Some call these diamonds ”synthetic,” but unlike diamond alternatives such as cubic zirconia or Moissanite, lab-grown diamonds are atomically identical to those born in the earth’s mantle.

When I took a half-carat dazzler that was grown in a reactor at Diamond Foundry, a Silicon Valley startup, to New York City’s diamond district, no dealer could distinguish the difference (though once I told them the origins, one cut his estimate of the stone’s value in half).

But here is one major difference from an ethical point of view: With a diamond grown in a lab, consumers can be sure their stone didn’t contribute to the environmental and human costs associated with natural mining, and can be absolutely certain of its origins.

A Baxter Moerman engagement ring featuring a Diamond Foundry lab-grown diamond.
A Baxter Moerman engagement ring featuring a Diamond Foundry lab-grown diamond.
Image: Courtesy, Diamond Foundry

“[Lab-grown diamonds are] a perfect choice for a consumer that’s looking to minimize the environmental impact of their purchase,” said Money, who also offers them in addition to mined diamonds at Brilliant Earth. “They have the same sparkle, scintillation, and fire as a natural diamond.”

Both Diamond Foundry and Brilliant Earth allow shoppers to buy loose diamonds—should you want to work with your own jeweler on a custom design—as well as rings made-to-order. In Diamond Foundry’s case, those come from several independent jewelry designers collaborating with the company.

Don’t forget about the metal

Like diamonds, metals such as gold and platinum are associated with both human and environmental devastation that includes erosion, contamination, and deforestation. Earthworks, a nonprofit organization, estimates that the gold required for a single ring generates some 20 tons of waste, much of which contains mercury and cyanide that ends up in local water sources and marine environments.

Finding recycled gold isn’t as difficult as you might think. Again, you just have to ask. The New York-based designer Bliss Lau crafts stunning, modern styles crafted from recycled gold, as does Monique Péan, along with all of the aforementioned sources: Anna Sheffield, Diamond Foundry, and Brilliant Earth.

These ethical quandaries may seem overwhelming at first, but to find the right ring will inevitably require many questions. Consider a few more an additional investment in a ring that you—or your loved one—will feel good about for a lifetime. You could even help improve the industry along the way.

It’s time to get engaged.

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