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If you’re searching for an ethically-made, eco-friendly engagement ring, consider lab-grown diamonds, which are chemically, physically, and visually identical to natural ones—but retail for a fraction of the price.
While the element of surprise is an essential part of an engagement, modern couples choose to have ring conversations before any purchase is made. And today, brides- and grooms-to-be are carefully considering the type of jewelry they invest in and wear for most of their lives. With this in mind, lab-grown diamonds are growing in popularity—and for good reason. They are more budget-friendly, just as beautiful as earth-produced diamonds (often times, they have more sparkle and luster), and are ethically made.
This last point is particularly important, due to the ongoing conflict over diamond mining in Africa. Lab-grown, conflict-free diamonds give you comfort and confidence; shoppers know their forever heirloom hasn’t been tied to loss of life.
Related: These Stunning Pearl Engagement Rings Celebrate One of the World’s Oldest Gemstones
Where to Shop for the Best Lab-Grown Diamonds
But these gemstones come with their own questions: Many couples wonder whether or not a lab-grown diamond is the same as a “real” earth-produced one. The only difference between the two? A lab-grown diamond is created in a lab over a series of months, while a natural diamond mined from the earth is created over billions of years, explains Kimmie Smith, a fashion and jewelry expert and celebrity stylist. “Lab-grown diamonds give you a phenomenal ring at an accessible price point,” she says. “In many cases, you can still get your preferred 4Cs—cut, color, clarity, and carat—at a fraction of the cost.” Ahead, get our guide to the best places to buy lab-grown diamonds, according to Smith and a professional diamond setter.
Related: This Is What a Diamond Looks Like at Every Size—from .5 Carats to 10
Brilliant Earth Lab-Grown Diamonds
When shopping for lab-grown diamonds, start with Brilliant Earth, suggests Smith; they offer an array of traditional and unique rings. Unlike other retailers, they also have other colored gemstones, like lab-grown sapphires, so you aren’t limited to just diamonds. “The fact that lab-grown comes in an array of cuts as well as colors—it’s a great way to stand out,” Smith says. “On their site, you can select your complexion to see what a ring would look like and get different views so you have a great idea of what it will be like when you receive it.”
Rare Carat Lab-Grown Diamonds
John Sorich IV, a goldsmith and president of Diamonds Direct MN, recommends Rare Carat as a shopping destination for couples searching for a lab-grown diamond. He appreciates their extensive inventory, with added filters that help narrow your search to find the dream ring you want.
Kay Jewelers Lab-Grown Diamonds
When shopping for a ring on Kay Jeweler’s website, Smith says you can look at the ring via their 360-degree view. This allows you to inspect every angle of the ring, so you can examine the band’s width or the setting’s height more easily.
Kay also offers a grid that breaks down typical costs that you might pay elsewhere that are actually included in the price of your ring. “Many of us have grown up with Kay Jewelers as a brand and have seen their commercials, so it gives you confidence when purchasing pieces from their website,” Smith added.
Helzberg Diamonds Lab-Grown Diamonds
Another retail option for lab-grown diamonds is Helzberg Diamonds. Timeless and trusted, this brand has been selling various heirloom pieces for decades, and they’ve expanded their options to include ethical varieties. They also house many luxury collections, including fashion designer Zac Posen’s lab-grown gems. “Posen has dressed many celebrities on red carpets, so you know his jewelry will also bring a statement style to your engagement ring,” Smith says.
Clean Origin Lab-Grown Diamonds
One of the hesitations some people have when choosing a lab-grown diamond over a mined diamond is its appearance. They want the look of a diamond—but they aren’t comfortable with how it’s sourced. You don’t have to worry about this brand: You’ll still receive a gorgeous heirloom piece that gives you peace of mind. These lab-grown diamonds are chemically, physically, and visually identical to mined diamonds, with all the same shine and luster. Still, because they are lab-grown, they are eco-friendly and cost almost 40 percent less.
Blue Nile Lab-Grown Diamonds
This lab-grown diamond website is easy to navigate and discover the right setting, metal, and gem size, says Sorich—but there are other benefits, too. After you purchase a Blue Nile piece, you are offered a spot in their diamond upgrade program, which allows you to upgrade or add to your diamond later in life. For couples eager to add bands or gems with the birth of a child or for an anniversary, it’s a wise investment to buy your lab-grown diamond from this shop.
12 Fifteen Diamonds Lab-Grown Diamonds
One of the biggest plusses about shopping at 12FIFTEEN Diamonds is that their offerings are set and finished in the United States, with free shipping anywhere in the country. Like other lab-grown diamond websites, you can browse through your preferred diamond cut, then your setting and metal choice—ranging from gold and silver to rose gold and more.
“They also offer many views of the ring, so you know what it will look like,” Smith says. “This site has a lot of information about each ring, including setting style, band style, average color, and average setting, which you will find at the bottom of the page and will help you in your search.”
Lightbox Lab-Grown Diamonds
Another excellent place to shop for lab-grown diamonds is Lightbox. In addition to engagement rings, they also sell necklaces and earrings. Loose, lab-grown diamonds allow you to build a ring through Lightbox or take it to a local jeweler. According to Smith, this is a budget-friendly option for those who want something timeless—but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars. More of a colorful diamond person? They have those, too.
Plum Diamonds Lab-Grown Diamonds
At Plum Diamonds, each ring is crafted from scratch in a certified-sustainable facility with recycled gold and responsibility-sourced platinum—and it’s also a female-founded business. To start shopping, choose your preferred shape in their portfolio of timeless styles; then, customize and design your piece to make something that is truly one of a kind.