Picture this: It’s the day you’ve been waiting for; you’re finally getting engaged. Your partner gets down on one knee and opens up a pristine, velvet box and inside is a glistening diamond ring. Down the road, in a couple of weeks, months, or even years you learn that the diamond you’ve been proudly wearing on your finger is a lab-grown diamond. This is the reality for many women today. Whether you were aware, chose it, or were misled into accepting a lab-grown diamond, the ethics and morals surrounding the choice of a lab-grown diamond have been up for debate for some time now.

What Is the Difference Between Lab Grown and Natural Diamonds?

Lab-grown and natural diamonds don’t appear different to the naked eye; the distinctions lie in their chemical makeup, production process, and origin. At first glance, it’s almost impossible to tell a lab-grown diamond from a natural one, as they are chemically and physically identical. Lab-grown diamonds are just as durable as natural ones because they are not “fake” diamonds. They are man-made in a high-pressure, high-temperature environment in a lab, eventually crystallizing into a rough diamond. According to Stephen Morrisseau, a spokesperson for the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), “[Man-made diamonds] are not fakes…they have all the same physical and chemical properties of a mined diamond.”

Lab-grown diamonds are also a more ethical choice. In regions of central, west, and east Africa, the diamond trade has fueled conflicts that have cost children their limbs, soldiers their lives, and women their sexual consent. These “blood diamonds” fund terrorism and war, according to the United Nations. Lab-grown diamonds eliminate this risk because their origins are traceable, ensuring they are not associated with conflict.

Additionally, lab-grown diamonds are more environmentally friendly. Research from Stanford Magazine indicates that natural diamond mining produces “143 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per carat mined—five-and-a-half times what it takes to make synthetic diamonds.” Natural diamond mining requires land clearing, which not only generates waste but also destroys habitats and ecosystems.

Some People Remain Natural Diamond Purist

Natural diamonds have the reputation they do for a reason: their monetary value. The value of diamonds is projected to most likely always rise, and when you’re done with the diamond, you can typically return it for a similar value bracket or more. Lab-grown diamonds, however, might not retain their value over time, and their resale prices could decrease as the market becomes flooded. Some predict they will eventually be worth the same as cubic zirconia or other synthetic alternatives.

Additionally, lab-grown diamonds are relatively new, and the research on them hasn’t been as extensive as on natural diamonds. Because they are new, their cuts, sizes, and colors are often not as varied as natural diamonds, meaning they frequently look similar to each other. Buyers of lab-grown diamonds have also mentioned that they often cannot feel the “allure” or “romantic essence” of a lab-grown diamond in the same way they do with a natural diamond. For some, it takes a natural diamond to symbolize a couple’s lifelong love.