is certain, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on an engagement ring to express your love and commitment. You also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to prove yourself or to present a jaw dropping ring that you’ll both love!

Seems obvious doesn’t it? It should be, but before we can recognize the obvious to think and act in ways that make the most sense for us, we have to break through years of social conditioning that was brought to us through diamond industry executives and the masterful marketers that work for them.

CZ isn’t tacky for engagement if your ring is selected and gifted with love. It’s the quality of the emotion and feeling that matters—and regardless of what diamond peddlers what you to think, there’s absolutely no correlation between the quality of your love and the cost of your engagement ring.

Charging blindly into debt to buy a ring you really can’t afford isn’t romantic or chivalrous—it’s well-intentioned recklessness. Knowing that most marriages end because of tension over debt and finances, maybe protecting your relationship by avoiding debt is the least ‘tacky’ thing you could do—and it screams real love and protection much louder than a ring you borrowed money to buy ever could.

Related Questions:

What is Better Cubic Zirconia or Swarovski Crystal?

While Swarovski crystals can be beautiful and inexpensive too, they’re ultimately made of glass, and just aren’t as durable as Cubic Zirconia. Glass has a hardness of approximately 5.5 of Mohs Scale of Hardness, while CZ has a hardness rating of 8.25 to 8.5. That difference in hardness is will impact scratch resistance and overall durability.

What is the Difference Between Zircon and Cubic Zirconia

Many people confuse the names Zircon and Cubic Zirconia. You’ll sometimes see or hear someone use the term ‘Cubic Zircon,’ which is an incorrect blending of two names. Zircon is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s also a birthstone for the month of December. Cubic Zirconia on the other hand is entirely lab created.

Which is Better, Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite?

Moissanite is a much harder and more durable stone, but it also costs quite a bit more. Because of that, it isn’t the right product for everyone, but it could be a good material to compare and consider. Moissanite is a lab created diamond simulant that’s considered by many gemologists and jewelers to be the diamond simulant that’s is most similar to diamond in terms of appearance and properties.

Related Posts:

Why Buy Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings?

Which is Better Moissanite or Cubic Zirconia?

Is White Sapphire the Same as Cubic Zirconia?