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Engagement Rings 101, Diamonds and Lookalikes

During the recent months, many of the laboratory's visitors expressed an intent of proposal with regards to the stones they brought in to have checked. Engagement rings are perhaps one of the most widely popular reasons people familiarize themselves with diamonds and the jewelry industry.

The currently long-standing market acceptance of diamond as the stone for engagement rings, has its roots in the landmark campaign of the De Beers Trading Company. They gave the public a vision of everlasting love, through associating marriage with diamond's unique natural properties. "A diamond is forever"- the popular slogan echoed throughout the decades by everyone who has ever felt passionate about the renowned sparkling gem, although we must ask ourselves the question: what more can we learn about the brilliance behind diamonds (and their lookalikes)?

Today we'd like to shed a bit of light on the stones most commonly used for engagement rings. A lot of people seem to show some confusion when it comes to stone-selection, and we wanted to share some information to help them understand the differences between popular choices.

First of all, what is known to be 'diamond', is divided into two significant categories today- natural diamond and synthetic (or man-made) diamond. Both of these are essentially composed of pure carbon (with some trace elements like nitrogen, which causes color). They also have an atomic structure that follows the isometric or cubic crystal system. Basically to cut things short, the main difference is that synthetic diamond is grown in a factory setting, and not mined from the ground.

This makes it very hard to differentiate the two, even for experienced gemologists, which is why laboratories like ours have a wide selection of spectrometry-based instruments and specialized gemological equipment to separate one from the other.

Natural diamonds, and synthetic diamonds may both be diamonds, speaking atomically, however their prices as we've come to observe- are not the same. In 2017, our research team inquired with several synthetic diamond wholesalers and retailers at the Hong Kong Gems and Jewelry Fair. Prices for synthetic diamond were still hefty, but only about 60% the price of a natural diamond counterpart with the same grade. Nevertheless, they were also very beautiful in their own right.

Next up, we have to talk about simulant diamonds. Now simulant diamonds are not the same as natural or synthetic diamonds. Simulant means 'imitation', and a simulant diamond in actuality is not a diamond, but something else entirely. It can be man-made, or mined from nature- but regardless of its source, it is not atomically the same as diamond.

The most popular man-made simulants used today are cubic zirconia and moissanite. Both of these can be easily separated by gemologists from diamonds. Some other people also prefer to use natural colorless stones as simulants- like colorless or white sapphire.

Do be very careful when buying a diamond engagement ring today. Because of technology, some people around the world do try to fool buyers into purchasing something that's not what they advertise. Natural diamonds and synthetic diamonds are of a particular concern, due to their difficulty of separation.

These days, many people also opt to have colored stones set into engagement rings. Princess Diana (and now Kate Middleton's) engagement ring had a large cornflower blue sapphire as its centerpiece, surrounded by smaller accent natural diamonds.

We've also seen some engagement rings that use phenomenal stones with interesting visual effects- such as color-changing sapphires, or cat's eye chrysoberyl. Even pearls are now used by some people as symbols of marriage, due to their natural feminine beauty and association with purity and grandeur.

Regardless of the stone you choose for your ring, make sure that it connects with you and your fiance's feelings toward one another. The greatest value in a marriage is not the worth of the stone, but the commitment and trust within the relationship.
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